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UN envoy calls for greater international and internal efforts to stabilize Afghanistan

20 March 2007 The senior United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today called on both the international community and the war-torn country’s Government to increase efforts to promote reconstruction and bring lasting stability to the “place of hope and challenge.”

Given the conflict in the south of the country and militarily vulnerable borders in the east and southeast, “the threat to peace has not diminished,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, told the Security Council in an open meeting that saw the participation of more than two dozen speakers.

“To be candid, international participation needs to improve,” he said, calling on donors to ensure “meaningful participation” of their representatives in international meetings on Afghanistan’s future and on the ground.

Mr. Koenigs also pressed the Government to do more to fulfil its role as called for in the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year UN-backed blueprint launched early last year which sets benchmarks for certain security, governance and development goals.

“The continued passivity of many government agencies – in the expectation that the international community will come to their rescue to meet the Compact objectives – only serves to delay progress and in some cases undermine it,” he cautioned.

Also briefing the Council, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa reported on its latest Afghanistan survey, which offered a mixed picture marked by some progress but also serious threats posed by the nexus between terrorism and illicit drug revenue.

While opium cultivation in the centre-north of the country is decreasing, thanks to improved security conditions and development, in the south, “the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorism and terrorism supporting drug lords is stronger than ever,” he said. “Afghanistan’s drug problem occurs in a security vacuum, where illicit crops coexist with other criminal activities that support such cultivation.”

Mr. Costa recommended improved border management, bringing major drug traffickers to justice and stamping out corruption as three tactics to combat Afghanistan’s illicit drug production.

“Terrorism, narcotics, weak State institutions and the slow pace of reconstruction are among our main challenges,” Afghanistan’s representative Zahir Tanin acknowledged at the meeting. “As such, it would be safe to state that we have jointly underestimated the magnitude of the challenges facing Afghanistan.”

Citing the gains the country has made since 2001, when the oppressive Taliban regime was ousted, he said that it is “ever more obvious that the renewed commitment of the international community is required to address the remaining obstacles and consolidate the gains of the past years.”

As a basis for its discussion, the Security Council had Security-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on Afghanistan, which proposed a 12-month extension of UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA).

With Afghanistan at a “critical juncture,” the report said “it is time for the international community to reconfirm its commitment to Afghanistan.”

UNAMA, along with its Afghan and international partners, is “well positioned” to assist in meeting challenges the country faces, such as the insurgency, national reconciliation and narcotics trafficking, the report said.

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