Afghanistan: high-level meeting at UN reaffirms commitment to improving security

Afghanistan: high-level meeting at UN reaffirms commitment to improving security

Senior ministers from more than 20 countries meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York today hailed recent progress in Afghanistan and pledged to support security efforts aimed at meeting ongoing threats.

In a communiqué issued following their closed-door meeting, participants hailed steps in the Afghan peace process, which they said would further enhance stability in the region as a whole.

The meeting, which was addressed by Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, voiced full support for his leadership. Endorsing the priorities of the Transitional Authority - the restoration of the economic infrastructure, security, democracy, good governance and prosperity - participants also urged all factions in Afghanistan to "overcome their past animosities and work together for national unity."

Expressing deep concern over a number of recent violent incidents in the country, they reaffirmed their "firm commitment to help to provide a secure environment in Afghanistan, while acknowledging that longer term stability and security will need to be provided by the Afghans themselves." Participants also highlighted the importance of a national army and police force that are "ethnically balanced, professional and accountable to legitimate civilian authorities."

Concerning human rights, the meeting called on all nations to support the creation of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Judiciary Commission "to ensure the rule of law and the strengthening and restructuring of the judicial system."

Welcoming donor pledges to Afghanistan, the participants hailed the country's own reconstruction initiatives and stressed the need to strengthen the "capacity of Afghans to determine their own destiny." Pointing to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the communiqué urged all countries to provide aid in response.

At the outset of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that despite many positive developments in Afghanistan, challenges remain. "Foremost among these is security, as recent attacks across the country have shown," he said. "These terrorist acts illustrate the urgent need to restore security throughout the country."

Calling attention to Afghanistan's continuing humanitarian crisis, Mr. Annan said it could worsen as winter approaches and urged donors to ensure that "funds pledged actually reach Afghanistan - and soon."

Taking part in the meeting were senior officials from Afghanistan, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uzbekistan and the European Commission.