Statement by Ambassador Baso Sangqu, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in Afghanistan
27 June 2012
We thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr Jan Kubis, for introducing the quarterly report of the Secretary-General on Afghanistan. South Africa welcomes the participation of the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, Ambassador Zahir Tanin at this debate.
In assessing the situation in Afghanistan over the last three months, it is clear that while some progress has been made in Afghanistan particularly towards strengthening Afghan leadership and ownership, there have been setbacks which undermine progress achieved.
We wish to reiterate that political dialogue and reconciliation are critical for ensuring sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Clearly, there can be no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and we therefore welcome the Afghan Government’s persistent initiatives to engage with the armed opposition and the continued calls by President Karzai for the armed opposition to lay down their arms. In this regard we welcome the appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani as Chairperson of the High Peace Council and his stated objective of improving the inclusiveness of the Council.
We were optimistic at attempts to foster peace and reconciliation by engaging the Taliban. However, the unilateral suspension of these talks by the Taliban on 15 March, as well as the suspension by the Hizb-e-Islami of its political engagement, is reason for concern. It is pivotal for the long-term stability of Afghanistan that all political role-players overcome their differences and commit to national reconciliation and a political solution.
We welcome the legal and legislative framework that is currently being put in place to ensure fair, transparent and inclusive Presidential elections in 2014. While these processes are commendable, these efforts should not detract attention away from crucial contemporary challenges.
In spite of the decrease in security incidents and civilian casualties during the reporting period, we condemn the rise of targeted killings of civilians including children and an ongoing campaign of violence directed at schools and educators. Civilian casualties resulting from ISAF air-strikes as well as anti-Government use of improvised explosive devices (IED) remain a concern. We wish to underline that all armed elements operating in Afghanistan have the responsibility for ensuring that unarmed civilians are protected and failure by both state and non-state actors to uphold this responsibility, should not go unpunished. The Secretary-General in his 9th Report on the Protection of Civilians, underlined the importance of accountability and in this regard we are reminded that in its presidential statement on justice and the rule of law adopted on 19 January, the Security Council reiterated its call on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law and to take all required steps to protect civilians.
We are concerned by recent developments which again witnessed increased tensions between members of the local communities and ISAF forces. We call on ISAF to undertake efforts to mitigate the loss of civilian life and respect for the cultural and religious heritage of the population.
Ensuring the long-term protection of civilians requires building national institutions in the area of rule of law, justice and security sector reform. In this regard, we welcome the surge target strength of the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army is ahead of their 2012 targets. We note the timeline for international military drawdown and the commitment for a post–ISAF mission to conduct training and development of the Afghan Security Services, announced at the NATO Chicago Summit.
My delegation is concerned about the incidents of violence directed against women and the challenges that women continue to face in the economic, social and cultural sphere.
Security in Afghanistan at a national level should continue to be reinforced by efforts at a regional level to consolidate peace, stability and development. We welcome the political dialogue and cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours during the reporting period. There has been significant bilateral contact between Afghanistan and countries of the region which has resulted in strengthened economic, political, security and socio-cultural links. These initiatives were bolstered by the recently held “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference in Kabul, where Afghanistan and its neighbours, supported by partner countries, considered security, reconstruction and cooperation in combating regional challenges such as drug trafficking and terrorism.
There can be no doubt that there is an inextricable link between development and security in Afghanistan. The socio-economic and humanitarian challenges confronted by Afghanistan are significant and it is therefore important that, despite the financial situation facing the international community, we should continue our support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in line with the commitments of the Bonn Conference in the area of direct financial support and towards its long-term economic growth.
In conclusion, we wish to stress that national ownership and leadership remains crucial to achieving political, security and socio-economic progress in Afghanistan. For its part, the international community should continue its supportive role in the country’s move from conflict to stability and prosperity. South Africa stresses that given the magnitude of these challenges, a comprehensive strategy incorporating security, humanitarian efforts, good governance and socio-economic development, is required. In this regard, we wish to underscore the central role of UNAMA in supporting the Government in Afghanistan and coordinating international assistance to the country. Crucially, the continued role played by bilateral and multilateral partners remains indispensable.
I thank you.