New Zealand appreciates the opportunity to contribute to this debate, and thanks the Secretary-General for his September quarterly report.
We acknowledge the presence of Foreign Minister Rassoul and Special representative di Mustura – and thank Mr di Mustura for his extensive briefing.
I’ll focus on four issues from the SG’s report: elections, the security situation, governance, and the need for a political solution.
Final results are still some weeks away, but one outcome of the elections held on 18 September is already clear: millions of determined Afghans showed courage and defied threats of violence to elect their parliament.
We congratulate those who voted; they are entitled to see that same resolve mirrored in all levels of their society.
We cannot - and do not - hold Afghanistan to the measure of long-established, mature democracies; but we are disappointed that, in some areas, the elections could not be conducted because of security concerns - and we are concerned at reports of widespread voter fraud.
We encourage the Independent Electoral Commission and the Election Complaints Commission to maintain rigorous oversight of the election process and, more specifically, to deal with those reports of fraud, thereby ensuring that the new parliament better reflects the will of the people and works on their behalf.
Along with other international partners, New Zealand is committed to help Afghanistan take the lead on security, governance and economic and social development.
President Karzai’s commitments made at the London Conference in January, and the Programme of Action endorsed in Kabul in July, are benchmarks against which Afghanistan’s progress will be measured.
We accept that the security backdrop makes progress more difficult.
The elections were held during one of Afghanistan’s most violent periods since the Taleban was driven from power; violence that has affected Afghans, UNAMA and ISAF.
Indeed, for ISAF, 2010 has been the worst year of the war – so far, more than 530 deaths, including New Zealand’s first combat fatality.
Although the security situation remains tenuous, we do see welcome signs of improvement.
We commend efforts to build the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces, and are particularly pleased to see numbers increasing ahead of target.
We welcome the increase of nearly 40,000 ISAF troops, and also President Karzai’s commitment at the Kabul Conference that Afghan National Security Forces will have nationwide lead responsibility for security by the end of 2014.
We will help to facilitate and support that process in Bamyan Province.
Better security will increase the opportunities for improved governance, social programmes and economic development.
But the benefits of improved governance must be evenly distributed and sustainable, and must withstand the scrutiny of those who provide support and funding.
Corruption remains a central obstacle to Afghanistan’s progress, and must be relentlessly addressed.
Corruption is corrosive; it destroys capacity; it undermines public and international confidence.
We look to the Afghan Government to make better progress on addressing corruption and governance issues.
This will ensure that, with the support of the international community, Afghanistan will increasingly be able to stand on its own.
The new Parliament has an important role to play in ensuring confidence in central government, and ensuring that central government is connected to the provinces so that, together, central and provincial government can form a cohesive whole.
We specifically encourage Parliament to find ways to break the nine-month deadlock that’s prevented President Karzai from completing his Cabinet.
In Bamyan, New Zealand works on the basis that capable, credible governance remains critical to effective development.
We have increased development spending, appointed a development adviser, put the PRT under civilian leadership for the first time, and appointed our first Ambassador resident in Kabul - consistent with international efforts to balance military and civilian contributions, and consistent with Bamyan’s transition to Afghan leadership across all areas of security, governance and development.
Fighting alone will not secure Afghanistan’s future; only a political solution can bring lasting peace.
That solution must further isolate hard-core insurgency leaders, and encourage the majority back into mainstream society.
Compromises will be required on all sides; but New Zealand would be alarmed if this process saw the return of the very people who were ousted nearly nine years ago, and would be dismayed if a political settlement included official tolerance of repression of women and minorities.
We and others have not put our people in harm’s way in support of such an outcome.
We will continue to watch for the longer term outcomes of the Peace Jirga hosted by President Karzai in Kabul in June - the establishment by the President of a High Council for Peace this month is a promising start, but we do need to see results.
Afghanistan’s neighbours, also have an important role to play in achieving a political solution.
New Zealand was encouraged when Pakistan backed the reconciliation process in January, and welcomed June’s Afghan-Pakistan declaration on bilateral cooperation.
Pakistan has an interest in a stable state on its western border; so we look forward to its closer, positive engagement with Afghanistan.
Cooperation on essential matters such as border control, trade, policing drug trafficking, and combating the insurgency will be essential to help ensure a better future for the region.
Next year will be the high-water mark of international military involvement, with around 150,000 troops in Afghanistan from nearly 50 ISAF contributing countries.
New Zealand soldiers were among the first to join the campaign against terrorism nearly ten years ago; and, today, we continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan as they grow as a nation.They have our support in that growth; and they have our support in achieving that outcome.