Delivered by Carolyn Schwalger, Charge d'Affaires a.i. of New Zealand to the United Nations, 15 March 2016.

We too thank the Secretary General’s Special Representative Nicholas Haysom and Ambassador Saikal for their briefings and commend Spain for its careful stewardship over the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate renewal.

The first year of Afghanistan’s Transformation Decade has been a difficult one for the people of Afghanistan.

As the Secretary-General’s report concludes, the security situation continues to deteriorate. Intense fighting has seen record numbers of civilians killed and wounded. The Taliban has now asserted its authority over a third of Afghanistan’s district centres. Sadly, child casualties caused by ground engagements continue to rise. And an estimated two million refugees have fled the country in the past nine months alone.

With the summer fighting season set to commence prospects for the year ahead look even more challenging as a number of speakers here have mentioned today

The record of the Afghan security forces in meeting these challenges has been mixed. They have displayed considerable courage and resilience, scoring notable victories. At other times, they have displayed a worrying fragility.

The economy remains extremely weak, with unemployment high and few prospects for improvement in the year ahead.

It is clear that to meet these challenges Afghanistan will remain dependent on assistance from its core international partners for the foreseeable future.

Against this bleak backdrop, several points merit highlighting.

First, to meet these challenges Afghanistan needs resolute, unified and effective national leadership like never before. We urgently need the National Unity Government to lift its game in providing this.

This means getting serious about tackling rampant corruption. And it means ensuring strong leadership in key portfolios, including the security sector.

The international community continues to have an important role to play in providing support for these efforts. We commend the work of UNAMA in providing focused, quality technical assistance, and sustaining funding in support of the long term capacity of Government of Afghanistan.

But all of this will amount to little without focused and effective national leadership.

We look to Afghanistan’s leadership to deliver on their obligations - first to the people of Afghanistan, and, secondly to those countries that have invested so much to provide them the opportunity to restore Afghanistan to a fully functioning state.

We recognise the scale and complexity of this task, and commend the continued resilience and determination of the Government and security forces of Afghanistan in the face of these enormous challenges.

Second, there can be no peace in Afghanistan in the long term without a meaningful peace and reconciliation process.

Again, we do not underestimate the challenges faced in achieving progress, particularly in the current circumstances. But we must ensure we are laying the groundwork now for a successful process.

Third, we call on regional partners to play their part in helping to restrict the flow of arms, fighters and narcotics across Afghanistan’s borders that continue to fuel instability.

We welcome the momentum in the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process, and urge participants to carry forward the progress made at the most recent meeting in Islamabad.

Fourth, we believe greater use can and should be made of the Taliban Sanctions regime as a tool for supporting peace and reconciliation, and for combating the efforts of those who continue to work against a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

New Zealand believes greater use can be made of the sanctions regime to incentivise individuals to refrain from activities that jeopardise prospects for peace, as well as to constrain the flow of arms and military material into the conflict.

We remain particularly concerned about the destabilising effects of the continued flow of improvised explosive device (IED) components to the Taliban. We urge Member States to act on Resolution 2255’s call to share information, establish partnerships, and develop national strategies and capabilities to counter IEDs.

As Chair of the 1988 Committee, Ambassador van Bohemen hopes in the coming months to take forward a discussion on how better use can be made of the sanctions regime in this regard, including directly with key Afghan stakeholders.

In conclusion, Mr President, the year ahead is shaping as a dangerous and uncertain one for the Government and people of Afghanistan.

After our collective investment and sacrifice over the past fifteen years we cannot afford to let the country fall once again into chaos.