The General Assembly Debate on Afghanistan
Statement by the Permanent Representative of the Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, H.E. Karel van Oosterom New York, 30 November 2015
Thank you Mr. President,
Thank you for organising this annual debate, as well as for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
I align myself with the statement made by the European Union.
I would also like to thank Ambassador Saikal for his speech and welcome you to New York; I look forward to continue working together constructively.
Also, I would like to thank the German Delegation for all its efforts that have resulted in a consensus resolution on “the situation in Afghanistan”, which is co-sponsored by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and will be adopted soon.
Please allow me to make 3 points today: firstly on security challenges and regional cooperation, secondly on economic development cooperation, and thirdly on good governance and human rights.
( 2. Security challenges and regional cooperation)
Afghanistan has come a long way. Service delivery of health care and education has improved drastically since 2001. We have witnessed the first democratic transfer of power in the presidential elections of 2014, and the formation of a unity government. Moreover, Afghanistan has been responsible for its own security since the beginning of this year. I would like to take this opportunity to underline that Afghanistan did a commendable job in providing security to the Afghan people.
Security challenges in Afghanistan are however still, and possibly increasingly, worrisome. Recent developments in Kunduz have shown this, with the Taliban and other insurgent groups temporarily taking over Kunduz-city. Furthermore, the UNAMA report describes an increase in civilian casualties and displacements. The Kingdom of the Netherlands offers its condolences to the Afghan government and its people for the lives lost, among civilians as well as among the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, in the many recent attacks by insurgent groups. Continued support of the international community, the Kingdom of the Netherlands included, remains important.
Lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region can only be achieved through a regional peace and reconciliation process. It is important that this process is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and has the required buy-in of the region, in order to be successful in achieving lasting peace and stability. The Kingdom of the Netherlands hopes that peace talks can resume quickly, with a representative Taliban-delegation, and at least equally important, with the required support of the wider region.
In this context, The Kingdom of the Netherlands welcomes the positive steps in regional rapprochement, such as the “High Level Side-Event on Afghanistan’s Peaceful Reconstruction and Regional Cooperation” which took place during the recent UN General Assembly High Level week in September, initiated by the Government of Afghanistan, the U.S. and China, and gladly takes note of the recent RECCA in September in Kabul, where intensification of regional economic cooperation has been discussed. I also very much like to welcome the Heart of Asia ministerial taking place next week in Islamabad and express my sincere hope that progress will be achieved in bringing the region together.
( 3. Economic development cooperation)
This brings me to the second point I wish to address; the economic situation in Afghanistan. 40% of the Afghan population is unemployed, and 400.000 young Afghans are joining the labour market on average on an annual basis. I therefore wholeheartedly welcome the jobs plan as presented by the Afghan Unity Government, aiming to provide jobs, mainly for unemployed youth within the next 6 months. Thereby providing future perspectives, and tapping into human resources that are crucially instrumental to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The Netherlands will remain Afghanistan’s partner in supporting this effort, partially through contributions to reconstruction programmes, such as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, but also through political and economic empowerment of Afghan women. In the Tokyo and Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Frameworks, donor commitments are agreed, both on aligning international support with Afghan priorities and on Afghan responsibilities in delivering on the agreed indicators. It is important that both sides deliver on their part.
( 4. Good governance and human rights)
The Afghan Unity Government has made significant progress in furthering good governance by improving accountability and reducing corruption. Also, the Special Electoral Reform Commission managed to achieve impressive progress in a short time. However, much still needs to be done in order to ensure that future elections are fair, transparent and inclusive. The Netherlands will remain Afghanistan’s partner in supporting this effort.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands welcomes the concrete deliverables in the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework, such as the implementation of the Afghan National Action Plan on UN Resolution 1325, and the establishment of prosecution units dealing with violence against women in all provinces. Protection and improvement of the human rights situation is crucial to a more inclusive, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
Many Afghans have been working towards this end, for which I wish to convey my utmost respect. Recently, the Afghan population of Kunduz, including aid workers and human rights defenders, has been subject to severe threats of the Taliban and other insurgents. Many of them have already returned to Kunduz, to continue their work and their lives. This shows the great resilience of the Afghan people.
To conclude: recent developments in Kunduz show that Afghanistan still requires support. Continued engagement of the international community is crucial in making sure previous investments were not made in vain. Particularly now that so many other crises in the world are attracting our attention and resources.
Two important international conferences are coming up: the NATO-summit in Warsaw in July 2016 and the Brussels summit in October 2016. Both conferences will mark important moments to show our commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2016, be it military, political or through development assistance. The Kingdom of the Netherlands has been a long time partner of Afghanistan, having contributed significantly in the fields of security, justice and development. We are committed throughout the Transformation Decade and are currently in the process of assessing our contributions post-2016. These commitments shall be made in a context of increased Afghan ownership and leadership.
In this spirit of partnership, focusing on supporting peace, justice and development we will continue to support Afghanistan and its people.