UN: EU statement on situation in Afghanistan

UN 61st Session; General Assembly Plenary, Agenda Item 16: Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Ms. Heidi Schroderus-Fox, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, on behalf of the EU

New York,  28 November 2006

Madam President,

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, as well as Ukraine and Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

The European Union very much welcomes the opportunity to take stock of the development in Afghanistan by the General Assembly and supports the resolution A/61/L.25 under scrutiny. We commend Germany for their work on the draft. All EU Member States are co-sponsors of the draft resolution.

Madam President,

This year we are adopting a single draft resolution on the Situation in Afghanistan unlike in previous years. This step reflects both developments in Afghanistan and in the evolving partnership between the international community and Afghanistan which are redefined and endorsed in the Afghanistan Compact of January 2006.

Like the Compact, the resolution builds on a comprehensive and integrated approach by outlining a broad range of issues relevant to Afghanistan and the international community. Indeed, this holistic approach on Afghanistan is very much needed. In promoting development, we as donors look sometimes too much at the different development sectors, indicators, trust funds and programmes. It is vital to look at Afghanistan as a whole and pay attention to the most critical aspects on the way to a more secure and prosperous future for the country and its people.

At the same time we must always check our expectations and remember that nation-building is a long and difficult process. There are no shortcuts.

Madam President,

The last year has heralded significant political progress in Afghanistan. The resolution before us gives tribute to it. Significantly, the new parliament has started its work actively and with a reformist agenda, among other things, in approving of the Supreme Court and cabinet. The building of functional, transparent and accountable Afghan institutions both at central level and in the provinces is the most urgent task at hand.

Yet the challenges remain daunting. The latest report by the Secretary-General paints a grim picture of the deteriorating security situation particularly in some parts of Afghanistan. The extent and reach of violence caused by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, sophistication of their weaponry and increasing brutality of their tactics threatens to undermine our achievements.

Popular frustration in Afghanistan is simmering due to the lack of security and development, especially in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Challenges in governance and human rights, anti-corruption and counter-narcotic efforts and in infrastructure development remain formidable. The slow advancement of the DIAG process (Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups) undermines development in other sectors, particularly the dismantling of the drug economy.

In facing these manifold challenges Afghanistan is not alone. There is a strong commitment of the international community to the development of Afghanistan embodied in the Afghanistan Compact. This continued commitment to an Afghan-led process of stabilisation and reconstruction has most recently been expressed by a visit of a Security Council Mission to Afghanistan.

United Nations, mainly through the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) continues to have a key role in coordination and monitoring the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. UNAMA co-chairs together with the Government of Afghanistan the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board. UNAMA's role in finding political and regional solutions to the challenges facing Afghanistan is highly appreciated by the European Union and we would support an even stronger role by UNAMA in this regard. We also welcome plans to expand UNAMA’s presence throughout the field, security permitting.

Regional partners of Afghanistan have a special role and responsibility as is also recognized in the resolution. In this respect we welcome the intent by Presidents Karzai and Musharraf to improve bilateral collaboration against the insurgents and the plans to hold two large tribal jirgas, one on each side of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Madam President,

The European Union and Afghanistan adopted a Joint Political Declaration on 16 November 2005, in which the EU affirms its commitment to long-term support for the Government and people of Afghanistan through Afghan-led reconstruction efforts. Afghan leadership and responsibility will be of key importance in this process. The EU assistance will mainly aim at fostering the establishment of a democratic, accountable, sustainable and self-sufficient Afghan State capable of exercising its sovereignty and protecting the rights of its citizens. The European Union attaches special importance to the protection of the rights of women and children. Human rights remain our cross-cutting priority.

From the outset of the reconstruction process, we have been actively supporting counter-narcotics efforts, not the least because 90 percent of heroin in Europe originates in Afghanistan. Earlier this year the EU adopted an Action Oriented Plan to combat the production of drugs in and trafficking from Afghanistan and along heroin routes. The EU and its Member States believe that the National Drug Control Strategy represents an appropriate approach for tackling the problem at the current time, under the ownership and primary responsibility of the Afghan Government. In this context, the EU believes that anti-corruption policies are essential components of counter-narcotics efforts. The EU however recognises that the Afghan Government does not have the means to deliver its objectives alone and that it will need the sustained support of the international community for many years to come.

The European Union places particular importance on the rule of law and we are currently considering ways to increase our engagement in this sector. An EU assessment mission on the rule of law and governance, including police, has recently returned from Afghanistan (10-21 September) and its findings will be important in planning priorities for future engagement.

For its own part, the EU (the European Community and Member States) has collectively disbursed one-third (EUR 3,7 billion) of all development assistance to Afghanistan over the period of 2002-2006. The EU aims to increase its counter-narcotics assistance to Afghanistan in line with the relevant actions foreseen in the EU Drugs Action Plan 2005-2008. The EU has pledged over EUR 250 million starting from 2005 and additional trainers, mentors and other personnel to support the development of Afghan capacity in the fight against drugs. With about half of the ISAF Force coming from EU member states, the EU is strongly committed to improving the security of Afghanistan in close coordination with NATO.

The EU continues to support the Afghanistan Compact and considers it the principal framework for future reconstruction and stabilisation of Afghanistan until 2010 in a more coordinated fashion. We support the continued central role of the UN in the implementation of the Compact, in supporting and encouraging the Afghan government as well as in the monitoring and coordination of donor activity by the international community. A stronger role for UNAMA is the key to improving coordination of activities in the field of governance, rule of law, reconstruction and development, as well as alignment of international assistance. The EU will coordinate closely its actions and programmes with the UN, its agencies, and other relevant international organisations.

To conclude, Madam President, let me stress that the European Union remains committed to the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan. We continue to work in close collaboration with the Afghan Government and our international partners to build an Afghanistan whose prosperity and stability matches the hopes, the strength and the fortitude of its people.

Thank you Madam President.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.