Ban lays out twin Afghan needs: stronger Government role, greater economic drive
NEW YORK - The Security Council discussed the situation in Afghanistan today, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressing the twin needs to strengthen the Government’s role while coordinating “broader and more effective” international civilian efforts under the United Nations umbrella to spur economic and social development.
“Better coordination based on strong political willingness of donor countries and strong local effort is key to resolving the current situation,” he said, citing insufficient political will rather than lack of structures or shortage of resources as the main obstacle.
“We need strategies that meet the requirements of building sustainable institutions to deliver services to the Afghan people and to develop the Afghan economy.”
Mr. Ban welcomed the new approach by United States President Barack Obama “that seeks an optimal balance between military and civilian efforts” in the battled against the Taliban and other insurgents, and that would strengthen cooperation with the UN, and noted the international community’s reaffirmed resolve to complete the task of erasing the terrorist threat.
He also hailed the priorities set out by President Hamid Karzai in his inaugural speech on his re-election focusing on security, good governance, ending corruption, achieving national unity and expanding cooperation with the country’s neighbours to address drug-trafficking and other cross-border threats to stability.
“But if these strategies are to be implemented in an efficient and timely manner, the new Afghan Government must fulfil its far-reaching pledges. At the same time, the relationship between Afghanistan and its international partners must be re-evaluated,” he said.
A high-level international conference on Afghanistan in London on 28 January “offers an important opportunity for fresh impetus, both to the international effort as well as that of the newly established Government in Kabul to provide greater stability and support to the security and developmental needs of Afghanistan,” he added.
Turning to the current security threat – “the single biggest impediment to progress” – Mr. Ban noted that Taliban efforts to prevent people from participating in the electoral process also destroyed social structures and traditional security mechanisms, and he cited attacks against UN personnel and humanitarian workers, warning that more terror attacks could be expected.
“Afghanistan is at a critical juncture,” he declared. “All key players – Afghan and international – have drawn important lessons from controversial experiences and missed opportunities. I appeal to both the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to make the best possible use of the next few months.”
Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, also underscored the need to focus on development and building up civilian institutions as well as avoiding perceptions of disrespect and arrogance in dealing with Afghans and gradually transferring authority to allow them to take charge of their own future.
“If we do not take these civilians components of the transition strategy as seriously as the military component, then we will fail,” he told the Council in his final briefing before the end of his mandate.
He cited the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to train future administrators, build up an infrastructure to allow the Government to deliver services, exploit mineral and energy resources that could be a major source of employment and income, develop a transportation network, set up a comprehensive educational system, develop the critically under-funded agricultural sector and launch a peace and reconciliation process.
“The military surge must not be allowed to undermine equally important civilian objectives and the development of such a politically driven strategy,” he said, stressing that the greater coordination of civilian efforts under the UN umbrella will be based on “all of us working more closely under Afghan leadership.”
Turning to the international approach to Afghanistan, he warned of a tendency to “shape strategies, make decisions and operate in a way that Afghanis perceive as disrespectful and sometimes arrogant,” leading to “dangerous tensions” between the Government and the international community and fuelling suspicions of unacceptable foreign interference and a sense of humiliation due to perceived disrespect for local religion, culture and values.
“Success in our long-term partnership will depend on consulting more, listening more and demonstrating greater understanding for a society which needs our assistance but also demands our respect,” he said. “We have to learn the pulse of the Afghan society, which is very different from ours.”
In his latest three-monthly report on Afghanistan earlier this week, Mr. Ban warned that there was currently no indication of an early improvement in security following last year’s deterioration, declaring that a better coordinated international effort was crucial to reversing overall negative trends.
Following today’s Council debate, in which more than 20 Member States participated, Mr. Ban told reporters he was “encouraged by the understanding and strong support shown.”