SC - Debate on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Statement by Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations
New York, 22 December 2010
First, I thank Special Representative De Mistura for his briefing and for his work under truly challenging circumstances. We wish to pay tribute to the women and men working with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and all the United Nations personnel who are in Afghanistan to support a better future for that country. Everything must be done to enable them to carry out their work effectively and to ensure their security. I also wish to thank Ambassador Tanin for his important contribution to the debate today.
Let me join previous speakers in expressing our condolences to the United States delegation in view of the passing away of United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. I had the privilege and experience of working with him on matters of reconciliation and issues of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999), and I was deeply impressed by his commitment and his stamina.
Austria aligns itself with the statement to be made later by the European Union delegation on behalf of the European Union. Austria wishes to make several additional points.
The past year has brought important developments for Afghanistan. The holding of the first international conference in several decades in Kabul was a particularly significant milestone. We welcome the progress made by the Afghan Government in the implementation of the London and Kabul conference commitments, including the elaboration of a framework to track progress for each of the priority programs. The strengthening of the mechanisms of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board is another important step to provide for the necessary policy dialogue and effective implementation of the Kabul process.
In order to succeed, the Kabul process needs to include all segments of Afghan society. Maximum ownership and empowerment on the part of the Afghan people will be critical for the country’s long-term stability. We furthermore agree with the Secretary-General’s view that the process of transition must be guided by realities on the ground and should yield a peace dividend for the Afghan people. Improvement of livelihoods and the creation of sustainable income opportunities — including for women and girls — will be an important part of that effort.
We welcome the inauguration of the High Peace Council last October, as well as the establishment of the Saalam Support Group within UNAMA to support the Peace Council’s work. We urge the Afghan Government to consider the recommendations made by civil society groups regarding the peace process and to further enhance the inclusiveness of the peace and reconciliation program through broad representation of religious and ethnic communities and women. Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and succeeding resolutions on women, peace and security remain of direct relevance.
We also wish to acknowledge here the important work done by UNAMA in the field of human rights. UNAMA’s recent report on the implementation of the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women documents harmful traditional practices violating the rights of women and girls and contains recommendations that should be built upon to improve the situation of the female population in Afghanistan.
In view of the recent completion of the electoral process, we wish to commend the Afghan electoral institutions for their dedicated work under very challenging circumstances. We hope that the newly elected Lower House of Afghanistan’s National Assembly will be convened speedily in order to take up its important legislative functions. We welcome the announcement by President Karzai that the new parliament will be inaugurated in late January. Comprehensive and long-term electoral reform needs to be pursued as a matter of priority.
The difficult security situation in Afghanistan continues to be of great concern, in particular in view of the significant increase in civilian casualties. The vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries, particularly the deplorable rise in casualties among women and children, were clearly linked to the anti-Government elements. We strongly condemn their direct targeting of the civilian population as well as public officials and international staff. It needs to be stressed once again that that kind of warfare violates the most basic principles of international humanitarian law.
Let me further touch upon the drug situation in Afghanistan, which has been documented in the annual Opium Survey issued by the United Nations Office on Drug Control (UNODC). The Survey raises concerns about the continued cultivation and production of narcotic drugs in Afghanistan, mainly concentrated in areas where the Taliban and Al Qaida are active, as well as about ongoing drug trafficking. In that light, we encourage the Government of Afghanistan to increase its efforts against opium cultivation and drug trafficking in close cooperation with the international community and with the assistance of UNODC. A comprehensive approach tackling the areas of security, governance, rule of law and human rights is key for effectively addressing the drug problem in Afghanistan and in the region.
I wish to thank the Afghan authorities and UNAMA for the excellent cooperation I have enjoyed with them as Chairman of the 1267 Committee and would like to underscore the importance of continued cooperation, particularly in regard of de-listing requests. The consolidated list needs to remain a living document. Therefore we need to continue to ensure that the list reflects the actual threat, which means that entries that are no longer relevant are removed and new threats are reflected by appropriate new entries. I am satisfied that, only last Friday, the Committee was able to take another positive decision on a de-listing request. At the same time, I would draw the attention of the Afghan authorities to the possibility for listed individuals to address the new 1267 ombudsperson.
As this is most likely the last public meeting of the Council in which I will have the honor to participate as representative of Austria in the course of my country’s term on the Council, I would like to thank you, Madam President, for the kind words expressed by the United States delegation at the beginning of the meeting. I also wish to thank you and all other members of the Council, as well as the Council secretariat, for the excellent cooperation we have enjoyed during the last two years. My country has always believed that serving on the Council is primarily a service that an elected member offers to the world organization and to its membership. As we now return to the ranks — to our natural habitat as a permanent member of the General Assembly — we will continue to serve the United Nations family as best we can, based on the very same principles that have guided us during these two years. Our best wishes accompany the five new incoming members.