Norway welcomes the unanimous resolution on Afghanistan. Such broad support sends the important message that we are united, and committed to helping Afghanistan build a democratic country and help heal the wounds after decades of war and terror.
At the Paris Conference in June a great number of us pledged to renew our partnership with Afghanistan, and the Afghan government promised to step up its fight against corruption and narcotics.
On that occasion, Norway reaffirmed it long-term commitment by pledging 500 million Euros for the time period covered by the Afghan National Development Strategy.
Mr President, how can we here at the UN make a difference now, and in the immediate future?
I would answer, by focussing on three particular issues:
Firstly, UNAMA. A grave responsibility has been placed on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and on Special Representative Kai Eide.
They have been called upon to lead the international civilian effort. In Paris we pledged substantial resources to assist the Afghan government. Expectations are high. The people of Afghanistan are waiting to see the results that would justify our rhetoric in Paris. But many – alas – have yet to experience the benefits of development and to see hope on the horizon.
True, we see important improvements, not least with regard to school enrolment for girls and boys, and with respect to public health. But other sectors are lagging behind, and development is uneven between the regions.
We must let ourselves be coordinated by UNAMA. And we must ensure that UNAMA and Kai Eide have the necessary resources and sufficient qualified personnel to meet those expectations.
This may require some practical application of rules and regulation regarding budgets and staffing. The General Assembly will consider UNAMA’s budget later next month, and we urge all member states to provide UNAMA with the necessary resources to carry out its strengthened mandate. We also urge the Secretariat to cut red tape and to speed up the process of putting qualified people in the field.
Secondly, the humanitarian situation. The people of Afghanistan are facing a harsh winter. The consequences of the global food crisis are felt. The crisis is compounded by drought. That is why we must assist the Government of Afghanistan in alleviating the serious humanitarian situation.
Norway has recently increased its humanitarian support significantly, – also in relation to facilitating the establishment of the new OCHA office in Kabul. We expect that OCHA will quickly assume its responsibility for humanitarian coordination in close cooperation with UNAMA.
Thirdly, the elections. It is the UNDP which is advising the Afghan government on how to register voters and inform about the election. And they do so with great skills and creativity. Of the more than 820.000 voters registered in the first phase of this process, women make up 38 per cent.
The broad participation of women is heartening and bodes well for the elections. In order to consolidate Afghan democracy, it is vital that these elections take place according to plan in September 2009 and in 2010.
Norway has committed resources to the registration process, and we will also support the holding of elections. Consolidating democracy also requires improving the rule of law and the respect for human rights. The recent changes in the Afghan Government, – and there was one even today –, demonstrate renewed commitment to fighting corruption and improving security.
And let me conclude our respect to the men and women on the ground, and to those who paid with their lives so that other may live. We owe it to them and millions of others to ensure that the Taliban will never again be able to terrorise the Afghan population.
Thank you, Mr President.