posted on Mon 18 Mar 2013 5:15 PM
Afghanistan Debate and Renewal of UN Mission

Tomorrow morning (19 March) the Council is scheduled to hold its quarterly debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and to adopt a resolution renewing UNAMA’s mandate for an additional year. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš, are expected to brief. (Russia had planned to hold a ministerial-level open debate with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presiding, but with Lavrov unable to attend, it appears that the meeting has reverted to its traditional format of being a debate.)

UNAMA Resolution

The draft resolution, which was put in blue on Friday (15 March), went through several rounds of negotiations beginning on 7 March. It seems that the length and complexity of the resolution gave rise to protracted negotiations. There also appears to be a growing sense that the resolution has become bloated and unwieldy giving rise to suggestions that a more concise version should be considered for the next mandate renewal. (The previous UNAMA resolution, 2041 adopted 22 March 2012, was already 15 pages long.)

While there is little change to UNAMA’s current mandate in areas such as reconciliation, electoral assistance, human rights, the rule of law, and good governance, there are modifications to this year’s resolution that are a result of the concerns of certain Council members about the mission’s future. For example, language has been added highlighting the importance of adequate resourcing for the mission addressing concerns about significant cuts to the mission’s budget over the past year.

UNAMA’s role in promoting coordination and coherence among UN funds, programmes and agencies in Afghanistan in support of priorities outlined by the Afghan government has also been highlighted in the final draft. It seems that some delegations were keen to emphasise the need for UNAMA to enhance its efforts in this area in light of the changes that are likely to take place in 2014.

While the draft resolution maintains strong counter-narcotics language, some members appear to have wanted additional language on combating drug production and trafficking. However it seems that this was an area of some sensitivity to the Afghan government, and this language was not added.

The issue of children and armed conflict apparently generated active discussion during the negotiations. While the final draft contains substantive language on children and armed conflict, it appears there were objections from some Council members to referring specifically in the operative paragraphs to resolution 2068 ( 2012), given that four members (Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and Russia) had abstained during the vote on that resolution. There appears to also have been some differences over appropriate language to indicate the need to give priority to the child protection component in UNAMA.

UNAMA Debate

Several key issues are likely to be raised in tomorrow’s debate. Some Council members are concerned about the post-2014 environment in Afghanistan, following the completion of the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force. These members may raise the need for ongoing international assistance for Afghanistan in building institutions during the transition period. They may also highlight the need for both Afghanistan and international actors to fulfill mutual commitments agreed upon during the 8 July 2012 Tokyo conference.

One pressing issue that is likely to be discussed in tomorrow’s debate is the preparations for the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections. Some members may underscore the importance of conducting free and fair elections in order to enhance the legitimacy of the Afghan government, especially considering the controversies that surrounded the 2009 elections. Although support for the organisation of elections, at the request of the Afghan government, is a part of UNAMA’s mandate, it appears that there were some differences during the negotiations of the draft resolution over how to best to convey the UN’s role in supporting the 2014 elections given the government’s concerns about foreign interference in its election preparations.

There may also be concerns raised by some Council members tomorrow about the troubling security environment, as well as the related violence against civilians in Afghanistan. While the most recent UNAMA report (S/2013/133) indicated that there was a decrease in civilian casualties in 2012, it also referred to a sharp increase “by anti-government elements in the deliberate targeting of civilians perceived to be supporting the government, indiscriminate attacks in public spaces and the use of children as suicide bombers.”

The potential reconciliation process between the government and the Taliban is another issue that is likely to come up tomorrow. The High Peace Council, the body entrusted by the Afghan government to promote reconciliation, has been active in recent months, and on 17 December 2012, the Council adopted resolution 2082, which modified the 1988 Taliban sanctions regime to consider travel ban exemptions for listed Taliban to participate in the peace process. Also in recent months, current Council member Pakistan has released several Taliban prisoners, a step viewed by many as a positive gesture to help promote reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.

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