Distinguished ministers, briefers, ambassadors,
It is an honour to welcome you to this Security Council quarterly debate to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. We called for high-level attendance today in order to reaffirm the international community’s continued commitment to the Afghanistan peace process and to Afghan people.
I would like to start with special thanks to Ms. Akrami for her enlightening personal description of the current situation in Afghanistan. The brave work that you and your fellow civil society organisations do, is of great value for the future of the people of Afghanistan. Hearing today about the difficulties faced by women and youth, and the dangers threatening human rights defenders was most troubling.
I would like to thank Special Representative Lyons for all her tireless work and today’s briefing, that truly put into perspective the reality on the ground. Despite the people yearning for peace and stability, they are instead faced with extreme levels of violence, targeted killings, a worsening humanitarian situation and an alarming rise in COVID infections.
The violence on the ground constitutes the most serious threat to peace efforts. A 38% increase in civilian casualties in the six months since the start of the peace negotiations is deeply tragic, and works directly against hopes for reunification and reconciliation. We reiterate the call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire, to save the Afghan people from more meaningless suffering. Only a negotiated political solution can lead to a sustainable peace in the country, as well as stability in the region.
we condemn in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attacks and targeted killings. Targeting students, healthcare personnel, civil servants, journalists, humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, is an attack against people who should rebuild Afghanistan; it is an attack against peace. Humanitarian situation is worsening, with nearly half of the population in need of humanitarian aid and the Covid infections on an alarming rise, Afghans need and deserve international support. Estonia has donated vaccines to Covax facility to help all countries badly hit by the pandemic. Interference with humanitarian access is unacceptable, and prolongs the suffering of vulnerable people. We call on all parties to end the violence and protect their fellow countrymen.
Moreover, we draw attention to the commitments taken by the warring sides in February 2020, and call for constructive engagement in the peace negotiations. Estonia stands firm in its belief that no further concessions to the Taliban should be made. In line with the UNSC Resolution 2513, an easing or lifting of sanctions will be considered when the conditions are met. Extensions of the travel ban exemptions to certain members of the Taliban have had a clear purpose – advancethe peace process. Taliban must demonstrate a credible commitment to peace. We, in the Security Council, must help keep the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations vigorous, as it is the only way to reach an inclusive political settlement. Equally important task for us is to ensure that every woman and girl, every student, every member of civil society or a minority knows, that they can have a peaceful future in their home country, that they can take on a role they choose for themselves.
Afghanistan has come a long way in the last two decades: democracy, fundamental freedoms and human rights, especially women’s rights, have become an essential part of the society. these achievements must not come under threat. Even as our forces leave the Afghan soil, our commitment to Afghanistan remains steadfast. We wish to see that the outcome of the peace process preserves constitutional protections for women´s and minorities rights. We will continue our political and financial support, conditional upon the preservation of the country’s human rights and democratic achievements.
The grave food insecurity makes it particularly worrying to witness the continued wide-spread prevalence of narcotics cultivation in Afghanistan. I’d like to thank Ms Waly and UNODC for their latest overview on this. Drug trafficking is a serious issue and it is crucial to stop criminal networks from perpetuating and profiting from the illicit economy.
In the next few months, we in the Security Council must all decide on the future role and presence of the United Nations in Afghanistan. Estonia and Norway will be engaging with you and our partner organisations in discussions on the best way to strengthen the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, keeping in mind the needs of the Afghan people. The good offices of UNAMA and Special Representative Lyons have been vital for international support reaching the people on the ground, and we intend to seek a solution to continue their commendable work in Afghanistan. we welcome the appointment of Mr Jean Arnault and wish him success in his work. We also welcome the renewed diplomatic efforts by Afghanistan’s neighbours and regional powers to accelerate the peace process.
I believe H.E. Mr Atmar can agree with me, that Afghanistan today is at a crossroads, and Afghans themselves need to define its future. We believe that Afghanistan, like all countries, deserves economic development and growth that provides new opportunities for its citizens, where their rights are upheld, and where everyone, including women, as well as children, and members of marginalised groups feel protected.
I thank you for your attention.