Swedish Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan
National statement delivered by H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan, 26 June 2018, New York.
On 12 May, a small group of ordinary Afghan citizens began an extraordinary journey. They left their homes in Helmand province to begin a six hundred kilometre march to Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. As they marched their numbers grew, and they were greeted by large crowds when they arrived in Kabul on 18 June. They brought with them a simple message. After 40 years of violence and conflict, the time has come for peace in Afghanistan. I want to pay tribute, in the presence of Ambassador Saikal, to the incredible resolve and resilience of the Afghan people.
The widespread support for the march was a demonstration of the strong desire for peace in Afghan, all the more after the brief but historic ceasefires that inspired it. However, while the past weeks have offered a much-needed glimpse of hope, we remain concerned about the security situation in Afghanistan. The continued high-level of civilian casualties, not least children, and attacks against humanitarian and development workers are unacceptable. International humanitarian law applies to all parties.
There is no military solution to the conflict. The only viable option is an inclusive Afghan-owned and -led peace process, leading to a politically negotiated settlement. We strongly welcome the unprecedented steps taken by the Afghan government in the pursuit of peace. The government's peace offer at the Kabul II conference and its temporary unilateral ceasefire are commendable. We deeply regret that the Taliban has not extended its partial ceasefire. We call on the Taliban to respond to the plea for peace expressed by the Afghan people and to engage in a dialogue with the government to achieve this end.
A peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is key to achieving development and prosperity in the broader region. This should be in everyone's interest. We urge all with stakes and influence, especially the countries of the region, to act with full and unreserved commitment to engaging constructively in support of a political solution.
Indeed, many challenges faced by Afghanistan are common to the countries of the region: security threats, radicalization, production and trade in narcotics - with all its negative effects, as highlighted by Executive Director Fedotov earlier this morning -, climate change, conflicts over water and energy resources. Through regional cooperation, these challenges can be addressed and transformed into mutually beneficial opportunities.
Women's full and effective participation in peace processes and political, social and economic life is essential to create legitimate systems that cater to the needs of the whole population. In addition, it is hard to think of any other structural change that more effectively would reject what the Taliban stands for. I want to welcome the efforts that UNAMA has taken to this end, which we welcome. We encourage efforts to ensure women's full participation in the preparations as well as the ministerial meeting in Geneva in November. For our part, and to this end, through our latest contribution to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, we are supporting the establishment of the first 'Women's Police Town', which is aimed at enabling and furthering women's participation in the Afghan security forces.
It is imperative for Afghanistan's future and stability that the planned elections take place according to schedule in 2018 and 2019, and that they are conducted in an inclusive, credible and transparent manner. We urge all stakeholders to do their utmost to ensure increased women's participation in the election. Recent targeted attacks on the electoral preparations are not only horrific attacks on civilians, but also direct attacks on the efforts to build democracy. We support the suggestion by the Netherlands this morning that the Council stays engaged and makes public expressions in support of the electoral process moving forward.
At the NATO Summit in Brussels on 11 and 12 July, we will reconfirm our commitment to do our part to strengthen, and enable, a self-sufficient Afghan security sector that is able to provide the conditions for increased security. Combat terrorism, creating stability, and building national capacity and strong institutions will require action to address the political and economic root causes of conflict and instability. Our commitment to Afghanistan remains firm. It includes 1 billion US dollars in bilateral development assistance from 2015 to 2024, humanitarian assistance, capacity building, dialogue and mediation training for local female actors, as well as our military contribution to NATO's Resolute Support Mission.
We share the concern as regards the effect on children of the conflict, as expressed by France. We welcome the government's commitment and concrete actions to prevent recruitment and protect children in the Penal Code, including the establishment of Child Protection Units by the Ministry of Interior in all provinces. However, as recruitment and use remains a prevalent problem, we strongly emphasize the need for implementation of the Penal Code with a focus on accountability, including prosecutions.
Finally, Mr President, the marchers from Helmand to Kabul ranged in age from 17 to 70. For many Afghans, their whole lives have been blighted by conflict. Now, all parties must respond to their call for peace, and ensure that future generations of Afghan children can grow up without the shadow of war.
Thank you, Mr President