Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

19 December 2012 - Statement to the United Nations Security Council

Wednesday 19 December 2012


Statement by H.E. Mr Gary Quinlan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of Australia to the United Nations



Thank you, Mr President. As the end of Germany’s term on the Council approaches, I would like to thank Ambassador Peter Wittig and the German Mission for their leadership on Afghanistan in the Council over the last two years. I also recognise Special Representative Ján Kubiš for his ongoing leadership in-country, as well as all United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) personnel, at such a critical juncture. Also, of course, to Ambassador Zahir Tanin of Afghanistan for his own leadership and collegiality here in New York.

2012 has seen serious progress in strengthening the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community and for establishing an essential comprehensive international framework for supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014.

2013 will now bring important preparations for the period after transition is complete and when the Government of Afghanistan will have full responsibility for security. International political and diplomatic efforts to support peace and stability in Afghanistan and in its region will be central to ensuring the irreversibility of progress made during the transition.

Mr President

I would like to highlight two key issues in the Secretary General’s quarterly report that will be crucial to long term stability in Afghanistan: political settlement and the conduct of national elections.

The revitalisation of the High Peace Council and its efforts to work towards a political solution is obviously very welcome. The international community has made it clear over the past 12 months that it remains absolutely committed to securing Afghanistan’s future stability, a fact which should underscore to all parties in Afghanistan the need to end violence and join a political settlement. The Council’s recent adoption of a resolution renewing the sanctions regime on the Taliban is a positive example of the Council further enabling the reconciliation process.

Recent visits to Pakistan by High Peace Council Chairman Rabbani and Foreign Minister Rassoul demonstrate promising cooperation and concrete outcomes. It is worth recalling that both sides appealed to the Taliban to participate in an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process. It is essential that this momentum is sustained to build the foundations for reconciliation and a durable political settlement. UNAMA has an important role to play in facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation, including through its good offices and innovative ‘Track II’ mechanisms.

The international community can and should assist in preparing for elections in Afghanistan. Credible, inclusive and transparent elections in 2014 and 2015 will play a decisive role in Afghanistan’s decade-long transformation. As hard as it is, accelerated efforts and further reform in preparation for the elections remain critical. We encourage the Afghan Government to leverage as much assistance as possible from UNAMA and the international community in appropriate areas, particularly following the conclusion of the Needs Assessment Mission, which will help to define the areas where assistance is needed more closely.

Mr President

Despite progress, the Secretary General’s report also outlines worrying trends.

While there has been a decline in overall levels of violence, the rise in civilian casualties is obviously of great concern, particularly the significant increase in deaths from insurgent attacks. This trend demonstrates the ruthlessness of the insurgency. The Taliban remain capable and determined. The continued targeting of civilians remains a serious strategy by the Taliban and highlights the need for sustained international support to the Afghan Government.

Australia welcomes to mitigate the threat from “insider attacks” which, as we know only too well, have claimed lives recently, including those of Australian personnel. The broader strategic threat of insider attacks comes not from the attacks themselves, but from the risk that we do not respond to them correctly. The best evidence that we will prevail against the threat from insider attacks is that we have not allowed them to disrupt our training and operations in Afghanistan.

Continued violence against women remains a serious concern for all of us. We welcome Afghan Government efforts to implement the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Of course, more remains to be done, and in this regard we look to the recommendations of UNAMA’s recent report into the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The Secretary General’s report notes the establishment of a police women mentoring program, aimed at building the capacity of female police officers to help address violence against women and raise awareness among male officers of the importance of integrating women into the police force as equal members. These initiatives are to be encouraged. They will build a stronger police force, develop community confidence and enhance equality.

Mr President

Much progress has been made over the last decade, and we are confident that international resolve to support Afghanistan through transition and beyond 2014 will remain strong.

The United Nations continues to play a critical role in Afghanistan’s long-term development and stability. Australia welcomes the UN’s ongoing commitment and strongly supports UNAMA’s mandate. We welcome UNAMA’s efforts to right-size its mission in the context of mandate review and significant fiscal constraints while maintaining an important network in Afghanistan’s provinces. We must ensure that these constraints do not compromise the essential ongoing work of UNAMA, as well as by other UN agencies in Afghanistan such as the UNHCR.

As Australia prepares to serve on the UN Security Council in 2013 and 2014, Afghanistan will be a major area of focus for us. We look forward to working with all Council members and interested parties during this critical time in Afghanistan’s transition. We remain committed to supporting Afghanistan assume full responsibility for its own security, and to bringing enhanced opportunities for its people to improve their livelihoods in a safe and secure environment.

Thank you, Mr President.