Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
The Situation in Afghanistan
Agenda Item 19
Sixty-second Session of the General Assembly
5 November 2007
Iceland, as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), but not of the European Union (EU), aligned itself with the statement made by Portugal on behalf of the EU. I would, in addition, like to make a few remarks.
Allow me first of all to thank the Secretary General for his comphrehensive report on the current situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, contained in document (A/62/345). As in previous years, Iceland is a traditional co-sponsor of the draft resolution on the situation in Afghanistan. I would like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to Germany for preparing and facilitating the draft resolution.
The report of the Secretary General clearly indicates that Afghanistan has made significant progress towards political, economical and social development since the fall of the Taliban. An important case in point is the immense growth in school education of the children of Afghanistan, including the girls. The report however clearly identifies the serious and complex challenges and threats that Afghanistan still faces and underscores the need for a comphrehensive approach. Much more remains to be done as regards institution building, strengthening the rule of law and the practice of good governance. “Afghan ownership is a key issue in this regard”, as my German Colleague stated earlier. In this respect the UN is key to coordination of the international community and I would like to state our gratitude to and admiration of the way in which UNAMA under the leadership of Tom Koenigs is working in Afghanistan, often in very difficult and dangerous environments.
The security situation in Afghanistan remains a cause for concern and continues to undermine reconstruction and confidence building efforts. The work of the International Security Assistant Force (ISAF) led by NATO is crucial in this context. The increasing role and effectiveness of the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan National Police (ANP), is also a vital element in uprooting insurgency and ensuring long term security in cooperation with the ISAF. We welcome conclusions of the Secretary General´s report on the need for an effective, integrated civilian-military strategy and security plan for Afghanistan.
Iceland strongly condemns attacks against civilians and international staff that are intended to undermine the democratic process. The increase in violence and Taliban-led insurgency has grave implications for the human rights and humanitarian situation. We note with the greatest of concerns that there has been an overall increase in the reporting of violence against women across the country.
Iceland remains concerned about the continued increase in opium production and poppy growing which reached record levels this year according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Opium production and narcotics trafficking undermines reconstruction and nationbuilding in Afghanistan. We must increase our efforts, including through regional cooperation, to combat this evil at all levels - drug traffickers must be brought to justice. Here we would emphasize the vital role of the UNODC. The Government of Afghanistan also needs to take firm measures to tackle corruption and weak governance which are a serious obstacle to economic and social development. The draft resolution in front of us indeed expresses deep concern about these developments.
Iceland strongly supports the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has an important supporting role to play in confidence building and promoting respect for human rights.
Iceland is firmly committeed to making its contribution to the peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. In 2004 Iceland had the leading role in operating Kabul International Airport, by providing the Commander of the airport base, and has ever since provided technical and support staff to facilitate the operation.
Iceland now deploys half of its personnel working in international peacekeeping operations, to the mission in Afghanistan (15 persons) and is currently looking at further options in reconstruction and support to infrastructure in the country.
The international community must stand united in reconstruction and the strengthening of democracy in Afghanistan. Achieving our goals in Afghanistan depends on long term political commitment by all stakeholders, the Government of Afghanistan and the international community. Increased regional cooperation and strong commitment from the neighbouring countries is also of the utmost importance. The United Nations has a key role to play in these efforts. Iceland remains firmly committed to supporting the United Nations and other international partners in building a secure and democratic Afghanistan