Security Council Open Debate: The Situation in Afghanistan
- Human Rights
- Peace and Security
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by H.E. Gillian Bird, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Mr President
And thank you Special Representative Haysom for your briefing and your leadership of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). I also acknowledge Afghanistan's Permanent Representative Zahir Tanin for his continued important contribution.
Australia is pleased the Security Council has today unanimously renewed UNAMA's mandate for a further 12 months. As Afghanistan assumes full leadership for its affairs, the UN continues to play a central role in leading international efforts to support Afghanistan through the Transformation Decade, including through good offices, donor coordination, human rights and humanitiarian assistance.
2015 marks the beginning of a new chapter in Afghanistan's history. For the first time since the days of the Taliban, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are responsible for securing the country. The new government of national unity – led by President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah – has committed to an ambitious program of reform.
The 13-year long International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission to Afghanistan concluded at the end of 2014, followed now by the NATO-led non-combat Resolute Support mission, which is training, advising and assisting the ANSF. Australia is contributing military personnel to Resolute Support, as well as $100 million per year until 2017 for ANSF sustainment.
Civilian casualties remain a serious concern and have regrettably continued to increase over the past year. We thank UNAMA for its continued reporting on civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
The national unity government has achieved a great deal in its first months, but Afghanistan's economy and government finances remain a serious concern. We welcome President Ghani's ambitious vision for reform, set out in his 'Realizing Self-Reliance' paper. We also applaud the Afghan government's steps to combat corruption, especially steps to review fraud against the Kabul Bank, as well as recent steps to reduce leakages in Afghanistan's Customs and Revenue Departments.
We look forward to receiving the action plan for implementing the priorities outlined in the Afghan government's 'Realizing Self-Reliance' paper.
Electoral reform, drawing on lessons from the two rounds of voting in 2014, will help build a democracy that Afghans can be proud of. Australia welcomed President Ghani's commitment to electoral reform, including the planned Electoral Reform Commission. We urge the Afghan government to take this forward as a priority. We also encourage the Afghan government to appoint a full and inclusive Cabinet when the Afghan parliament sits again after the winter recess.
Afghanistan has made enormous progress in key areas of human development since 2001. The challenge for the Afghan government now will be to protect the gains of the last 14 years, particularly when it comes to basic service delivery, such as health and education.
Australia also looks to the Afghan government to continue to work to improve the place of women and girls in Afghan society. We have welcomed the renewed commitment by the Afghan government to the rights of women and girls, including steps towards implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Full implementation of the Action Plan, as well as full implementation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law, must be priorities.
Achieving a political settlement with the Taliban will set the foundation of a lasting peace for Afghanistan and its region. The government of national unity has made impressive progress strengthening regional relationships, a critical first step to creating the preconditions for formal talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The prospects for peace are promising. We urge Afghanistan and its partners to continue to approach reconciliation with a sense of purpose and pragmatism.
Thank you Mr President.
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