|Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Briefing on UNAMA
I thank Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths and the Deputy Special Representative Ramiz Alakhbarov for their briefings. I also listened attentively to remarks of the civil society representatives.
Afghanistan is at a critical stage of transition from chaos to governance, where the Afghan people have a historic opportunity to truly master their own future and destiny. Since last August, the situation in Afghanistan has remained stable on the whole, with a marked decline in violence and conflict, while the humanitarian and economic fields are facing most daunting challenges. Just yesterday, an earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring hundreds, and the casualty toll is still rising. China mourns the victims, extends its condolences to the bereaved families and the injured, and will provide emergency humanitarian assistance according to Afghanistan’s needs. We call on the international community to step up its support and UNAMA to urgently act up in support of Afghanistan’s earthquake relief efforts. Afghanistan still has a long way to go to achieve peace and development. The Afghan people should not be forgotten. And it is incumbent upon the international community to provide more support and assistance.
First, it is important to strengthen constructive engagement and the support of Afghanistan in realizing autonomous and effective state governance. The lessons for the past 20 years have proven that military interventions and foreign models do not work in Afghanistan. All parties should truly implement the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led principle, strengthen the engagement with the interim Afghan Government in a pragmatic manner, patiently guide and support national reconciliation and domestic unity in Afghanistan, and explore a governance model suited to Afghanistan’s national conditions. This should be an internally-driven and progressive process that requires a forward-looking attitude and necessary patience.
A few days ago, the Afghan Taliban authorities held the first meeting of the commission for communications on the return of former Afghan officials and political figures, and announced that they would hold the Loya Jirga. These are all positive trends. It is hoped that all Afghan parties will maintain dialogue and consultation, and provide political reconciliation, and the international community should facilitate these efforts. China welcomes the Security Council sanctions committee’s continued extension of the travel ban exemption for the Taliban individuals, which is in line with the practical needs of supporting the dialogue among the Afghan parties. It is hoped that the members of the Council will remain united in this regard, and desist from arbitrarily linking this issue to other unrelated issues.
Second, it is necessary to increase resource inputs to help Afghanistan get out of economic and livelihood difficulties. The humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan took an abrupt turn for the worse in the wake of the precipitous withdrawal of foreign troops. According to the report of Secretary-General, 24.4 million people in Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance this year, accounted for nearly 60% of the national population. 19.7 million people face hunger, and 6.6 million people suffer from acute food shortages, the highest number in the world. Rising food prices and inflation have made the situation even more dire. So far, only 30% of Afghanistan’s humanitarian response plan has been funded, a shortfall of three billion US dollars. Other geopolitical developments have reduced the focus of major donor countries on Afghanistan. This trend is extremely dangerous, which may turn the current crisis into a greater catastrophe. The various humanitarian assistance agencies in Afghanistan should all strengthen their coordination and synergy. In this process, the ownership of the interim Afghanistan Government in receiving foreign aid should be respected, which is the necessary condition for the effective execution of aid.
In April this year, dozens of independent UN human rights experts jointly issued a statement, pointing out that the freezing of Afghanistan’s overseas assets by the United States has aggravated the living conditions of Afghanistan women and children, while calling for a nearly lifting of the freeze. Regrettably, there has been no progress on the issue of unfreezing assets. At a time when the Afghan people are most in need of resources, it is unreasonable, unjustifiable, and unacceptable to freeze their sizable overseas assets. The US should respond to the appeals of the Secretary-General, human rights experts, humanitarian agencies, and other parties by unconditionally returning Afghanistan’s overseas assets as soon as possible. And UNAMA should actively promote it in accordance with the mandate of the Security Council.
Third, comprehensive measures should be taken to support the sound development of Afghanistan. The security, counter-terrorism, drug control, and refugee problems faced by Afghanistan are intertwined. We need to take a holistic approach, and find solutions to the root causes. It is necessary to urge Afghanistan to eliminate the breeding ground of terrorism, and resolutely crack down on various terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State and ETIM. Taliban’s ban on poppy cultivation should be encouraged, and Afghanistan should be supported in developing alternative cultivation in order to eliminate drug sources. The rights and interests of women and children in Afghanistan should be fully guaranteed, especially their right to education and employment, and sustained efforts are needed in this regard. At the same time, all these goals cannot be achieved without Afghanistan maintaining its overall stability and gradually realizing development and progress.
A few days ago, we marked the World Refugee Day, when for the first time the global toll of refugees and displaced people exceeded 100 million. We should not forget the 11 million Afghan refugees created by the war in Afghanistan, with millions in neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran alone. According to the recent data, since July last year, 90% of the applications by Afghan refugees for entry into the US have been rejected. It is hoped that the relevant country will earnestly fulfill its obligations under the international refugee law, while providing more support to Afghanistan and other countries in the region in order to ward off a larger refugee tide.
China supports the UN in continuing to play an important role in helping Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction. Over the past two years, Special Representative Lyons has led UNAMA’s work under complex circumstances, and achieved positive results. China appreciates the work of the SRSG, who recently completed her term of office.
As a friendly neighbor of Afghanistan, China has always been committed to supporting its peace, stability, and development. Since the beginning of last winter, the Chinese Government has provided emergency aid of 250 million yuan to Afghanistan, and we will continue to implement the 1 billion yuan of bilateral aid that we have announced. Not long ago, China hosted the third foreign ministers’ meeting of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, which urged its neighbors to formulate a series of practical initiatives on supporting peace and reconstruction in the Afghanistan. As we speak, many projects are already being implemented, which will play an important role in promoting the peaceful and stable development of Afghanistan in the future. China is ready to work with the international community to contribute to a brighter future for Afghanistan.
Thank you, Mr. President.