Statement by Ambassador Wittig on Afghanistan in the General Assembly

Nov 21, 2011

(as delivered)

Mr. President, excellencies, distinguished colleagues,

It is an honour for my country to introduce this year’s draft resolution on “The situation in Afghanistan.”

The past year has seen important milestones for Afghanistan. Germany, as the facilitator, would like to take this opportunity to highlight the five key messages of this draft resolution:

First, this year’s resolution is about transition in the field of security. We note with satisfaction that Transition is unfolding progressively. Since the announcement of the first tranche of Transition in July, the Afghan Government is taking over security responsibility for areas covering 25% of the Afghan population. Details on the second tranche will be announced soon – 50% of the Afghan population will then live in transition areas. As we keep mindful of the continuously volatile security environment – and the many challenges connected to it – ten years after the end of the Taliban rule, and there there is, for the first time, a clear timeline and a clear international strategy for the phased but complete transition of lead security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces, based on clear criteria.

The focus of the resolution is on improving the operational capabilities of the Security Forces, with increasing emphasis on training. In the security sector and elsewhere, one of the keys for sustainable progress lies in the empowerment of the Afghan people and institutions. This is where our priority rightly belongs.

In line with the Kabul commitments, the goal of the international community remains firmly to continue to enable such progress in other fields such as in governance or in reconstruction and in development. It is ample illustration of Afghan leadership that Afghanistan will be chairing alone the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, two weeks from today.

My second point: This year’s resolution is about long-term commitment by the international community. Today, the General Assembly will send more than a renewed message of solidarity. We underline that Afghanistan can count on the long-term support of the United Nations and its Member States, much beyond the target date for Transition at the end of 2014. The core of this year’s resolution is  therefore about “linking the past ten years to the next ten years”. And international support will be required even after that. The title of the Bonn Conference “From Transition to Transformation” underlines this international resolve.

As we undergo transition, and for some considerable time thereafter, the role of the UN in support of Afghanistan will remain pivotal. My delegation is therefore grateful that the Secretary-General has accepted the invitation to lead the United Nations' delegation at the Bonn Conference.

A rapidly changing environment requires flexibility and constant adaptation, also from the United Nations. In the resolution, we look forward to the results of the upcoming review of the mandated activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission and of the United Nations support, as stipulated in Security Council Resolution 1974.

The review will be complex. But my delegation is certain that it will contribute to further improving the way we support Afghanistan, in line with United Nations best practice and in line with Afghan priorities.

Security considerations will remain one important aspect of the review. In light of this year’s fatal attacks, including against the United Nations, which we condemn in the strongest terms, the resolution urgently reminds that best-possible protection for the women and men working for the United Nations and other developmental and humanitarian workers must remain our absolute priority.

It must also be a priority for us to not allow transition to divert our view from our long-term objectives, be it with regard to democratisation, the rule of law and human rights or be it with regard to fighting poverty or to supporting socio-economic development. The list could be continued. It is not a coincidence that, over the years, the Afghanistan resolution before you has developed into a comprehensive long-term development agenda.

Two important steps have recently been accomplished: In the draft, the General Assembly welcomes both the settlement of the impasse over last year’s elections and last week’s announcement of an important new three-year IMF program.

The draft resolution also rightly emphasizes the role of women. Much has been achieved. Germany considers it a further strong signal that the Afghan Government has assured that 25% of the Afghan delegation at the Bonn Conference will be women. Also civil society as a whole must be heard: After a comprehensive domestic process, led by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, two elected civil society representatives, a woman and a man, will be given a prominent opportunity to directly address the Conference.

My third point: This year’s resolution is about support to the peace & reconciliation process. Progress in both security and development will not be achievable – and certainly not be sustainable – without a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led process of political reconciliation and reintegration.

After the murder of the Head of the High Peace Council, Professor Rabbani, the draft resolution stresses the need for calm and solidarity in Afghanistan and the need for all parties to reduce tensions.

The resolution also welcomes the important decision by the Security Council to split the 1267 Al Qaeda/Taliban sanctions regime and underlines the procedural innovations of the regime pursuant to Security Council resolution 1988 (2011), particularly consultations with the Government of Afghanistan, to underpin that the United Nations is acting in support of an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process – without leaving any doubt that the conditions any reconcilee must abide by.

Fourth, this year’s resolution is about additional emphasis on the regional dimension. The General Assembly would welcome the recent Istanbul Conference where Afghanistan and its regional partners affirmed their commitment to promote regional security and cooperation through a first set of confidence building measures. In this context, we look forward to the first follow-up at the ministerial conference scheduled in Kabul in June 2012.

Complementary to regional political cooperation, the draft resolution before you puts significant emphasis on making better use of the considerable economic potential of the region and, among others, underlines the benefits of reviving historic trade routes – with the historic Silk Road as a potential source of inspiration.

Fifth and finally, the resolution reiterates the interconnected nature of the challenges in Afghanistan. Justice and the fight against impunity and corruption remain of systemic importance for developmental success. Production and trafficking of illicit drugs continue to undermine the development of the formal economic sector and remain an important source of finance for terrorism and extremism. Strategies to create better employment perspectives and to reduce poverty are needed much more urgently than ever.

Let me end by emphasizing that the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and parts of the region continues to require our strong international attention and generous support. The General Assembly recognizes with particular appreciation the heavy burden neighbouring countries are continuing to shoulder by hosting considerable numbers of refugees, particularly the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan, and acknowledges their adherence, over decades, to the humanitarian principles.

Dear colleagues, in concluding, I would like to express my gratitude to the many delegations from all regions that participated actively in the informal consultations. Their sense of shared responsibility is among the most important ingredients to this resolution – so that we suggest to the General Assembly to pass, once again, a consensual resolution on “The situation in Afghanistan”.

The special appreciation of the German delegation goes to my distinguished colleague, Ambassador Zahir Tanin, his Deputy Zahir Faqiri, as well as to Counselor Youssof Ghafoorzai and their colleagues for our wonderful cooperation, their trust and their friendship. Germany also thanks, wholeheartedly, the whole United Nations family in Afghanistan and at headquarters, for their outstanding work.

I thank you very much, Mr. President

© GermanyUN

Peace and Security

Regional conflicts, fragile or collapsed states, armed conflicts, terrorism and organized crime – all have grave consequences for the people who suffer under them. They also threaten the security and stability of entire regions and peoples.