Statement to the UN Security Council regarding the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan
- Central Asia
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan
Statement by H.E. Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council today. Thank you also to the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Dr Rassoul, and to Special Representative de Mistura for their presence and their leadership.
Australia strongly supports the work of the United Nations in Afghanistan and reaffirms its commitment to international efforts in support of Afghanistan.
A sustainable transition beyond 2014 requires genuine long-term engagement by the global community. As the Australian Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions, Australia will remain engaged in Afghanistan through this decade at least. Following the conclusion of transition in 2014, we will continue to provide civilian and development assistance, and training and other defence cooperation.
Since the Council's last debate on Afghanistan in March, we have seen some very worrying security developments, especially the increased momentum of the campaign of intimidation and targeted assassinations. But despite these serious concerns the fundamental trajectory on the security front is in the right direction, which is why we assess the insurgents are resorting to the sort of dramatic attacks we are seeing. We have seen the successful beginning of the security transition in the first tranche of provinces and districts announced by President Karzai in July. Afghan forces themselves are performing increasingly well. We admire that.
Of course, the current campaign of terror is very worrying. But we must now allow it to derail the transition. The murder of former Afghan President and Chair of the High Peace Council, Professor Rabbani, was a shocking development which we condemn. We extend our deepest condolences to the people and Government of Afghanistan for his loss. But the process he embodied must continue. And we reiterate our support to the Afghanistan Government in its efforts to advance an inclusive peace and reconciliation process and for the successful reintegration of former fighters into Afghan society.
It is encouraging to hear President Karzai's statement that the people and Government of Afghanistan remain undeterred. It is essential that the international community stand forthrightly with the Government and people of Afghanistan at this time.
Sustainable transition to Afghan security leadership will obviously depend on continued improvements in governance and development.
In Uruzgan, where an Australian leads the Provincial Reconstruction team which is part of the ISAF-flagged Combined Team-Uruzgan – and where Australian security forces are concentrated – we are seeing progress in improving standards of governance and development. But this progress is fragile; we need to remain serious about protecting the gains which have been made and focus even more intensively on building the capacity of the Afghan institutions in Uruzgan so they can deliver concrete – and consistent – results on the ground.
Australia was pleased to participate in the Ministerial meeting on Afghanistan's long-term economic development held in the margins of UNGA last week, on 22 September. The meeting provided a clear message of support for the New Silk Road concept. The vision behind that concept will be a critical element in making Afghanistan's security transition and to advancing the regional economic development which would underpin long-term stability.
A lot of work needs to be done to put real substance into this vision. But
we must make the effort. It is encouraging to note that some infrastructure
projects under this initiative have already begun. This work is essential to
creating a strong network of trade and economic linkages across the region and
to providing the Afghan people with a long-term vision of economic prosperity.
Constructive engagement by Afghanistan's neighbours is critical to the prospect of a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, and in turn for the Central Asian region. Australia welcomes the Istanbul Regional Conference to be hosted under Turkey's very constructive leadership and supported by UNAMA.
A successful meeting in Istanbul will provide important essential support for the Bonn meeting to be chaired by the Afghan Government in December. In Bonn the international community and the Government of Afghanistan will need to demonstrate a robust and coordinated approach to building a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan. More work is needed over coming months to ensure this.
The role of UN agencies in coordinating humanitarian and development assistance in Afghanistan will become more prominent as transition proceeds. Australia supports UNAMA's efforts to improve aid coherence among the international community, and to encourage longer-term commitment to development in Afghanistan.
Australia itself is committed to working closely with donors and the Afghan Government to improve the productive capacity of the Afghan economy. This includes support for capacity building in the mining and agriculture sectors.
Australia's development assistance to Afghanistan has increased by 34 per cent, to approximately $165 million, over the past year. Afghanistan is now the fourth largest recipient of Australia aid. This will continue.
Before I conclude, I would like to take a moment to remember those civilians who have been killed and wounded in Afghanistan since 2001. As the Secretary-General's report notes, we have seen an increase in civilian deaths and casualties in recent months, largely due to the continued use of IEDs and suicide attacks by anti-government elements. Australia urges all parties involved in the armed conflict in Afghanistan to strengthen efforts to protect Afghan civilians.
In concluding would like to express Australia's appreciation for the strong leadership demonstrated by the Secretary-General's Special Representative Staffan de Mistura, and the dedication and sacrifice of UNAMA personnel working in Afghanistan. Australia supports all efforts to ensure that those who work in support of Afghanistan's future are able to do so with the necessary security to complete their difficult – but indispensable – tasks. And we will continue to work with the Secretary-General and Member states to ensure that that security can be ensured.