Priority: to achieve lasting negotiated peace in Afghanistan [fr]
Statement by Ms Anne Guegen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 11 March 2019
Priority: to achieve lasting negotiated peace in Afghanistan
I would like to begin by reiterating France’s sincere condolences to the relatives of the victims of the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET-302. I would like to express our solidarity with the families of the victims; with Ethiopia, Kenya and all other countries of those who died; and with the United Nations family.
Allow me to thank Mr. Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), for his insightful briefing on the peace efforts and electoral process. I also thank National Security Adviser of Afghanistan Hamdullah Mohib for travelling to be with us at today’s debate and for his very comprehensive briefing. Lastly, I would like to warmly thank Ms. Storai Tapesh for her briefing, in particular on the crucial issue of women’s political participation — a very important subject on which we intend to focus during the French and German presidencies of the Security Council. I shall make four points.
First, while 2018 was one of the deadliest years for civilians, our priority, more than ever, must be to achieve lasting negotiated peace in Afghanistan.
I commend the United States, through the work of its Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, for engaging in discussions with the Taliban with a view to bringing its members into peace talks with the Afghan Government and all Afghan political forces. France calls on the Taliban to accept direct talks with the Afghan Government. As the Special Representative underscored, it is essential that the peace process be inclusive and led by Afghans for Afghans. In that regard, as has been said, it is particularly important that women and young people participate directly and meaningfully in the peace process and at all levels of decision-making.
In addition, France recalls the need to unify the various regional and international initiatives to achieve lasting peace so that international efforts are coordinated and non-competing. The Kabul process provides an appropriate framework in that regard. As the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said in Geneva, we are also convinced that the European Union can play a facilitating role in peace talks. Others before me have stressed that we must not forget how far Afghans have come in the past 18 years. As talks continue, the preservation and strengthening of achievements in the areas of justice, the rule of law, human rights, including women’s rights, and respect for fundamental freedoms — in particular the freedoms of expression, opinion and the press — must remain an absolute priority. Sacrificing those elements could jeopardize the international community’s support, including financial support from international donors, for the ongoing process.
Secondly, it is important to ensure the smooth conduct of presidential elections. To be credible, the presidential elections to be held on 20 July must be free, transparent and inclusive. The shortcomings identified in the parliamentary elections and in previous elections must be rectified and efforts to prepare for the electoral process must be intensified to prevent further delays. That will require all candidates to act constructively. The reform of the electoral law and the renewal of the terms of the members of the electoral commissions must help rebuild the trust of the Afghan people because credible institutions and legitimate representatives are also an indicator of peace. The Independent Election Commission must continue to work to ensure the widest possible participation of the population in elections, in particular women, as candidates and voters. Security for the elections will also be a key element, and we reiterate our full support for the Afghan security forces, whose efforts were recognized during the last elections.
Thirdly, it is urgent that we redouble our efforts to protect civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, and meet humanitarian needs. In addition to the unprecedented increase in the number of civilian casualties in 2018, including 900 children killed, caused in particular to attacks by Da’esh, the number of attacks on humanitarian workers has also increased by more than 150 per cent in one year. Hospitals and schools continue to be targeted. The World Health Organization database lists 87 attacks on medical personnel and health infrastructure since January 2018. It is imperative that all parties to the conflict respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.
France welcomes the efforts of UNAMA in support of the Afghan authorities to curb the number of civilian casualties, in particular among children. It is also imperative that laws to eliminate violence against women, as well as the articles of the penal code amended in 2018 to protect women and children from sexual violence and to combat the recruitment and use of children, be fully implemented. To that end, it is important that justice capacities be strengthened. The voices of victims must be taken into account. It is therefore essential that all measures be taken to limit their marginalization and stigmatization. In particular, UNAMA could include in its reports additional information on early and forced child marriages organized by Da’esh in Khorasan. Finally, we must do all in our power to meet the growing humanitarian needs of 6.5 million Afghans in need and ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country.
Fourthly and lastly, with regard to the essential role of the United Nations in continuing to support Afghanistan at this pivotal time, I acknowledge the outstanding work done by UNAMA and the various United Nations agencies in Afghanistan, both in support of peace efforts and the electoral process, as well as development and humanitarian assistance. As we prepare to renew the Mission’s mandate in a few days, we must not lose sight of the essential work it does every day. In that regard, I recall the importance that France attaches to the unity of international partners and of the Council in support of Afghanistan. We must remain more united than ever in support of Afghanistan’s path to peace, stability, democracy and economic and social development.