Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations

Thank you Mr President.

We thank Special Representative Haysom for his briefing.  He reminds us of the complex set of challenges facing Afghanistan. We thank him also for his patient commitment to achieving peace in Afghanistan and wish him well in his next, no less difficult assignment. Now we look forward to continuing this Council’s excellent relationship with his successor.

Mr President,

Almost 40 years on from the Saur Revolution, 20 years since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, 15 years since the US-led intervention that followed the September 11 attacks, the sustainable peace for Afghanistan appears as elusive as ever. The National Unity Government continues to face difficult political, economic and security challenges.

The Secretary General’s Report identifies several areas in which modest progress has been made in the reporting period, including on economic planning and political appointments. We welcome this week’s confirmation of the appointments to the positions of Minister of National Defence and Director General of the National Directorate of Security– the last significant vacant positions to be filled in the Afghan Cabinet. We also welcome the filling of the last vacancy on the Afghan Supreme Court and we acknowledge and welcome the continued determination and increasing professionalism of the National Defence and Security Forces.

However, this progress is more than offset by the enormous human toll the conflict continues to exact. The past three months have witnessed an increased frequency of attacks on civilians, including the deadliest incident in Kabul since Taliban rule ended 15 years ago, as well as killings of government and justice officials. Yesterday’s separate attacks killing over 30 people, mainly civilians, underscores the determination of the Taliban and other armed groups to maintain this bloody trajectory.  It is hard to take seriously the Taliban’s claim to be an alternative government when they show such disregard for the lives of ordinary Afghans and of those put themselves at risk in the international effort to help Afghanistan.

It is more than disappointing to note that no progress has been made during this period in the peace and reconciliation process, or in achieving the regional cooperation necessary to effectively meet the serious threats facing the region. Vital milestones for the National Unity Government are yet to be reached. Economic growth remains low, with little prospect of any improvement in the short term, and outward migration continues.

All of this might seem to represent a poor return on the vast resources that have been poured into Afghanistan’s security and reconstruction over the past decade.

However, it is very clear from past history that, in the absence of sustained international support, Afghanistan will risk slipping once again into chaos. Whether we like it or not, the Government and people of Afghanistan need our continuing support.

The conferences to be held later this year in Warsaw and Brussels provide important opportunities for the international community to assess what is needed and what can be provided.

At the same time, the international community will be expecting clear results from the Afghan Government in return. The National Unity Government and regional actors need to show they are brave enough to take the steps needed to achieve sustainable progress in addressing challenges in a wide range of critical areas. 

The National Unity Government needs to provide the coherent and effective leadership its people so desperately need. We endorse Special Representative Haysom’s call for the government to adopt a broad and collaborative approach in the ongoing political dialogue. Similarly, Regional leaders need to set aside their differences in pursuit of their shared interest in countering terrorism and in addressing the conditions that breed instability and extremism, to the detriment of the security of entire region.

The resumption of a meaningful peace and reconciliation process remains another critical challenge. We recognise the difficulty of achieving this in the short term. But there is no getting around the fact that achieving a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is ultimately dependent on achieving some form of reconciliation between the Afghan state and some elements of the armed opposition.   

We as a Council also need to consider what practical steps we can take in supporting the peace and reconciliation process. New Zealand continues to believe that the 1988 Committee sanctions regime can play an important role in this regard, and that sanctions can and should be used more actively to support progress on the ground.

This includes targeted measures to reduce the ability of the Taliban to seek a military solution.  One example is by taking further steps to restrict access to IEDs and their componentry. Another is creating incentives for meaningful engagement in the peace and reconciliation process. Regular and meaningful engagement between the Committee and key stakeholders is important to ensure the sanctions regime complements wider efforts.  We remain committed to do our part in this regard during our remaining time as Committee Chair.

Mr President, one immediate action the Sanctions Committee can take is to ensure its listings remain up to date, particularly to keep pace with changes in the Taliban leadership. We note in this regard that both the new leader and deputy leader of the Taliban are not currently listed. This anomaly must be addressed as soon as possible.

Mr President, we all stand to benefit from achieving a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, no more so than its immediate neighbours and Afghanistan itself. New Zealand will continue to offer its support to Afghanistan and to the work of the Special Representative and UNAMA in ensuring the political and security foundations are in place for Afghanistan to advance. We look forward to taking stock of progress in September.

Thank you.