Afghanistan is making economic, security and political progress in a challenging climate, but direct peace talks are critical to the country’s future, said Nicholas Haysom, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, in a briefing to the Security Council today.
The UN envoy described the difficulties of economic contraction in the country, especially as Afghanistan struggles to harness the resources to meet its governance commitments and developmental priorities.
On the issue of security, he said the Afghan National Security Forces have been “undeniably stretched” as they take on full security responsibilities. “We have seen an intensification of conflict across the country, including in areas previously considered to be safe,” he said. Speaking of Afghanistan’s political situation, the Special Representative highlighted several positive developments, including the appointment senior officials, the diffusing of a potential flashpoint around the Parliament’s tenure and commitments to key electoral matters.
“The government has committed to appoint the Electoral Reform Commission within a week, and to provide clarity on the electoral calendar within a month,” he indicated, stressing that the United Nations looks forward to a decision on the date of the next elections as well as action to implement commitments toward electoral reform.
Haysom, who is also the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said peace would have a major positive impact on the capacity of the government to address its economic, security and political challenges.
“In the long term, peace is not a luxury; it is a necessity,” he stressed. “Unless Afghans can find a way to live together in harmony, Afghanistan’s political and security institutions, and its economy, simply may not be sustainable.”
Haysom noted that the intensification of the conflict in Afghanistan is eroding the atmosphere for constructive negotiations. Just as the voices for peace are growing louder, he emphasized, so too are those who believe peace is neither possible nor desirable.
“It is thus critical,” he said in concluding, ”that the international community as a whole, and the regional neighbours in particular, send the same message to all involved, unambiguously and forcefully: the time to begin direct peace and reconciliation talks is now.”