To begin, we would like to express our appreciation to you Mr President for convening this important debate on the Situation in Afghanistan. We also commend the Secretary General on his recent comprehensive update on the situation in his report (A/67/981) and on the activities he and his Special Representative Ján Kubiš, conducted in person and through the leadership of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
The situation in Afghanistan is one that concerns the entire region. To remain in a constant state of civil war, to lack productive capacity, and to face one of the world’s most extensive and debilitating narcotic production operations is to face seemingly insurmountable odds. The Maldives stands here today to reinforce our brotherly affection and to call upon the international community to maintain its support and commitments to the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.
As with the speakers before me, my delegation commends the major milestone reached on June, 18th of this year towards attaining a sustainable peace with the final step of Afghanistan's security forces assuming full responsibility for their own nation’s security. This, together with next year’s presidential elections present two occasions of utmost importance to ensure the success of the democratic transition and the country’s long-term, peaceful future. We believe it is vital, that both processes are Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, transparent and inclusive.
In this light, the Maldives welcomes efforts aimed at strengthening Afghanistan's security forces, though we note the shortage of some vital resources. We further note with concern the increase in incidents threatening security recorded by UNAMA. We hope that continued assistance by the international community will be forthcoming at this vital time, ensuring Afghan forces are fully equipped to shoulder their responsibility after the gradual withdrawal of foreign troops.
We further commend the continued capacity building of the Afghan National Police Force, including Afghanistan’s first Community Policing Conference to be held on 25th of June, to discuss how to strengthen the relationship between the police and the local community.
The United Nations’ work in Afghanistan is and will continue to be very important to deliver services and develop capacity in the country. The Maldives commends UNAMA's efforts to increase its efficiency and maintain its work despite an 18.7 per cent reduction in funding in 2014. We also congratulate the UN Mine Action Programme in Afghanistan (UN MAPA) which, according to its most recent report, cleared over 1,900 minefields in the country. We take note of UN MAPA's recent call that the cut in funding of nearly 25% endangers Afghanistan's commitment to become mine-free by 2023 and again express our hope that international assistance for Afghanistan at this critical time does not continue to waiver.
The Maldives believes that increased regional integration is of the utmost importance, and contributes to confidence-building that greatly benefits the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan. In that regard the Heart of Asia Conferences and the Istanbul Process, supported by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) presents a vital initiative. Afghanistan joining SAARC in 2007 presented one of the first steps towards its larger regional integration, and we are happy to see it continue on this path.
The Maldives is greatly concerned by the recent data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Report on Afghanistan's opium production published the week before last. It reflects a new record in opium production in Afghanistan. The drug trade and related transnational organized crime present a major challenge to stability, not only in Afghanistan, but across the region.
The 2014 presidential and provincial elections in Afghanistan remain key for a fair, peaceful and sustainable transition process. The Maldives would like to stress again that we believe this process must be fully Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. We therefore commend the Afghan government for adopting a legal framework for the upcoming elections. Though it should be noted that holding democratic elections does not automatically instil democratic values in the electorate and so it is necessary to nourish these values over time. Ownership of the process and wide participation are important to achieve this goal.
We believe that another part of democratic values is ensuring the rights of minorities and the rights of women. In this regard we welcome Afghanistan’s first progress report on its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. We hope that although the current situation with regards to violence against women remains deeply concerning, this new found accountability will give rise to further intensive efforts to implement this important convention.
The Maldives, through our regional and multilateral support mechanisms, remain committed to ensuring the peaceful development of a safe, secure and prosperous Afghan nation. We hope that the international community will learn from the mistakes of the past, and will continue to support Afghanistan build resilience for a brighter future.