Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Debate on Building Regional Partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model to link security and development
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Debate on Building Regional Partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model to link security and development, 19 January 2018, New York.
I would like to align myself with the statement to be made later on behalf of the European Union.
Let me begin by thanking Kazakhstan for taking the initiative to bring the comprehensive issue of regional cooperation, and the links between security and development in Central Asia and Afghanistan, to the attention of the Security Council. I welcome the participation today at senior level of the Central Asian states. Let me also complement and your team for the excellent Council visit to Afghanistan. I would also like to thank the Afghan government for hosting us.
We welcome the Secretary-General's insightful briefing and steadfast commitment to preventative diplomacy and sustainable development in Central Asia.
We commend all of the countries of Central Asia for their efforts to invigorate and strengthen regional cooperation, including with Afghanistan. Concrete steps, such as resolving long-standing border issues and easing border passages; strengthening people-to-people contacts; and reducing barriers to trade, are welcome. These actions recognise that each country is better off if their neighbours also prosper. Long-term peace and economic development for the individual countries of the region are intimately linked with regional security and development.
The Central Asian countries have seen progress on multiple fronts since independence twenty-five years ago, not least in poverty reduction and steady economic growth. And, as we see from Kazakhstan's membership of this Council, Central Asian states are playing an increasingly important role on the world stage.
Remaining challenges, many of which are common to the countries of the region, can be overcome through stronger regional cooperation. These include security threats and radicalization; the management of shared water and energy resources, and addressing the effects of climate change. Efforts are also needed to strengthen good governance, create jobs for a rapidly growing population, to develop inter-connectivity, and to reduce barriers to trade.
Through regional cooperation, these challenges can be overcome and instead transformed into mutually beneficial opportunities for the countries of the region; creating a zone of peace, cooperation and prosperity that benefits all of the peoples of Central Asia as well as for Afghanistan.
As we have heard many times in this chamber in recent months, interconnected security challenges requires joint and comprehensive approaches, integrating security, development and human rights.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides the blueprint for such an approach. We welcome the firm commitment of the Central Asian countries to the SDGs, and their inclusion in their respective development strategies.
As a member of the European Union, we are contributing to a strong and durable relationship between the countries of the region and the EU; aimed at fostering prosperous, sustainable and stable socio-economic development in the Central Asian region. This includes efforts to facilitate trade and increased connectivity and to continue the EU's longstanding support to border management in Central Asia and Afghanistan.
The road to regional progress runs through a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan, something which is in everyone's interest. However, many of the challenges facing Afghanistan cannot be dealt with in isolation. Therefore, a clear commitment and constructive engagement by regional actors is critical to a peaceful Afghanistan. Greater economic and political cooperation and integration is essential for both Afghanistan and the wider region's future. We urge all stakeholders, especially Afghanistan's neighbours, to assume responsibility and to work together towards a political settlement. Every country in the region stands to gain if there is peace in Afghanistan.
The only viable option to reach such a settlement is an inclusive Afghan-owned and -led peace process. This was confirmed once again during our visit last week. We welcome the Afghan government's peace efforts and we call on the Taliban to engage in a dialogue with them. We look forward to the upcoming meeting of the Kabul Process. The Security Council has an important responsibility to contribute and be responsive towards creating an environment conducive to peace.
Respect for human rights is vital to achieving sustainable peace. It is also essential that all parties of society are included. The economic empowerment and meaningful participation of women and girls in all political processes - including future peace efforts and negotiations – is a precondition for sustainable development. The Council's meeting with women's representatives reinforced these points.
The holding of inclusive, credible and transparent elections is a fundamental step in the consolidation of democracy in Afghanistan and is essential for future stability. It is imperative that parliamentary and presidential elections take place as planned. We call on the electoral management bodies and the Afghan government to accelerate efforts to ensure that elections take place. We encourage them to take all necessary steps needed to ensure women's participation, both as voters and candidates.
As a steadfast partner to Afghanistan, we commit to do our part, through a long term engagement on state and peace building in the country.
With a view to contributing to sustainable, peaceful and economic development, our efforts include a 1 billion USD development assistance commitment from 2015 to 2024 which includes humanitarian assistance; capacity building, and dialogue and mediation training for local female activists. We also contribute to NATO's Resolute Support Mission.
The United Nations should play an active role in supporting regional efforts in Central Asia and Afghanistan. UNAMA provides important support for efforts to attain a lasting peace, a role which would be further enhanced by implementing the strategic review. Increased cooperation and coordination between UNRCCA, UNAMA and other relevant UN agencies and regional organizations will further enhance the impact of the UN support. We commend the important work by UNRCCA and UNAMA in promoting regional dialogue and conflict prevention. We would like to highlight, in particular, the laudable work regarding capacity building in water diplomacy and modernizing legal framework for managing natural resources. As pointed out by the Secretary-General, managing shared water resources that are fundamental to economic development can build trust and lead to greater investments. This, in turn, is an important contributor to, and incentive for, sustaining peace in the region.
The Security-Council's visit to Afghanistan allowed us to take stock of and to hear first-hand of the many challenges the country is facing. However, we also heard of the aspirations of all Afghans to build a better future. Becoming a connected and integrated part of the Central Asian region was central to that vision. All of the countries of the region, as well as Afghanistan's partners beyond the region, have a common interest in supporting these efforts.