The Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations
Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson,
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Sixty-first Session of the United Nations General Assembly
The situation in Afghanistan 
New York, 28 November 2006
First of all I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his latest report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for peace and security. Iceland is pleased to be a traditional co-sponsor of the draft resolution on Afghanistan. We thank Germany for preparing and facilitating the drafting of the resolution.
On the 19th of this month Afghanistan, Sweden and Iceland celebrated the 60th anniversary of their entry, in 1946, into the United Nations as the first three new members after the founding of the organisation and we are mindful of this close and historical link although geographic distance is great.
Five years have now passed since the toppling of the Taliban regime which ruled by tyranny and oppression and allowed Afghanistan to be used as a base for the export of terrorism. Since then the international community has assisted the Afghan people with tackling the challenges facing the nation. Significant progress has been made towards building a democratic state in Afghanistan and towards the rehabilitation of the basic infrastructure of the country. The National Assembly has been operating effectively and provincial councils are now functioning in all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces.
However, serious challenges remain in Afghanistan, some of them critical. Let me briefly touch upon three of these challanges;
The upsurge of violance is a fundamental threat to the stability of the country. It also has grave implications for the human rights situtation.
The increase in poppy cultivation is very alarming and constitutes a growing threat to national security, social stability and governmental effectiveness.
Similarly, the Secretary-General identifies corruption as a threat to Afghanistan’s transition. Indeed, corruption is among the greatest obstacles to economic and social development. It undermines development by distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends. Iceland therefore would like to echo the encouragement to the Government of Afghanistan, in the resolution before us, to “vigorously pursue its efforts to establish a more effective, accountable and transparent administration at all levels of Government leading the fight against corruption in accordance with Afghanistan Compact.”
We recognize the interconnected nature of those challenges and that sustainable progress is mutually reinforcing. In this context we stress the important role that neighbouring countries can play in tackling many of the difficult issues that the Afghans face, for example as my colleague from Pakistan just stated.
On the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) I would like to align Iceland with what our colleague from Finland said, a few minutes ago, on the even stronger role by UNAMA in finding political and regional solutions to the challenges facing Afghanistan.
In addition, I would like to echo my German colleague earlier this morning that we should neither overestimate what has been achieved nor underestimate the serious challenges ahead in Afghanistan.
Secure aviation and transport by air is essential for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), for pilgrim flights of the Afghan people, as well as humanitarian aid and reconstruction work in the area. Iceland has supported the reconstruction work in the aviation sector in Afghanistan both by providing advisors and staff at the international airport in Kabul and also by preparing a transition plan for the airport. The aim of the plan is to train local staff and provide sufficient facilities for an international standard of aviation at the airport.
Iceland has also participated in provincial reconstruction in Ghor district, the poorest area of Afghanistan, where an observation team and a development officer are situated. Recently, a course was held for midwives in the area, where experts from Iceland held a two week course for midwives and traditional birth assistants in the area, as mortality rate of mothers and children is still very high in Afganistan.
I am also pleased to announce that Iceland will be making a contribution to the UNDP Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan.
Finally, Madam President,
The necessary work of nation-building and reconstruction of Afghanistan continues. The long list of co-sponsors of the draft resolution before us is a testament to the commitment and solidarity of the international community with the Afghan Government and its people. Iceland will continue to be committed to making its contribution to establishing security in Afghanistan and its reconstruction.