Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations (UN), during the UN Security Council Meeting on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 25 June 2020

Thank you, Madam President,

We wish to welcome Ms Deborah Lyons (Special Representative and Head of UNAMA) to the Council and thank her for her briefing on the situation in Afghanistan and the work of UNAMA.

We also thank Ms Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Ms Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, for their briefings.

We further extend a warm welcome to Ambassador Adela Raz, to this Council VTC meeting.

Allow me to begin by congratulating and commending the political leaders of Afghanistan for placing the national interest of their country above their personal interests, which has resulted in the formation of a government.

Equally, we wish to commend the crucial mediation role played by both domestic and international stakeholders in placing Afghanistan on a path to peace. Accordingly, we welcome the agreement reached in this regard and hope that the parties can build on these positive developments by injecting renewed impetus and support for the start of the intra-Afghan peace talks.

South Africa calls on all parties to urgently work towards commencing the intra-Afghan peace talks as soon as conditions and the COVID-19 restrictions allow. In the interim it is important to state that a ceasefire remains a critical enabler of such talks and a catalyst for lasting peace and security for all Afghan people. South Africa wishes to again reiterate the importance of an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process, taking on board the voices of all sectors of society. This includes hearing the strong voices of women, who have remained steadfast in their commitment to participate in the peace process and play an active role in contributing to a peaceful Afghan society.

Madam President,

South Africa is proud to be among the 170 signatories to the statement of support for Secretary-General Guterres’ appeal for a global ceasefire to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and we reiterate this call, in support of the people of Afghanistan. As mentioned in the Secretary-General’s most recent report, the impact of COVID-19 together with sustained conflict, food insecurity and fragile infrastructure have increased the suffering of the Afghan people.

My delegation appreciates the measures enacted by both the Government of Afghanistan and UNAMA to limit the spread of the virus and calls on the international community to support Afghanistan in ensuring that the necessary equipment and medical supplies are available to those in need.

Madam President,

South Africa is most concerned about the circumstance of Afghan children, many of whom have seen the worst humanity has to offer. As detailed by the Secretary-General, “the armed conflict in Afghanistan remains the deadliest conflict for children”. The scale, severity and recurrence of violations and abuses endured by children in Afghanistan, particularly the high levels of killing and maiming, the recruitment and use of children in conflict, acts of sexual violence against children, the targeting of schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access must be stopped.

We, therefore, call on the parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international human rights law, as well as international humanitarian law. All those responsible for committing or conducting acts of grave violations particularly against children in Afghanistan should be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.

Madam President,

Let me now also state South Africa’s strong condemnation for the heinous acts of terrorism, including the attacks on a Sikh temple and a maternity hospital in Kabul that occurred during the reporting period. The perpetrators of these and other terrorist acts must be brought to justice for peace to prevail.

In conclusion, Madam President, allow me to extend my appreciation to the leadership, troops and personnel of UNAMA, all of whom operate in a challenging environment.

UNAMA’s continued engagement with national, regional and international stakeholders in seeking an end to the violence, its work in support of a ceasefire, as well as promoting the intra-Afghan negotiations and its encouragement of confidence-building measures, are all necessary and significant components in bringing long-term peace, security and prosperity to Afghanistan.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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