Thank you, Mr President.
I am pleased that my first address to the Council is about the UN's mission in Afghanistan
I acknowledge the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghanistan's Permanent Representative Zahir Tanin.
I also recognise Special Representative Ján Kubiš for his leadership of the UN mission in Kabul.
This year's UNAMA mandate will cover a crucial period in Afghanistan.
The Government will:
- work to address the economic and fiscal impact of transition;
- intensify its preparations for the presidential election in 2014;
- lead progress in the reconciliation process; and
- take lead responsibility for security.
As transition progresses, UNAMA's support to Afghanistan will become more – not less – important.
As Afghanistan moves through transition to its transformation decade, it is important to note the progress that has been made over the last ten years. Afghanistan – through the leadership of its Government, determination of its people and support of the international community – has come a long way.
Large parts of the country have been made significantly safer. Afghan people now live much longer. Nearly eight million people are enrolled in schools today – including more than 2.7 million girls. Around 85 per cent of the population has access to health care.
The Afghan economy is growing at over eight per cent a year.
Security gains have ensured that Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for international terrorism. Development and governance gains have helped ensure the international community has a stable partner. I am confident that the years ahead will see the Afghan Government protect these gains.
But to achieve this, the international community must remain in Afghanistan. We must send a clear message that Afghanistan will not stand alone. International support has been instrumental to Afghanistan's progress. At the Chicago Summit and Tokyo Conference last year, we committed to standing with Afghanistan well beyond transition.
The Council's mandate for UNAMA will provide the mission with the certainty and capacity it needs to support Afghanistan.
As the Secretary-General noted in his report, it is essential that UNAMA be resourced to fulfil its mandate this year and beyond …
…. and to maintain a meaningful presence in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan will face some significant challenges. The next twelve months will set the stage for the completion of Afghanistan's political and security transitions in 2014. By the end of 2013, Afghanistan will have lead responsibility for security across the country – a major milestone. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have proved capable as transition has progressed. Australia is confident that with consistent international support the ANSF capacities will continue to improve …
… as will their ability to provide security for Afghanistan.
The Afghan Government must also implement economic and governance reforms to promote growth and fiscal sustainability. With international support this Afghan-led reform process is underway.
UNAMA works with the Afghan Government and international partners to implement the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) – under which:
- the international community recognises and meets Afghanistan's legitimate needs for assistance and
- Afghanistan remains committed to strengthening governance and promoting respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Advancing the opportunities for women and girls in Afghanistan will remain a major priority for Australia. We very much welcome the references in the UNAMA resolution to the need for measurable objectives to secure the rights of women and girls, as well as the need to counter discrimination. We condemn absolutely all forms of violence against women and girls.
Afghanistan must also continue its progress in fighting corruption and bank fraud, strengthening human rights and building the capacity of state institutions. Support for UNAMA is an important element in these endeavours. And UNAMA's role in coordinating and delivering international assistance remains essential well beyond 2014.
In order to entrench good governance and conditions for growth, it is essential that Afghan society is underpinned by solid political foundations. The 2014 elections are fundamental. We encourage the Afghan Government to drive preparations for the presidential election in 2014.
As these elections near, it is critical the Afghan Government set up an appropriate electoral framework. The Government must lead the way to inclusive elections which are accepted by the Afghan people. And we encourage them to utilise international assistance and work with UNAMA to strengthen the integrity of the election process, consistent with the mission's mandate.
A political settlement will be necessary in order to achieve a secure Afghanistan. Military force alone will not bring stability. Recent momentum in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process is heartening. Our expectations must remain realistic. We support the High Peace Council's efforts to build the conditions for reconciliation – including by ensuring the UNSC's Taliban sanctions regime is flexible enough to support an Afghan-led process.
As the Secretary General notes, UNAMA's unique comparative advantage is its broad presence and political outreach. Adequate resources and an effective mandate will allow UNAMA to support Afghanistan through transition and beyond. UNAMA will therefore be able to meet its long-term commitment to the Government and people of Afghanistan.
This mandate provides a sound basis for UNAMA to continue to support Afghanistan on behalf of the UN and the international community. Council members – and the wider UN membership – have a stake in Afghanistan's future security and stability. The adoption of this resolution renewing UNAMA's mandate highlights the unity of purpose between the international community and the Afghan Government in promoting Afghanistan's future security and stability.
Australia has welcomed the responsibility of co-ordinating Security Council discussions on Afghanistan during our Council term. In this role, we will continue to work with Afghanistan and international partners to support the country through transition and beyond 2014.
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