Statement by H.E. Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti
Permanent Representative of
Brazil to the United Nations
The situation in Afghanistan and its implications
for international peace and security
Security Council, 6 January 2010
I wish to congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of the Council for the month of January.
I thank you and the other members of the Council for the words of welcome. Brazil looks forward to working closely and constructively with all Council members in discharging its mandate.
I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his presence among us, his remarks and the latest report on Afghanistan. Brazil joins other speakers in thanking Mr. Eide for his enlightening presentation. We take the opportunity to express appreciation for his work as Head of UNAMA and for his invaluable contribution under very challenging circumstances.
The recent months have been a sobering reminder of the daunting challenges that still lie ahead on the path to peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
The deterioration in the security situation is a cause of deep concern. Especially disturbing is the increase in the number of conflict-related civilian casualties. The large majority of those deaths were caused by the Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremist groups and the main responsibility should therefore be clearly laid at their feet. Obviously, this is no consolation for the civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces in the Afghan conflict, such as the children reportedly killed in the Ghazi Khan village and in Lashkar Gah during the last days of 2009. While fully recognizing the steps taken by the Afghan Government, ISAF and the Coalition, we believe there is a need for continued efforts to better distinguish combatants and non-combatants and to eliminate or further reduce risks to civilians. Apart from being a moral imperative and an obligation under international law, protecting civilians is key to strengthening the legitimacy and effectiveness of the international military presence in Afghanistan.
Also worrisome is the fact that extremists have been increasingly targeting international staff and humanitarian agents. The attacks against the UN guest house in Kabul last October were particularly shocking. We firmly condemn this senseless and unjustifiable violence and honour its victims. We also pay tribute to the UN guards whose heroism helped save innocent lives. We support the efforts of the Secretary-General to improve the safety of UN staff and local personnel in Afghanistan.
The prolonged controversy about the results of last August polls impacted on governance in Afghanistan and affected its relations with the international community. Electoral irregularities such as those identified by the Electoral Complaints Commission undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process and are readily misused as propaganda tools for extremist groups. They highlighted the need for reform.
While we ponder on the challenges and setbacks in building a safer, more democratic and prosperous Afghanistan and try to learn from past experience, we must focus on the future.
We should all welcome President Karzai's commitments in his inauguration speech to enhance efforts towards national unity and reconciliation, increase the responsibility of Afghan forces in providing security to their own people, promote economic development and administrative reforms and take firm measures to fight corruption. We should also ensure that our collective support for President Karzai effectively helps him turn words into deeds.
The appointment of a competent and inclusive Cabinet is a key element in fulfilling those commitments. We encourage the Afghan Government and the Wolesi Jirga to continue working on the formation of the new government.
My delegation also supports President Karzai's initiative to promote national reconciliation, including talks with the armed opposition.
Another crucial area on which the new government will certainly want to focus is electoral reform so as to prevent the recurrence of the problems identified during the 2009 elections. The 2010 elections must contribute to the consolidation of democracy in Afghanistan. We note UNAMA's calls for reforms and more transparency in the Independent Electoral Commission ahead of the parliamentary and local elections scheduled for next May and call for increased dialogue between the Afghan Government and the Mission. We encourage further dialogue and cooperation in that regard by all stakeholders.
Continued progress on the promotion and protection of the rights of women is also needed. It would be important for the Afghan parliament to timely consider the draft law on the elimination of violence against women and the amended Shia personal status law. Matching progress in the legislative arena with the strengthening of institutions charged with its implementation is key.
A long term solution for the security situation in Afghanistan requires steady transfer of responsibility to the Afghan Government. This will enable a gradual withdrawal of the international military presence on the ground and the normalization of life in the country.
The conflict in Afghanistan will not be solved purely on the military front. The convincing argument made by Mr. Eide on the need for a politically driven strategy rather than a military one should guide our work. Refocusing the Afghan National Development Strategy on long-term projects seems to be the correct approach in this regard and may require a stronger role for UNAMA, which we would support.
Improved coordination of the civilian international action in Afghanistan is crucial, if both the government and donors are to achieve greater effectiveness in their actions. In so doing, adequate attention must be given to national ownership so as to ensure the long term sustainability of international action in the country. We therefore support the initiative of establishing a dedicated civilian coordination structure in Afghanistan, under the United Nations umbrella, able to gradually transfer to the Afghan Government the coordination of donor support to its programmes and priorities. To that end, donor countries must find the political readiness indicated in the SG report to shift their focus from capacity-substitution to capacity-building in Afghanistan.
We agree with Mr. Eide's observation that the best contribution the international community can make to assist the Afghan government and society is helping them to strengthen institutions. Such task is complex by definition, but it is the only real option in the long run. In that context, the International Conferences to be held on the 28th of January in London and later this year in Kabul are important opportunities to advance in that direction.