Let me initially express my gratitude to Foreign Minister Liimets and the rest of our Estonian co-penholders on the Afghanistan file for their able work in preparing for this meeting.
I also wish to take this opportunity to salute UNAMA, SRSG Lyons and her dedicated staff for the relentless efforts they make to address the demanding issues confronting Afghanistan.
We also express our support to the UNODC on the Afghanistan’s narcotics situation. This is important as the UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey documented a 37% increase in areas under opium poppy cultivation in 2020.
And I would like to thank Mary Akrami of the Afghan Women’s Network for the insightful presentation that she shared with us.
Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. The international military withdrawal is proceeding at phase. The level of violence is high, aggravated by numerous targeted attacks against civilians, including aid workers, human rights defenders and minorities.
This calls for an immediate and meaningful reduction in violence and progress in the peace process. We are hopeful that the negotiations in Doha will yield results.
The Afghan parties must own the process and recognize their responsibility in leading the way to peace.
Simultaneously, the international community must do more to demonstrate solidarity and support to the Afghan people in their efforts at ending four decades of conflict.
The humanitarian situation is grave. In addition to suffering from conflict and growing poverty, Afghans may once more face dreadful consequences of drought and food insecurity.
The continuing high level of violence in Afghanistan, and its impact on civilians is appalling.
We strongly condemn the targeting of humanitarian aid workers, most recently against mine clearers in Laghman province and vaccine providers in Nangarhar.
Threats and killings of media workers, and human rights defenders also gives ground for deep concern.
Targeted attacks create a climate of fear and undermine the work towards sustainable peace, democracy and protection of human rights like freedom of expression.
Attacks must be investigated, and perpetrators held to account.
The Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict shows that Afghanistan remains among the countries most affected by attacks on schools and hospitals.
A horrific example was the May assault on a school in a Hazara district in Kabul.
Furthermore, the conflict and the COVID pandemic fuels absenteeism and school closures. Children are deprived of access to education, which increases other protection risks, including the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
Recent reports regarding the detention of children for alleged association with armed groups cause concern.
We urge the Afghan government, UN agencies, and donors to urgently establish appropriate reintegration programs to facilitate their return to civilian society.
The violence across the country underlines the need for rapid progress in the peace process. Norway remains committed to support this process in any way the parties desire.
Again, we wish to underscore the importance of creating an inclusive peace process, where various groups of society have a voice and proper representation.
The full participation of women in all phases and aspects of peace and security processes, should be emphasised. Women have a right to participate and to have a say in their own future.
We must also listen intently and center the needs and concerns of civil society in Afghanistan, and in women’s groups, for whom violence is not abstract but a daily reality, and ensure that women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and media workers can safely continue their work.
We urge the UN and UNAMA leadership to exercise their influence in ensuring that Afghan women are not on the sidelines in any peace process, but have dedicated particular seats at the negotiation table.
Afghanistan is entering uncertain and challenging times. This calls for renewed support from the international community.
Norway and Afghanistan have a long record of partnership. This will continue even as the international military operation ends.
Our substantial humanitarian and development assistance will be maintained, as will our commitment to the Afghan peace process.
Our engagement is also visible in this Council and its role in supporting the ongoing peace efforts.
We see the UNAMA mandate renewal in September as a milestone in this regard and look forward to engaging with you on the path towards renewal in the coming weeks.