Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 17 December 2018, New York.
Merci monsieur le president,
Thank you very much to SRSG Yamamoto and I want to say how much we appreciate your update and the work of UNAMA. Thank you very much Executive Director Fedotov and Ambassador Umarov for your updates and I want to say also how much we appreciate the presence and the input today from the Commissioner Professor Ghizaal Haress and the intervention by the PR Ambassador Saikal.
We welcome the renewed efforts towards a political settlement in Afghanistan. We fully support the invitation by President Ghani to unconditional peace talks, and continue to urge the Taliban to engage constructively in talks with the Afghan government.
It is critical though, as we heard, that the peace process continues to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, and that it is inclusive. That means that it should include groups that do not traditionally have a strong voice in society, including ethnic minorities. The full and effective participation of women is fundamental. With two thirds the population under the age of 30, youth must also have a central role in any agreement on the future of Afghanistan. Ms. Haress has eloquently set out why all this matter.
Strong and cohesive international support will continue to be needed. We urge all stakeholders, and especially Afghanistan’s neighbors, to engage constructively. The Kabul process under the leadership of the Afghan Government is the vehicle which the international initiatives should feed into. UNAMA has an important role in supporting current efforts, not least to help ensure that a peace process is as inclusive as possible, and that its outcome upholds the achievements of the last 17 years as regards human rights and fundamental freedoms, notably of women. Social gains of past years must be preserved and built upon. As one of Afghanistan’s largest and most long-standing development partners, these are issues Sweden will be considering carefully as we calibrate our very substantial development co-operation with Afghanistan going forward.
The ministerial conference in Geneva last month was a welcome opportunity for the international community to take stock and assess progress. Reports that the anti-corruption framework is improving were encouraging, and it is now important to move forward with implementation. As stated in the communique at the Geneva conference, the continued delivery of mutually agreed commitments will be essential for sustained international support. UNAMA has a key role in supporting this reform agenda too.
The timely conduct of inclusive, credible and transparent elections is imperative for stability and for strengthening the Afghan democracy. The recent parliamentary elections demonstrated the commitment of Afghans to democracy, as millions turned out to vote across the country, braving obstacles and defying serious security threats. There were, however, serious operational and organizational shortcomings, putting the credibility of the democratic institutions at risk.
It is therefore crucial that preparations for the presidential elections next year are improved at all levels. Responsible institutions must draw necessary lessons and address unresolved issues without delay. UNAMA’s capacity-building efforts and technical assistance to the electoral process is vital. We also encourage close cooperation with UN Women to promote the participation of women in the elections.
Cooperation with UN Women and other actors is also important for the implementation of the National Action Plan on women, peace and security, which contains a framework for women’s active participation. It now needs to be integrated in existing national programs, not least in their budgets. The progress that has been made in strengthening the role of women over the past two decades must not be lost.
Ghizaal Haress has made a very compelling appeal on this today. This is not a side issue, this is central to the future of Afghanistan and powerful forces are working against it. UNAMA has a critical role also in these efforts, and we welcome the attention to this issue in the Secretary-General’s report, including the use of gender disaggregated data.
We share the deep concern of the SRSG over the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The continuous attacks in Kabul and around the country, including targeted attacks on schools, religious minorities and journalists, have increased the number of civilian casualties, not least children. Severe drought has caused food insecurity at emergency levels for 3,6 million people. This climate related food insecurity is also forcing people to leave their homes, increasing the number of people displaced. Six million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. This is almost double the needs compared to last year. The very clear call by the SRSG this morning for all to lower the level of violence and to protect civilians must be echoed by all of us here at the Security Council.
The humanitarian response must also be stepped up, and closer coordination between humanitarian and development actors is needed to also address root causes. Safe and unimpeded humanitarian access must be granted in accordance with international humanitarian law. Attacks against humanitarian and development workers are unacceptable. We urge all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations and ensure the protection of civilians, as well as the protection of humanitarian and health care workers, and medical facilities.
The Arria meeting on Friday will offer an opportunity to discuss this in more detail as regards the protection of health facilities with a representative from Afghanistan.
As chair of the local working group on Children and Armed Conflict in Kabul, we are concerned about the continued lack of accountability for recruitment and use of children as soldiers, as well as the sexual exploitation of children. We welcome the leadership of UNAMA in more actively addressing this issue as serious challenges remain.
Since 2001, Afghanistan has rebuilt its political system, state institutions, infrastructure and economy, with real improvements for its people. But serious challenges of insecurity, poverty and the rule of law persist. The civilian toll of the conflict continues to be appallingly high.
Finding a political solution is more urgent than ever. We may now have a rare opportunity now, and must not miss it. Renewed commitment of the international community will be important, and UNAMA will continue to have a critical role to play.
Sweden, as a steadfast supporter over three decades, will continue to support Afghanistan as it implements its reform agenda and takes other essential steps on its path toward development and an inclusive, sustainable and equitable peace.
Thank you very much.