Thank you, Madam President. Special Representative Kubiš, welcome once again to the Council and thank you for your briefing, and thank you Ambassador Tanin for your remarks today.
To begin, I want to extend my government’s condolences to the family and friends of the UN personnel who, on January 17th, were killed by a suicide bomber at a restaurant in Kabul. That attack also claimed the lives of three U.S. citizens and the local representative of the International Monetary Fund. The tragedy reminds us of the need to recognize and support the many dedicated men and women from the United Nations, and other international organizations, international civil society, and coalition military forces who work every day to support the Afghan people as they strive to build a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous homeland.
On April 5th, Afghan citizens will head to the polls at a time of both rising promise and ongoing challenges. This historic balloting can pave the way for Afghanistan’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of political authority from one head of state to another.
One of the best ways to ensure the credibility of the elections is through independent monitoring. To that end, more than 12,000 Afghan observers are expected to have a role in verifying the integrity of the process. The Independent Election Commission is also inviting international observers. We encourage the IEC and the Afghan National Security Forces to do all they can to ensure access for voters, observers, and party representatives to all polling centers, including those in remote and high-risk areas.
In particular – we call on all authorities to ensure women are able to participate as voters, candidates, observers, and election officials in a meaningful way. Credible, transparent, and inclusive elections will pave the way to democratic progress in Afghanistan. A successful transfer of presidential power this year, following democratic elections, will solidify the gains made over the past 12 years and contribute much to the country’s future development and stability.
It will also show all Afghans – including the Taliban – that the rule of law matters and that Afghanistan’s constitutional system is resilient enough to overcome grave obstacles.
For its part, the United States Government will provide nearly $100 million to facilitate the April elections through a variety of programs, including monitoring and observation. I emphasize that my government strongly supports the democratic process, but that we neither favor nor oppose any particular candidate. It is up to the Afghan people, and only the Afghan people, to choose their leaders.
Madam President, this morning the United States was pleased to join the Council in extending UNAMA for another year, with its core mandate intact. This renewal will enable the mission to meet the challenges of the ongoing transition period, particularly through support for the political process and regional diplomacy, coordinating humanitarian and other assistance, human rights monitoring, institution building, and capacity development.
Of course, UNAMA’s support alone cannot guarantee success. The international community as a whole has made a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. My government welcomes the engagement of the Heart of Asia countries, including their effort to further integrate Afghanistan’s economy through the Istanbul Process. Regional support will also be critical in supporting Afghanistan’s democratic transition and Afghan-led efforts at internal reconciliation.
Madam President, we should be under no illusions. Serious security threats remain in Afghanistan, including attacks by extremist elements against humanitarian aid workers and other civilian Afghan and international personnel. We deplore such attacks which are wholly destructive in purpose and clearly contrary to the well-being of the Afghan people. We call upon all parties to join in condemning these crimes, seeking accountability for them, and striving to prevent them. The citizens of Afghanistan deserve to live in safety, with full and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance – including food, shelter, health services, and emergency trauma care.
Over the past dozen years, Afghanistan has been the scene of incredible turbulence, a drama touched by tragedy but held aloft by hope. The country stands now on the threshold of an historic election, facing great challenges and yet bolstered by the productive energy of a population that is eager to build a more democratic and prosperous future. The United Nations should be proud of the role it has played in helping the Afghan people to lay the groundwork for such a future – and we should be determined to continue that vital effort in the months and years to come.
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