When I last addressed the Council, I found myself expressing appreciation for the many statements of support that had been made in the aftermath of the then-recent Christchurch earthquake. I now find myself speaking immediately after the Permanent Representative of Japan. I would like to express New Zealand’s support and sympathy for the dreadful situation that that
country is facing. Japan gave unstintingly of its active help when we were in need, and we have been privileged to do likewise over the past six days.
The Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2011/120*), Special Representative of the Secretary-General De Mistura’s briefing and that of Ambassador Tanin provide evidence of many positive developments that have taken place in Afghanistan over the past three months - the progress of Afghan institutions towards taking lead responsibility for their country’s security and the inauguration of Afghanistan’s National Assembly being just two examples. But there have also been setbacks. Afghan civilians, for example, continue to suffer from the volatile security situation, and tensions remain between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary over the composition of Parliament.
New Zealand welcomes the understanding between the President and Parliament that allowed the successful inauguration of Afghanistan’s National Assembly, which will, of course, play a critical role in Afghanistan’s democratic governance. We encourage a spirit of cooperation between the institutions involved because that will validate the decision of millions of Afghans who defied threats and voted in September’s elections. All of those are positive signs of a progressing democracy.
We look forward to the executive, the legislature and the judiciary carrying out their functions in accordance with the Constitution and overcoming their differences on the status of Parliament. While the representation issue must be addressed, it should be done in accordance with the Constitution, thus ensuring the confidence of the international community and, most importantly, of those who voted last year.
New Zealand strongly supports the transition process and welcomes the Afghan Government’s commitment to assuming lead responsibility for all security by the end of 2014. We look forward to President Karzai’s announcement of the first districts and provinces that will begin the process of transition to full Afghan authority.
In Bamyan province, where New Zealand leads the provincial reconstruction team, we have already begun the transition to Afghan leadership, and key milestones have been achieved. Along with our Afghan partners, we are focused on the need for local capacity-building and development assistance. New Zealand regards its provincial reconstruction teams as part and parcel of building the capability of the Afghan National Police and enabling development activity to take root and improve people’s lives.
Although Bamyan province itself is relatively secure, New Zealand is still concerned over Afghanistan’s overall security situation. For Afghan civilians, the Afghan security forces and international coalition forces, last year was the deadliest since the war began, reflecting the increase in suicide attacks and the use of improvised explosive devices by insurgents. That reinforces the need for the Afghan National Security Forces, partnering with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to quash insurgency and consolidate security. Combined with a push to increase Afghan civilian capacity, security gains will give space to and opportunity for a political solution - an essential ingredient in ensuring a secure and prosperous Afghanistan.
That solution requires the further isolation of hardcore insurgency leaders, while those who renounce violence abandon alliances with Al-Qaida and embrace the Afghan Constitution are integrated into the mainstream. Increased pressure on those who disrupt the peace must be coupled with opportunity for insurgents who lay down their arms and help make that peace durable.
Progress towards such a solution is rightly being led by the Afghan Government, with the support of its neighbours and the international community. Accommodation will be required on all sides, but we strongly urge that it not be at the expense of hard-fought and hard-won rights and freedoms, especially those of women and minorities.
Along with Afghanistan, its neighbours and the international community, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) plays an important role in supporting a political solution, notably through the Salaam Support Group. As transition intensifies, UNAMA has an increasingly important role. We welcome its contribution to Afghan-led electoral reform, which will ensure that Afghanistan’s elections are more cost-effective and sustainable. We emphasize the importance of those reforms to Afghanistan’s overall democratic future.
It is also important, however, that UNAMA’s mandate reflect the situation on the ground and the aspirations of the Afghan Government and the international community. We therefore welcome this Council’s intention to review that mandate and believe that it should benefit from the outcomes of the second Bonn conference to be held in December. We look to the Council to give UNAMA the mandate it needs to support the Government during the critical period of transition between now and the end of 2014.
The next three years will be decisive in ensuring that the Afghan Government takes full responsibility for its country’s security, so that, as ISAF troops are drawn down, the people of Afghanistan can assume full control of the destiny for which they have already sacrificed so much.