As others have noted, this is your last time in the Security Council. As it is my first, I want to thank you for your very able stewardship of the Council in June and wish you the best as you come to the end of your time in New York. There could, I would suggest, be few more distinguished ways to spend your last day in this place than to preside over the Council. I am also very mindful that our two countries share a very special bond, best epitomized by the memorial to Kemal Atatürk that stands looking over the harbour of my capital city.
I also thank the Secretary General for his quarterly report (S/2009/323) on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Special Representative for his incisive comments, and the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan for his very constructive response.
New Zealand is grateful for the opportunity to participate in this debate. Ours is a small nation of 4 million people a long way from Afghanistan, but it has made a long
standing commitment to that country. We seek an Afghanistan that is sustainable as an independent nation, free from the scourges of subversion and terrorism.
Despite the security challenges that we face elsewhere, particularly in our own Pacific neighbourhood, we lead the provincial reconstruction team in Bamyan province. New Zealand personnel support the International Security Assistance Force headquarters and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and provide police training and mentoring in Bamyan.
New Zealand contributes to other priority areas of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, such as rural livelihood programmes, education and health services, and the capacity development of provincial governmental, non-governmental and civil society organizations. We welcome the new national agriculture strategy and plan to increase our support to improve agricultural productivity and related research. New Zealand also welcomes the increased emphasis on civilian contributions to Afghanistan and more effective coordination of the international community’s efforts, as expressed during The Hague Conference in March. UNAMA will play a key role in those areas.
New Zealand agrees that there is a need for a clear strategy for engagement in Afghanistan that achieves the right balance between stability and security, on the one hand, and development and diplomacy on the other. Effective implementation of that strategy is vital. Coordination of international contributions supporting the Government of Afghanistan is critical, and Afghanistan’s neighbours also have an important role to play in this regard, as has already been noted. New Zealand is encouraged by the Secretary-General’s reports of recent progress on such regional cooperation.
New Zealand is concerned about increasing levels of violence in Afghanistan in the lead-up to the elections. As has been made clear, Afghanistan continues to face deep-seated problems with governance, human rights, development, justice and narcotics. The security situation, especially in the South and the East, seriously hampers development and limits the reach of the Afghan Government and its ability to improve the lives of all Afghans. All this makes strengthening Afghan military and police capability a key commitment for the international community, because development in Afghanistan needs to be underpinned by sound, credible and effective Government.
New Zealand also welcomes the progress towards elections to be held on 20 August and is encouraged to see a greater number of women candidates than in the previous election. We also welcome the additional security to help enable the Afghan people to express their democratic rights at the polls without fear of violence, and we are providing NZ$500,000 to support the elections.
While we welcome the progress in Afghanistan in recent years, we believe that a continued, sustained commitment of the international community will remain necessary to help Afghanistan build a positive future, and New Zealand is committed to playing its part in achieving that future.