28 March 2003

Lack of Security in Afghanistan Threatens Peace Process at All Levels, Security Council Told

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Introduces Fourth Report of Secretary-General on Afghan Situation

NEW YORK, 27 March (UN Headquarters) -- Introducing the fourth report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi told the Security Council this afternoon that security sector reform was paramount, as the lack of security threatened the peace process at all levels.

One of the most pressing challenges ahead for the Government, Mr. Annabi stated, was to strengthen the links between Kabul and the provinces and to strengthen the capacity of the provincial and local governments themselves. Effective governance at the local level, with reliable fiscal, administrative and policy links to the central Government, would enable the population across Afghanistan to gain confidence that the Government could affect their lives positively.

But for that to occur, he continued, security outside Kabul must significantly improve. It was important to see security sector reform, not as an end in itself, but as a mechanism to enable the central government to extend its control over the country, and in turn to allow the interrelated political and economic development processes to occur within the space created by a functioning security sector.

The focus of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) over the next year would be to continue to assist the Afghan Government to consolidate its authority throughout the country and implement national policies that reached the entire nation. He said that effort would build on progress made last year in establishing the essential structures of Government and in proving that those structures could work at a basic level.

The determination of the Afghan Government to take the leading role in rebuilding its State and the economy was clearly demonstrated during preparations for this year's national budget, he said. The budget was presented to donors at the Afghanistan Development Forum held from 13 to 14 March in Kabul, and at the Afghanistan High-Level Strategic Forum on 17 March in Brussels. The budget process saw government ministries prepare and justify their expenditure plans, defend their proposals to their cabinet colleagues and accept final allocations on the principle of sustainability. The progress of all programmes would be measured against agreed benchmarks.

The budget, he continued, set the role of the State as the regulator and guarantor of social well-being and enshrined the principles of geographic equity in the allocation of resources. The budget provided for some $2.26 billion in expenditure. The Government estimated that it would collect internal revenues of $200 million, and donors had to date pledged $1.87 billion, leaving a funding gap of around $191 million in this year's budget. At the heart of the budget process was the issue of government ownership and leadership in setting national priorities for the overall reconstruction agenda.

In the Government's plan, reconstruction and economic development rested on successful administrative reform, he said. The National Development Programme laid out a clear role for the State over the long term. While the State would invest in human capital and implement social policies focused on assistance to the most vulnerable, it would only take on a direct managerial role when social justice demanded it. The development plan otherwise called for the reorientation of the State machinery to focus on policy and regulation, leaving implementation and growth to the private sector. The Administration recognized that a robust private sector that provided sustainable employment opportunities was ultimately the most effective way to improve the conditions of the majority of the population and to stabilize the revenue base of the national Government.

The Government had already taken steps to effect that transformation, in particular, through a successful currency exchange exercise; through staffing changes that better reflected the ethnic composition of the population; and through the establishment of a number of commissions, including those on security sector reform, civil service reform, judicial reform, constitutional development and the promotion of human rights. He added that much more remained to be done, however, particularly on the reform of the civil service and of the judicial sector.

He went on to say that a multi-ethnic and accountable army and police would allow the State to provide the orderly environment needed for the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights. Creating effective border police would ensure that customs revenues were collected by the central Government, increasing its capacity and sustainability. Reform of the judicial system would allow for the rule of law, based on international covenants that Afghanistan had signed, and incorporating principles grounded in gender equity and respect for human rights.

The fight against illicit drugs would diminish the insidious effect of an illicit economy that both deprived the State of revenues and fostered crime and instability, he continued. Finally, implementing an effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme would erode from within the strength of unsanctioned armed factions that were responsible for much insecurity across Afghanistan, and that, in many cases, resisted the extension of government control.

Administrative development and security sector reform should be coupled with a political transformation process that ensured that the Government was representative and accountable to all segments of its population, he stated. The drafting and approval of a new constitution and preparations for general elections in 2004 would be key tasks in that regard in the coming year. Election, in particular, constituted a linchpin of the process and an essential element of UNAMA's mandate.

