UN envoy says peace in Afghanistan must be explored with ‘utmost urgency’
NEW YORK - It is imperative that avenues for peace be explored with the utmost urgency and seriousness, as conflict diverts resources that would be better spent on developing Afghanistan and helping its people, said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, in a briefing to the Security Council today.
“As I look at the situation in Afghanistan today, I see opportunity and hope, but also formidable challenges,” said Mr. Yamamoto, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
The UN envoy spoke about the upcoming Brussels Conference as providing the time and space for the Afghan Government to move toward stability and self-reliance. “The Government should seize this opportunity,” he said, noting that a way must be found to ensure stability in the Government for the long term.
But Mr. Yamamoto cautioned that as one of the world’s most aid-dependent countries, it will be difficult for Afghanistan to achieve self-reliance as long as there is conflict. “Peace is therefore a requirement,” he stressed.
UNAMA’s chief outlined the many positive developments underway in the country, such as the advancement of the Government’s reform agenda and efforts to tackle corruption.
He pointed to the Warsaw Summit as an indication of strong support from the international community, and described the upcoming Brussels Conference as an opportunity for the Government to secure continued development assistance, at or near existing levels, through 2020.
“Success in Brussels would mark another important step for Afghanistan towards self-reliance,” he said.
Speaking about Afghanistan’s security situation, the UN envoy characterized 2016 as another difficult year for the country, with intensive fighting continuing around the country, with a severe impact on civilians.
“I must report that, yet again, year on year civilian casualty figures are trending upwards,” he said. “Nowhere is this trend more apparent than for children, among whom there has been an 18 per cent increase in casualties, with 388 children killed in six months.”
Mr. Yamamoto went on to describe the numbers of people newly displaced by conflict, including a massive increase in the number of Afghan families returning from Pakistan. “If current trends continue,” he said, “Afghanistan will have to meet the needs of at least one million people on the move,” placing an overwhelming strain on already overstretched health and other social services.
“Unless measures are taken soon, many thousands of families face the prospect of winter with inadequate shelter or support,” he said.
On the National Unity Government, the UN envoy described the tension between the two leaders, and said a way forward must be found through realistic and flexible compromise. “The leaders must show to the people of Afghanistan and to the international community that they are able to govern effectively,” he said.
The international community, he said, is deeply committed to supporting the National Unity Government, and would be reassured by continued stability and its effectiveness.
In closing, the UN envoy once again said that peace is a necessity. “Without peace, Afghans will continue to suffer and economic growth and prosperity will not materialize,” he stressed, urging both sides to come together to find a lasting peace for Afghanistan.