United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) - Security Council Open VTC

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17-Dec-2020 02:38:03
Amid promising developments in Afghan peace talk, relentless increase of violence putting future progress at risk, Special Representative warns Security Council.

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Reporting on promising developments in peace talks between the Government of Afghanistan and its Taliban opposition, the top United Nations official for the country warned the Security Council during a 17 December video conference meeting that future progress is imperilled by a relentless upsurge in violence which requires urgent international attention.

“I ask all countries to continue to pressure the parties to the conflict to bring about a sustained reduction in violence and expect that this will be a top priority in the negotiations,” Deborah Lyons, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said as she opened the meeting. She thanked Qatar for hosting the talks and the United States and the host country support group — Germany, Indonesia, Norway and Uzbekistan — for their diplomatic efforts thus far.

Ms. Lyons said that, before agreeing on a 22-day recess in the talks earlier this week, the parties agreed to rules and procedures for negotiations, formed a working committee to discuss the agenda and presented initial topics for discussion. “These developments are an early but positive sign that both sides are willing and able to compromise when needed,” she said, expressing hope that the break will allow both sides to consult internally and externally and to resume negotiating with renewed commitment on 5 January 2021.

She reported, however, that, meanwhile, violence has skyrocketed in the country. In the last few months, improvised explosive devices caused over 60 per cent more civilian casualties and child casualties rose 25 per cent over previous periods. In addition, the ongoing security transition and the emerging reality of international troop withdrawals, have added to the deep anxieties felt by the population.

Stressing that any sustainable peace will need to be owned by Afghanistan’s diverse society, she said that achieving it will only be possible if security anxieties are addressed and the process is inclusive from the outset, with meaningful participation by women, youth, minorities, victims of conflict and religious leaders. She welcomed the recent formation of the High Council for National Reconciliation in that light. The Taliban, too, must expand their consultations with Afghan constituencies, she emphasized.

Regional cooperation will also be essential as peace unfolds, she added, including in the areas of trade, connectivity and counternarcotics efforts. She said that she noted a strong commitment among regional partners to such cooperation in recent visits and talks. UNAMA convened three high-level meetings in Geneva on regional cooperation the peace-security-development-humanitarian nexus, and the role of the Afghan private sector in peace and self-reliance.

At the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, in addition, she reported that the international community came together to reaffirm its financial support to Afghanistan. The generous pledges will enable Afghanistan to pursue its core development priorities and to deliver vital services to its people. The Conference also sent a clear message to people that the international community remains committed to peace, development and democracy in Afghanistan, a message echoed at the subsequent Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) meeting in Niger.

She cautioned, however, that donors have made clear that their financial assistance comes with expectations of tangible improvements on peace, governance, rule of law, anti-corruption and human rights, especially women’s rights and protection of civilians and civil society leaders and media workers. At the same time, as the country is now facing a new wave of COVID-19, she encouraged the international community to continue their generous assistance for the pandemic.

She stressed that 2021 will be a pivotal year for Afghanistan, given the critical stage of peace negotiations and security transitions along with the socioeconomic challenges of COVID-19. “Clearly Afghanistan will continue to move forward; but equally will continue to need the dedicated support of this Council,” she said.

Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011), noted that the Committee’s main goal is to deter the Taliban from continuing to support Al-Qaida and its affiliates, as well as to deter Taliban attacks against the Afghanistan Government through the use of its sanction measures. The ongoing Afghanistan peace negotiations in Doha are encouraging, he said, expressing hope that the work of the 1988 Committee can support the creation of an environment conducive for lasting, sustainable peace. However, he also urged all States to conduct national reviews while remaining mindful that Taliban action — or the lack thereof — to further reduce violence, make sustained efforts to advance intra-Afghan negotiations, and otherwise cease to support activities threatening peace will affect the review. In its May report, the monitoring team noted that relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani Network, and Al-Qaida remain close. As such, securing the counter-terrorism gains to which the Taliban have committed will represent a challenge, as it would require them to deny groups, including Al‑Qaida, the use of Afghan territory as a source of international threats.

He went on to report that the Taliban’s ongoing profiting from narcotics will continue to pose a challenge, according to the team’s report. The scale of the problem has been further complicated by a boom in methamphetamine production and trafficking. Moreover, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan suffered setbacks and was nearly eradicated from its main Afghan base in Nangarhar Province in November 2019. It also incurred further losses in its new refuge in neighbouring Kunar in early 2020. Taliban forces played a significant part in inflicting those defeats, as did the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and their international allies. However, attacks throughout the year in Afghanistan’s provinces constitute stark reminders that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan remains a threat, he observed.

Moreover, he noted that Afghanistan’s people still endure an active and deadly military campaign by the Taliban, as highlighted by the recent fighting in Helmand Province. As such, the overall effectiveness of the 1988 sanctions measures relies heavily on close coordination with the Afghanistan Government and regional Member States. In early 2020, the Committee’s monitoring team travelled the region to discuss the implementation of 1988 sanctions measures, as well as to conduct threat assessments. The team also met virtually with the National Security Advisor of Afghanistan in November to discuss the 1988 Committee mandate, he recalled.

Shkula Zadran, Afghan Youth Representative to the United Nations, recalling how she became a child refugee in Pakistan after her family left Afghanistan during the civil war in Kabul, said she is representing a generation born and raised in violence and conflict — one whose “dreams are being buried every day”. Speaking on behalf of those lost, she said that terrorists are afraid of Afghan youth and target educational institutions because they know that an educated and informed generation will never allow terrorism and extremism to grow in their country. She said her message to terrorists and those that support them is clear: “You tried to bury us; you didn’t know that we were seeds.”

Ms. Zadran, noting that most Afghan youth support the end of war through peace negotiations, cautioned that this peace must constitute more than just an immediate ceasefire — it must also ensure increased access to education, improved health‑care systems, vibrant civil society and leadership space for Afghan women. She said that, since the signing of the peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States, tension and conflict have increased, civilians are being killed and youth are targeted. Questioning why the Taliban is destroying public infrastructure if it wants a peaceful and prosperous country, she urged the Taliban not to destroy Afghanistan for the sake of others’ interests.

She stressed, however, that the Taliban is not the only party responsible for war crimes. International forces in Afghanistan with a mandate to maintain law and order and protect human rights and democracy have also committed such crimes — bombarding villages and homes instead of targeting terrorist training centres in Pakistan. She called on the international community to accept its mistakes, apologize to the Afghan people and avoid such inhumane acts in the future, before detailing measures demanded by Afghan youth to bring peace and maintain stability and order in Afghanistan. Calling on all leaders to trust the youth of Afghanistan, she said this group is “the patriot generation that you will never regret investing in and counting on”.

After those briefings, representatives of Council members took the floor, welcoming the progress made in talks between the Taliban and the Government in Afghanistan and urging that they continue. At the same time, they called strongly for an end to the rising violence, troubled by both the devastation caused to civilians and the threat to negotiations. Most speakers also stressed the need for significant participation of women and youth in the peace process, with many emphasizing that gains made in women’s rights should be strengthened and not weakened in the talks. Among other concerns voiced, speakers also pointed to the need to protect media workers, fight corruption and ensure adequate security reform during the transition of forces. Following Council members, the representatives of Afghanistan and Iran also made statements.

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