Delivered by Carolyn Schwalger,Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 19 December 2016.

New Zealand thanks SRSG Yamamoto for his dedication to delivering on UNAMA’s mandate despite a difficult operating environment.

2016 has seen its share of ups and downs for Afghanistan.

As we’ve heard this morning, the Taliban’s offensive has intensified over the past year, with armed clashes at record levels. The cost of weathering this storm has been considerable.

The Afghan economy has faced severe challenges in 2016, including a significant drop in investment. 

A sharp increase in the number of internally displaced persons resulting from ongoing insecurity and a large increase in returnees from Pakistan will place additional stress on the already challenging humanitarian situation. 

September marked the two-year anniversary of the National Unity Government. 

Efforts over the past few months to provide a more united leadership have been welcome. But divisions within the Government remain evident, as witnessed by the recent dismissal of seven ministers by Parliament. 

The conclusion of a peace agreement with Hezb-i-Islami also represented a positive, if modest, step towards long-term peace and reconciliation. However, prospects for peace talks with the Taliban appear to have dimmed in the near term. 

On a more positive note, we welcome the international community’s recommitment of support to Afghanistan for another four years at the Warsaw and Brussels conferences.

New Zealand stood with others to demonstrate our enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan. We did so without hesitation. The cost of failure would be too great. 

History has shown us that no amount of international support can, by itself, bring peace and security to Afghanistan. As my Minister stressed to this Council in September, the future of Afghanistan lies in the hands of its Government and people. A unified and effective National Unity Government – one that puts the interests of its people first – will be essential for success.

We recognise the scale and complexity of the challenges the Government faces.  

Key amongst these is tackling an emboldened Taliban insurgency. The insecurity brought about by the continued offensive undermines progress across the board.

Experience tells us peace and reconciliation with the Taliban demands a multi-faceted approach.

The Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces have a vital role to play in meeting these challenges.

Beyond the battlefield, the Taliban’s ability to wage war needs to be constrained.  There is an urgent need to tackle the flow of narcotics, funding and personnel to the Taliban and other insurgents. The same can be said of funding from illegal mining. 

We also need to see concerted, good faith efforts by others in the region to halt the supply of funding, weapons and personnel to the Taliban and to the establishment of a viable peace process.  In particular, the enormous trust deficit between Afghanistan and Pakistan needs to be bridged. 

These tensions filter down to the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee, where consensus decision-making regularly allows politically-motivated stalling to prevent the most basic and necessary of actions being taken.

The freezing of assets to prevent them from being used to fund the Taliban’s insurgency has been blocked. Even proposals to meet with regional states have been denied. 

Such behaviour has time and again frustrated practical action that could support peace and reconciliation efforts on the ground. It also undermines the credibility and effectiveness of the 1988 Committee and, by extension, this Council itself.

We urge all parties to make a concerted effort to rebuild trust. The alternative will be extremely costly for all involved. 

The challenges faced by the National Unity Government in achieving long term peace and security are many and daunting. But it will not have to walk this road alone as many have reassured Afghanistan this morning. 

For our part, New Zealand will remain a partner to Afghanistan in 2017 and beyond.

Thank you Mr President.