Thank you, Mr. President,
First of all, allow me to thank the Secretary General for his intervention and for the report. I would also like to thank the Special Representative, Jan Kubiš for the hard work that he and the mission have delivered on the ground in Afghanistan. My delegation also aligns itself with the statement of the European Union.
Afghanistan has made great progress in recent years and it is important not to lose the momentum as the country is going through one of the most pivotal periods in its history. It is vital that the international community remains strongly engaged in endorsing Afghanistan´s efforts during the transition phase, as well as after 2014. I can assure that Estonia is and will stay committed to supporting Afghanistan after the completion of the ISAF mission.
Estonia has been a long-term partner to Afghanistan and there is no other country in the world where our engagement is as strong as in that country. Estonia is one of the highest per capita contributors to the ISAF mission. Our troops are in Helmand province together with the British troops. The contingent is expected to be withdrawn in mid 2014. By keeping our company in Afghanistan until the end of the election period, we aim to make a contribution to safeguarding the future of Afghanistan. We are looking also to support financially the post-2014 mission, and for the sustainability of the Afghan National Security Forces, Estonia is also contributing to EU Police Mission and NATO Training Mission.
We don’t believe that there can be a sustainable solution in Afghanistan that involves only military contribution. In order to target the causes of the problems that Afghanistan is facing, we must continue our efforts with development cooperation also after 2014. Estonia´s development assistance is focused on four sectors: security, education, health care and the rule of law. Besides supporting the central government through our annual contributions to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), we are also carrying out bilateral projects to help Afghanistan with our knowledge and experience. For instance, Kabul University is currently establishing a Master's programs in IT with the support from Tallinn University; and we continue to invite Afghan civil servants to training courses in Tallinn.
I would also like to draw attention to the human rights situation in Afghanistan. There have been gains in the protection of human rights in Afghanistan, although actions need to be taken to improve the situation. In our development projects, Estonia pays extra attention to promoting women´s rights and the well-being of children as they are the most vulnerable groups. We believe that traditions or beliefs should never be used as a pretext for gender inequality and non-recognition of women’s rights. At the recent session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet strongly condemned all kinds of violence against women and girls and we hope that the adoption of the agreed conclusions of CSW will give further impetus to combating violence against women and girls also in Afghanistan. Estonia calls on effective and fast implementation of the Action Plan for Prevention of Underage Recruitment and its annexes on killing and maiming and sexual violence against children.
There are still many challenges ahead in Afghanistan to become a stable, secure, democratic and a prosperous country - the transition of the security and civilian responsibility, reconciliation process, elections next year and the last but not the least - the economic transition.
We are pleased to note that the security transition to the Afghan forces is on track and the Afghan government has announced that the Afghan forces are set to take over responsibility for the security of nearly 90 percent of the country's population.
Implementation of Tokyo Framework is fundamental for long-term stability and future success in Afghanistan and we recognize the significant progress made in the process.
Free, transparent and fair elections in 2014 and 2015 are paramount in improving legitimacy of the political transition and in consolidating democracy in Afghanistan. We underline the urgency to adopt the legal and institutional framework with an adequate system of checks and balances for a proper conduct of elections. With the help of the coalition forces, secure environment for the elections should be provided. We emphasize the importance of establishing effective electoral administration and fraud prevention mechanisms. The UN´s role remains essential in preparation for the elections through technical and financial assistance.
Reconciliation process in the country should be, of course Afghan-led and Afghan-owned but UNAMA´s strong support to the High Peace Council in confidence and trust building has been, in our view, also indispensable.
Regarding Afghan economic development and transition, we encourage the Government to implement necessary reforms, give all the necessary support to the private sector, ensure a secure and stable business environment and improve measures for fighting against corruption. Investing in people's education and skills is also important to further economic growth.
Strengthening regional cooperation with neighboring South and Central Asian countries is a key for achieving durable security environment in Afghanistan. In addition, a close regional cooperation creates opportunities for economic development. Therefore, Estonia supports Istanbul process and the implementation of the Confidence Building Measures.
The UN and UNAMA have been taking important lead in civil-military coordination, international development aid cooperation, protection of human rights, monitoring the humanitarian situation, counternarcotics efforts, and as mentioned earlier, in facilitating the reconciliation process and assistance for the elections. For that reason it is hard to underestimate the role that the UN and its bodies have played in Afghanistan. After the departure of the foreign military forces this role is only likely to increase.
As the UN´s commitment and assistance is substantial in the transition period in Afghanistan, we fully support the extension of UNAMA mandate for another year.
It is also possible to follow statement of H.E. Mr. Margus Kolga via UN Web TV (http://webtv.un.org/watch/afghanistan-security-council-6936th-meeting/22...)
The statement starts at 21:48.