Holding elections within the timeline of the Bonn Agreement would constitute a major challenge for UNAMA and the Afghan Administration. Electoral consultants had already been deployed to UNAMA to begin assisting the Government with the election preparation, and they had confirmed that registration and elections would be very complex. He envisaged an electoral section within UNAMA that could provide expert advice and technical assistance to the Afghan electoral management body on such issues as voter registration, voter education, the development of political party laws, and the development of the electoral system.

It was clear that a certain amount of institutional development must occur, and that an adequate level of security must be in place, if the elections were to be meaningful and credible. In addition, elections were a technical activity for which certain international standards must be maintained for the elections to be perceived as legitimate. The resources to meet international standards in the elections, above the cost of the electoral section itself, would be considerable. It was vital that the UNAMA electoral section be established and provided with adequate resources as soon as possible. It was also important that the Afghan Government continue to lay the framework for future elections.

Secretary-General's Report

When the Security Council met this afternoon, it had before it the Secretary-General's report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document S/2003/333-A/57/762), which coincides with the completion of the Mission's initial mandate of one year. The Afghan Transitional Administration and the international community, along with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), can draw satisfaction from a number of significant accomplishments. Among them: the timetable of the Bonn Agreement has largely been kept thus far; some 1.5 million refugees and 500,000 internally displaced persons returned to their homes; 3 million Afghan children returned to school; a new currency was launched; the Government developed a comprehensive national budget; and no major outbreak of fighting occurred.

At the same time, the report states, Afghanistan's peace process remains fragile. Insecurity and the lack of law and order continue to impact negatively on the lives of Afghans everyday, whittling away at the support for the transitional process. Too many Afghans remain dissatisfied at the pace of reconstruction and economic development, and await their "peace dividend". After 23 years of war, the progress made in 2002 has only begun to shore up the fragile foundations of peace, but stability and national reconciliation are by no means firmly consolidated.

This goal, according to the report, will require progress on a number of fronts in 2003. Key State institutions must be entrenched, and more control over security and lawlessness must be achieved. The army and police will be key institutions in this respect. In addition, progress in overall disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security sector reform will help to promote an improved human rights environment, economic development and the ability of the Government to enhance its authority and legitimacy. The Government is urged to take the necessary steps to continue to reform its security institutions.

The constitution-making process set for 2003 is another State-building exercise fundamental to the Bonn process. It will be vital that the process of drafting, consultation, debate and decision-making be at all times driven and led by Afghans, who alone can properly gauge and reflect in their constitution the wishes of the people, while ensuring that it supports modern Afghanistan's position within the international community.

Specific preparations for elections in June 2004 will also have to be advanced in 2003, continues the report. The UNAMA and the United Nations system stand ready, subject to Security Council approval, to respond to President Karzai's request for support. A well-coordinated programme of assistance will be necessary, which must ensure that the Afghan electoral body, yet to be created, is built up in a manner allowing it to take the lead in conducting the elections and becoming a sustainable institution for future elections.

The report states that, despite President Karzai's statesmanlike example of national leadership, there remain clear signs that elements of the Transitional Administration continue to be seen by Afghans as serving primarily one Afghan constituency or another. The political process should be broad and open enough so that all Afghans who wish to participate in good faith can do so. There are already too many "spoilers" who are reportedly intent on undermining the peace process.

For many Afghans, according to the report, some relief in the daily struggle to survive, rather than politics, will be the key test of the peace process. The success of the reconstruction effort will be vital since, without it, the patience of the average citizen will run thin and the legitimacy of the Government will become strained. As long as they are able to see some tangible progress in reconstruction, Afghans throughout the country will be encouraged and will progressively assume the responsibility for the reconstruction of their country.

Afghanistan will continue to need considerable political and financial engagement from the international community for some time to come. Without this, the progress made thus far might not only slow down, but, indeed, be dangerously reversed. Afghans remain concerned that other tensions in the region will draw the attention and support of the international community away from Afghanistan at this critical time. The Secretary-General urges donors to continue to meet their commitments to Afghanistan and to stay engaged in the peace and reconstruction process over the next year.

The meeting began at 3:50 p.m. and ended at 4:15 p.m.

* *** *