8426th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Afghanistan

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17-Dec-2018 03:51:04
Applauding Afghan people’s courage, Special Representative tells Security Council they defied ‘undeniable threats’ to vote for better future at 8426th meeting.

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Despite undeniable threats to their safety, the Afghan people came out to vote for a better future for their country in the recent parliamentary elections, the top-ranking United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.

Briefing Council members on the current situation, Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), highlighted that some 4 million Afghans voted in parliamentary elections on 20 October, adding that the polls represent a key step on the path to representative democracy.

He went on to commend the courage of the Afghan people in coming out to exercise their right to vote, in defiance of Taliban threats to their safety. The threats were real, he emphasized, citing the 400 civilian casualties involved. There were also major irregularities in the conduct of the polls, he said, adding that improvements in that area are critical ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document S/2018/1092), he underlined the progress made during the recent Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in November, which was co-hosted by the country’s Government and the United Nations, saying the possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict in Afghanistan has never been more real. Not only did President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani suggest a peace plan at the conference, but a team was created to negotiate directly with the Taliban. Political space must now be allowed for the main actors to formulate their positions and reactions to recent developments, he said, adding that the next step would be for representatives of the Government and the Taliban to meet. This is a moment of hope and possibility, but also a moment of risk, he cautioned.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), provided an update on the illicit opium trade in Afghanistan, emphasizing that it is among the most urgent challenges facing the country. “Continuing high levels of supply have brought prices down to rock bottom,” he said, while explaining that drought caused the decrease in the area under cultivation. More than 5,000 tons of opium are currently available for heroin production, 600 tons of which is of export quality, he said, adding that some 200 tons of raw opium is consumed in Afghanistan every year. That not only presents a grave threat to public health, but also hinders peacebuilding and stability, he stressed. The Government, supported by UNODC, has taken steps to counter illicit financial flows through anti-corruption laws, banking regulations and other such measures, he added.

Ghizaal Haress of the Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution, noted that whereas the charter guarantees equality between men and women, gender inequalities and barriers to meaningful participation by women persist. “Building sustainable peace while preventing the re-establishment of extremist rule depends on the meaningful inclusion of women,” she emphasized. The Government must ensure that obstacles to their participation are eliminated. She went on to underline the need to uphold the constitution adopted in 2004, noting that calls to amend it in accordance with the Taliban’s demands have placed the country’s progress in jeopardy. Changing the constitution in order to negotiate a peace deal “is a red line we must not cross”, she cautioned.

Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011), said it is essential to follow up relevant procedures such as the timely submission of travel-ban exemptions. Despite being under sanctions, the Taliban have proceeded with a ferocious military campaign that has included such tactics as targeted assassinations, kidnappings for ransom and suicide bombings, he said. Noting that the potential remains for greater use of the 1988 sanctions regime to deter the Taliban and support the peace process, he called for renewed efforts to list as yet unlisted individuals and entities associated with the Taliban who carry out activities that are harmful to peace and security.

Afghanistan’s representative said the completion of the parliamentary elections provided an opportunity for the country to take a step towards the rule of law. Despite challenges, the Afghan people have turned a corner in their journey towards stability and self-reliance, he added. In the face of atrocities carried out by the Taliban and affiliated groups, the people were defiant in their pursuit of peace and democracy, and more than 45 per cent of registered voters came out to cast their votes despite the threats and the attacks staged throughout the country. Now they must turn to the upcoming presidential election in order to ensure its success, he said.

Council members applauded the new phase in the nation’s history, with the United Kingdom’s delegate noting that there is a new generation of Afghans knocking on the door of a new Afghanistan. The Taliban, meanwhile, live in the Afghanistan of the past, which no one wants to see return. On the upcoming presidential election, she underscored the importance of a transparent and credible poll, noting that many technological and operational challenges remain to be ironed out.

The representative of the United States said UNAMA should continue to bolster the Government’s capacity, while the Government should in turn step up its efforts to combat terrorism and protect human rights. Regarding the security situation in the country, he emphasized the need to make its police force fully inclusive and representative of the population.

Kazakhstan’s delegate said the situation in Afghanistan has been one of his country’s main priorities during its tenure as a non-permanent Council member. The Government of Kazakhstan helped to focus the Council’s attention on the need to establish peace and prosperity throughout Afghanistan and in the region, organizing two visits to Afghanistan and Central Asia to that end. Those initiatives were instrumental in helping the Council understand the situation and find ways to resolve it, he said, adding that there continues to be a need for close regional economic cooperation. “A regional approach is the way forward to success,” he said.

China’s representative said Afghanistan has entered a new phase, and the international community should help it prepare for the 2019 presidential election. He recalled that a recent meeting involving his own country alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan led to an agreement on promoting regional security, stability and development. The three also signed a memorandum of understanding on combating terrorism and accelerating the Belt and Road initiative.

Other delegates emphasized the need to address the underlying causes of Afghanistan’s instability. India’s representative said the international community has failed to deal effectively with the source of the country’s problems. Sadly, the international community, and the Security Council with all its tools, have simply failed or been unwilling to deal effectively with the source of the problem, he added. The Council’s sanctions committee, which refuses to designate new Taliban leaders or to freeze the assets of the group’s slain leader, is falling short of what Afghans and the international community expect of it, he emphasized.

Iran’s representative identified the presence of foreign troops as another root cause of Afghanistan’s problems, noting that the phenomenon has provided a recruiting ground for extremists. “We continue to call for a time-bound and responsible withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan, regardless of their mandate or structure,” he said, emphasizing the need to strengthen Afghanistan’s own military and security forces, a crucial effort in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

Others speaking today were representatives of Netherlands, Sweden, Kuwait, Poland, France, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Peru, Russian Federation, Côte d’Ivoire, Pakistan, Canada, Germany, Italy, Tajikistan, Japan, Turkey, Australia, Uzbekistan, Belgium and Kyrgyzstan.

Also delivering a statement was an observer for the European Union delegation.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 1:58 p.m.

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