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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2010

Statement on Afghanistan

Plenary by H.E Ambassador Jim McLay, 4 November 2010

New Zealand welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this debate, and thanks Germany for facilitating negotiations on today’s resolution, which we are happy to cosponsor.

Mr President –

It is nearly ten years since New Zealand first committed its Special Forces, and then provided a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan Province, to support an Afghanistan that needed strong international support to meet its many challenges.

We did so acutely aware that, as well as almost continuous internal war, Afghanistan had, in recent memory, seen the 1978 coup, the 1979 Soviet invasion, and a repressive Taliban regime that brutalised the Afghan population, oppressed women, quashed education, supported global terrorism and harboured an Al Qaeda insurgency.

Those are just a few milestones in a difficult history in which, since 1978, over two million civilians have died and many more have fled as refugees.

Afghanistan has, sir, come a long way since then.

Even in the year since this General Assembly last debated this topic, there have been significant developments – parliamentary elections, the London and Kabul conferences and the Peace Jirga being notable examples of events that contribute to a more secure country.

Mr President –

Many aspects of the situation in Afghanistan might be addressed today; but, in the interests of time I’ll just focus on four:

First, New Zealand applauds those millions of Afghans who voted in recent parliamentary elections, many of them facing intimidation and defying threats of violence to elect their parliament.

We cannot - and do not - hold Afghanistan to the measure of long-established, mature democracies; but we are disappointed that, in some areas, voting could not be conducted because of security concerns and other deliberate obstruction of polling.

On the other hand, while it’s very concerning that almost a quarter of the votes cast were invalidated by the Independent Election Commission, it is positive that this action resulted from an oversight system that does seems to be working, and that Afghanistan was able to conduct these elections itself, including keeping the level of violence well below what many had feared.

It is also positive that the quota for women members of parliament was exceeded, and that, generally, those elected came from diverse backgrounds and included a significant number of new candidates.

All that said, the electoral process had its shortcomings, and we should call now on the IEC, and others involved, to maintain and enhance their rigorous oversight of all such elections.

Those who courageously voted are entitled to see that same resolve mirrored by those they elected; and to expect that their new parliament, and all levels of their government, will show they can work on behalf of, and are accountable to, all Afghans.

This will ensure the will of the people is reflected, and that central government and provinces are connected as a cohesive whole.

Second, an essential element of capable and credible governance is the elimination of corruption.

Corruption is corrosive – it undermines domestic and international confidence, destroys capacity, hinders growth and has sorely tested

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT