Terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and organized crime are seriously impeding progress in Afghanistan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today, calling for greater international cooperation to help the country tackle these challenges.
“They are obstacles to development,” Mr. Ban said in an address to the Special Conference on Afghanistan, convened in Moscow under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
“They bring violence into people's daily lives. They undermine justice and human rights. They are a grave threat to public health, to governance and a democratic future.
“These interconnected ills are sapping public confidence in the institutions that so many people have worked so hard to reinforce,” the Secretary-General told the meeting, attended by representatives from Russia, the Central Asian countries, Iran, Pakistan, China, India and many regional organizations.
Mr. Ban stressed that Afghanistan cannot face these challenges alone, and that all countries have an interest in countering them with “sustained and robust” action.
“The problems harm not only the Afghan people,” he noted. “They pose a major danger to the region and the world at large. And all of us must be involved in helping to solve them.”
In the area of illicit drug trafficking for example, he emphasized the shared responsibility in reducing demand abroad, reducing supply in Afghanistan, and tightening security along trafficking routes. “Cooperation must be our watchword as we respond,” he said.
The Secretary-General also noted that the country's security situation is at a “delicate juncture,” and while conditions have deteriorated in recent months, indications of “new thinking and new commitment” from Afghanistan's international partners are reasons for cautious optimism.
Current political, security and development issues in the country will also be discussed at the International Conference on Afghanistan to be held in The Hague on 31 March. The meeting, which will be opened by Mr. Ban, follows similar events held previously in Bonn, London and Paris.
During a meeting today with Afghan Foreign Minister Dadfar Spanta, Mr. Ban said that today's meeting and next week''s conference showed how strongly the international community was committed to Afghanistan. He added that he hoped the Afghan Government would seize this opportunity and move forward on stability, security and social and economic development.
The Secretary-General stressed that it was important for Afghanistan to maintain improved relations with neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan. The two also touched on the drug situation in Afghanistan and the need for transparent, democratic and fair elections later this year.
In his meeting with Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Secretary-General said he was horrified by today''s bombing at a mosque in north-west Pakistan, and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
He noted that Pakistan has a crucial role to play in the Afghan peace process. A military solution is not enough in Afghanistan a political and economic surge, and a comprehensive approach were needed, he said. He also thanked Pakistan for its contribution to UN peacekeeping.
Mr. Ban also met today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and they discussed ways of further strengthening relations between the UN and Russia. They also talked about a range of international issues where Russia can play a leadership role, including Somalia, Sudan, climate change and the financial crisis.
Yesterday evening, he participated in a working dinner with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that focused mainly on Afghanistan, but also included discussion on, among other topics, Gaza, the Democratic People''s Republic of Korea, Kosovo, Georgia/Abkhazia, climate change and nuclear disarmament.
While in Moscow, the Secretary-General also delivered a wide-ranging lecture at an event organized by “International Affairs,” the journal of the Russian Foreign Ministry, in which he highlighted the need for a “new global solidarity” at this time of global crisis.
Issues such as the global financial crisis, climate change and nuclear proliferation, are “big challenges, requiring big powers to cooperate more than ever before,” he stated.