SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS SUSTAINED ENGAGEMENT
Before I proceed I would also want to recognize among us the presence of President Rau of Germany and his wife. I think it is important that they join us for this discussion.
I believe this open meeting of the Security Council could not be more timely -– and not just because of the dramatic events on the ground of the last twenty-four hours. Afghanistan presents the United Nations with one of its greatest challenges. That challenge is now perhaps at its most urgent stage. The international community must be ready to respond.
In particular, the sustained engagement of the Security Council will be needed if we are to help set Afghanistan on the path to a stable and lasting peace, and address the dire humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.
The United Nations has a long history of involvement in addressing the plight of the Afghan people. The terrorist attacks on the United States of 11 September, and the consequent military action in Afghanistan, have created a new environment that presents daunting challenges to the international community, but also new opportunities.
First and foremost, we must do all we can to help meet the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, who have suffered from decades of man-made as well as natural disasters, in the shape of conflict, repression, drought and famine. Winter is closing in, and we must feed and shelter as many of the vulnerable and suffering as possible. Next, the rapid march of events on the ground requires that we focus on the challenge we will face in a post-Taliban period. This means taking urgent action so as to avoid a political and security vacuum.
It means giving priority to the actions the international community needs to take to help ensure a climate of stability that can create the conditions for a lasting peace.
As the Council knows, Lakhdar Brahimi has just returned from Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. I am confident that, with your active support, Mr. Brahimi will be able to make progress in the intensive efforts in which he is engaged to facilitate transitional arrangements that will lay the foundations for a peaceful and stable Afghan future.
If all the Afghan parties -– as well as the neighbours and the wider international community –- give full support, there is now a real opportunity to create the sort of broad-based, fully representative government which the United Nations has long been trying to help the Afghan people achieve. A stable Afghanistan, living in peace, carrying out its international obligations and posing no threat to any of its neighbours, must be our common objective. To achieve it, any arrangement arrived at must reflect the will, the needs and the interests of the Afghan people, and enjoy their full support.
This requires the end of interference in Afghanistan’s affairs by neighbouring countries. Unless this happens -– on the level of reality rather than just rhetoric -- there can be little hope of lasting stability in Afghanistan.
Before closing, I wish to draw the Council’s attention to the immediate needs of the more than 6 million people inside Afghanistan affected by conflict and natural disaster.
Over the past two weeks, UN Agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have geared up cross-border delivery and distribution of food and non-food assistance. For the first time since 11 September, we have been able to reach or even exceed our weekly targets of food supplies. I commend the extraordinary efforts of our colleagues on the ground, in particular the hundreds of Afghans who are working inside Afghanistan with great dedication under the most difficult circumstances.
But many areas still remain inaccessible making distribution difficult, in particular in the North. These areas are also among the most vulnerable. If we want to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the coming months, we must make every effort to overcome the logistical challenges in, for example, reaching areas cut off by snow.
Let us not forget that our assistance efforts must be based on one principle only: to help those most in need. No less daunting are the constraints imposed by insecurity.
Irrespective of military or political developments, we will have to gain the consent and cooperation of all parties on the ground to reach people in need. We shall have to devise innovative approaches for interim security measures until a sustained political process is in place.
The Afghan population looks to the international community and to the Security Council to create the conditions in which they can finally enjoy a Government which is fully representative, protects their human rights, and ensures friendly relations with their neighbours. We owe it to them, and let us not let them down.
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