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Challenges are many but Afghanistan’s partners will stay the course – Ban

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meeting with representatives of Afghan Civil Society
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meeting with representatives of Afghan Civil Society

Challenges are many but Afghanistan’s partners will stay the course – Ban

The challenges ahead as Afghanistan seeks to consolidate peace and development are large but the international community will not be deterred in its support for the country’s efforts, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged today at an international conference in Bonn.

“Success requires effective engagement from us all, now and for the long-term,” Mr. Ban told the meeting, which brought leaders from over 100 countries and international organizations back to the German city where they charted a path for a post-Taliban Afghanistan some 10 years ago.

“Over the past decade, our unity and resolve have been tested. And yet, we have persevered, together, on behalf of the Afghan people,” he stated. “That road that started in Bonn brings us back once again.”

The Secretary-General noted that President Hamid Karzai’s chairmanship of the conference demonstrates the authorities’ willingness to own the processes that will shape their future.

“At the same time, we know that the cycle of suffering has not been broken,” he said. “I am deeply concerned that violence remains a constant factor in the daily life of the Afghan people. It is hard to build when violence hijacks the reconstruction and development agenda.”

Today, the international community comes together to reinforce the fundamental link between development and security. “We reaffirm our commitment to support Afghanistan in its efforts for a better, peaceful and prosperous life for all its people, women and men alike.”

Mr. Ban, who was joined at the meeting by Staffan de Mistura, his Special Representative and outgoing head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, outlined the many achievements over the past decade with international support.

They include the return of 4.6 million Afghan refugees, the enrolment of 7.3 million more children in school, and better health care. In addition, 80 per cent of the country is now polio-free, infant and maternal mortality has declined, and more women are empowered and representing their communities.

“Looking ahead, we know the challenges are large – but we will not be deterred,” Mr. Ban stressed. In addition to long-term engagement from the international community, he said that success will also require reconciliation.

“The Afghan people have long understood that lasting stability must grow from a political process grounded in dialogue and consensus. We must draw from the centuries-old wisdom of the Afghans and endorse the fundamental principles of national reconciliation – Afghan-led and fully inclusive.”

In looking ahead, it is also necessary to ensure that protection of civilians remains at the fore,” he stated, noting that a major share of civilian casualties have been caused by anti-Government forces. “All such killings, whether targeted or indiscriminate, are unacceptable and must stop.”

This is also an issue for the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Mr. Ban added. “The Afghan people must see ISAF as true partners in the deepest sense, and that begins with personal security.”

The Secretary-General underscored that as Afghanistan assumes full responsibility for its security, the Government and its international partners must shift and intensify their focus on the non-military aspects of transition – on development, on governance and on extending effective civilian authority throughout Afghanistan.

“There are no easy solutions,” he stated. “The trust and confidence of the Afghan people will be won by fighting corruption, tackling the drug trade, sustaining the rule of law and progress on human rights, ensuring women rights, and advancing social and economic development.”

The regional dimension is crucial. “Afghanistan is not an island; it must be moored in the broader stream of regional commerce and development,” he said, noting that regional cooperation is essential for addressing threats such as organized crime, illicit drug trafficking, and the links between these activities and terrorism.

On the margins of the conference, Mr. Ban held discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the situation in Afghanistan and in the Middle East, as well as on climate change and global economic and financial issues.

He also held similar discussions in separate meetings with Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Aliakbar Salehi, Foreign Minister of Iran; Alain Juppé, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France; Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States; and Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia.

In addition, the Secretary-General held bilateral talks with Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China; William Hague, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom; Claudio Bisogniero, Deputy Secretary-General of NATO; and Ahmet Davutoglu, Foreign Minister of Turkey.