Strategic decisions, consensus must guide next steps on elections and peace – UN envoy
NEW YORK - The UN’s top envoy in Afghanistan said important decisions made now on elections and peace will affect the fundamental fabric of the society and future of Afghanistan.
“The Afghan people are scheduled to cast their votes on 20 October to choose their parliamentary representatives for the first time since 2010,” Tadamichi Yamamoto told the Security Council. “Strategic decisions, underpinned by a national consensus, will need to be taken to guide the next steps towards peace.”
Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, noted that the October parliamentary elections will be a major test for Afghanistan’s democratic institutions and cautioned that political challenges could jeopardize the elections unless all leaders engage constructively and peacefully to ensure that elections are held on time.
“I urge all political actors and institutions to perform their duties, act responsibly, and to think of the Afghan people, bearing in mind the country’s bitter past,” said the UN envoy.
On peace, the UN envoy noted that President Ghani’s offer in February this year to the Taliban to engage in talks without preconditions created unprecedented political space for peace, culminating in the temporary ceasefire in June that showed reconciliation was possible.
“The second ceasefire in August, proposed by the government, was unfortunately not reciprocated by the Taliban,” he said, noting that setbacks were to be expected but stating that Afghanistan is in a better position now than at any time in the past 17 years to commence the process which would lead to talks for a negotiated end to the conflict.
“The most difficult phases lie ahead,” said Yamamoto, who urged all sides to agree on concrete measures to build confidence towards more structured talks.
“All sides must realize that there is no military solution to the conflict,” the UN envoy stressed.
Yamamoto touched on several other pressing issues in Afghanistan, including the increasingly high number of civilian deaths, notably among journalists and aid workers, and the importance of the full involvement of women in all efforts for the promotion, establishment and maintenance of peace and security.
The UN envoy went on to describe the upcoming Geneva Ministerial Conference as an opportunity to review civilian efforts in the country and for the international community to further clarify its expectations regarding the peace process and the ways it can support such a process.
In closing, Yamamoto quoted former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s 2001 Nobel Peace Prize speech, which began with a few simple words: “Today in Afghanistan a girl will be born.”
That girl, said Yamamoto, will soon be old enough to vote, old enough to attend university, old enough to pursue the vocation of her dreams. “Will she be able to?” he asked. “I am sure that that girl will be watching closely the developments of the next few months.”