H.E. MRS. SADAKO OGATA
Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Japan on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan
At the Meeting of the Security Council Concerning the Situation in Afghanistan
July 19, 2002
It is a great pleasure for me to be present at the Council to discuss the important issue of Afghanistan. It is appropriate indeed for the Council to hold this meeting in the presence of Ambassador Brahimi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan. His contributions have been widely acknowledged. Having observed closely his extraordinary efforts to achieve peace and prosperity in Afghanistan during the Emergency Loya Jirga, I wish to join the international community in expressing my deepest respect and gratitude for his achievements.
I visited Afghanistan as Prime Minister Koizumi's Special Representative from the 13th to the 19th of June. During that period, in addition to witnessing the Emergency Loya Jirga, I was able to have discussions with key officials of the Afghan Administration, including President Karzai, the ISAF leadership, as well as members of the diplomatic community. I also had an opportunity to visit Kandahar, where I met with local government officials and representatives of United Nations agencies, and visited internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugee camps in Spin Boldak and Chaman, located near and across the border with Pakistan. My overall impression was that significant improvements have been achieved since my last visit five months ago. Based on what I have learnt there, I would like to offer my observations to the Council and to suggest possible ways to move on.
The process of the Emergency Loya Jirga started from the grass roots efforts to choose delegates from all over the country and even abroad. It was an impressive sight to witness 1,650 chosen delegates, including 200 women, assembled in an enormous tented hall, openly making and reacting to statements for more than one week. My warmest congratulations go to President Karzai, who was elected through a secret ballot, obtaining an approval rate exceeding 85 percent. The successful conclusion of the Emergency Loya Jirga was essential for long-term peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan. On the other hand, the political balance on which the newly created Transitional Authority of Afghanistan stands is still very precarious. This was most recently underscored by the tragic assassination of Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir. I wish to express my deepest regret and condolences to the people of Afghanistan. These developments, therefore, make it all the more important that the international community continues to support the newly established administration to ensure clear progress both in the political and national reconstruction process.
Two issues stand out as requiring urgent attention. Security and the rapid return of refugees. The provision of adequate security throughout the country is a prerequisite for peace to take root and for recovery and reconstruction efforts to proceed. When I met with the Pashtoon IDPs who had fled the North in recent months in Kandahar province, they spoke of the security threats and requested the deployment of an international peace-keeping presence in Mazar-e-Sharif area. They also regarded the demobilization and disarmament of armed elements, as well as compensation for their lost property, as necessary preconditions for their return. Given the recent developments in Afghanistan, I feel that their pleas merit the Council's renewed consideration. I wish to join my voice with those who are calling for the deployment of ISAF or other peace-keeping force in unstable areas in the North. We should also find ways to help return the IDPs. Furthermore, it is important that international efforts to assist the reform and rehabilitation of the national military, police and judicial systems, and the demobilization and reintegration of armed elements produce concrete results very soon. And I was very pleased listening to the interventions of the delegates, that these were the directions in which council members seemed to be turning.
The other significant issue is the rapidity with which refugees are returning, especially from Pakistan. While I was in Kabul the one-millionth returnee registered for arrival. At the school I visited in Kabul, one half of the students in the classrooms were recent returnees. This in itself is a sign of people's hope for a better future in Afghanistan, and is to be welcomed. There will inevitably be variations in the rate of refugee return. However, the scale, combined with internal displacements due to drought and ethnic confrontations, in some parts, could overwhelm the absorptive capacity of receiving communities. In the medium-to-long term, this could have grave implications for the security environment as well as the political stability of Afghanistan. This concern was repeatedly raised by officials I met in Kabul and Kandahar, and, I might add, it was also recognized in resolution 1419, which the council recently adopted. In order to avoid the worst-case scenario and to stabilize the country, immediate steps must be taken to provide employment opportunities and other forms of assistance for returnees and IDPs so that they can be swiftly integrated into local communities. The Afghan Administration needs support for planning and implementing community development programs.
Mr. President, how are we now to proceed?
Bearing in mind that we are now in the post-Emergency Loya Jirga phase of the Bonn process, the international community must take the next step and begin the full-scale implementation of its recovery and reconstruction assistance. In this regard, I am happy to note that the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group (ARSG) Co-chairs' meeting, which was held on the 10th of this month in Paris with the participation of Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani of the Transitional Administration and Ambassador Brahimi, provided a good opportunity to review the current needs and the resources pledged, and to coordinate a future strategy.
Operationally speaking, full-scale reconstruction efforts, while awaited, seem to be still at the planning stage. Judging from the situation that I observed on the ground, humanitarian assistance continues to predominate, while recovery work is still in the offing. At this point, all out efforts should be devoted to community development, in order to meet the recovery needs of the population as well as the reintegration of refugees, IDPs and former combatants. Early installment of potable and agricultural water supplies, education, sanitation, health care services and road reconstruction projects will make a crucial difference at this juncture. On roads, which President Karzai has repeatedly stressed as a priority issue, I have conveyed his message and urged the Asian Development Bank to promptly implement its plans.
Japan considers that the refugee and IDP return and reintegration program of UNHCR, UNICEF and other international humanitarian agencies, combined with regional reconstruction programs of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, would constitute the base for a comprehensive area development program. Such a program is, in fact, being formulated under the leadership of UNAMA in close consultation with the Transitional Authority and provincial administrations. Kandahar could be a starting point. It is in this context that Japan has decided to expand the UNDP Recovery and Employment Afghanistan Program known as "REAP" already successfully undertaken in Kabul, to Kandahar. Japan intends to play a key role in the formulation and implementation of such comprehensive area development. It will be announcing a large package of assistance to Afghanistan in the next few weeks. Comprehensive area development program would be given a sizeable portion.
At the outset of my statement, I mentioned that my overall impression of Afghanistan was that significant improvements have been achieved in the past five months. In closing, let me describe what I saw. When I returned to the Shomali Plains north of Kabul, the international displaced who in January had been heading home in vast numbers were now settled in their original communities, and were starting to rebuild their houses. Some families had, in fact, already finished the rebuilding and were starting to resume their handicraft work. Green leaves were sprouting on the grapevines in the field, another encouraging sign of recovery. Such progress, even in small increments, enables the people of Afghanistan to personally experience the dividend of peace. This is what is important in the end, and the international community must continue to render its support to Afghanistan to ensure that this trend is not reversed.
Thank you very much.
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