Forgetting Afghanistan to be disastrous: Haysom
Speaking to the UN News Centre, Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said it would be “disastrous” if the country was forgotten amid today’s more pressing crises.
Despite some progress in meeting the country’s challenges in economic, security and political fields, failure in any one of these areas would have consequences for the overall success of the Afghan transition, he warned.
However, he said things were more or less on track. “I think it would be accurate to say that Afghanistan is muddling through. And I would also not undervalue that.”
The UN envoy said Afghanistan had to first address serious economic problems, sustain its overall coherence in its security agencies and security response and had to make progress politically, which, given tensions within government and the challenges facing it, were quite significant.
“While they are, more or less, meeting the benchmarks and may be modestly succeeding them, I think that everyone is aware that if something were to go badly wrong in any one of those areas – if the government was to fall apart for some reason, the economy was to dip badly or there was to be some serious security reverses – all of those would go into the mix.”
About the recent attack on Parliament and what seen in Kunduz province, Haysom said the nature of the challenge was evolving in Afghanistan.
“But bear in mind that in 2015 the Afghan Security Forces have taken on the sole responsibility of managing the security of the country. Five years ago, some would say that was unthinkable. There are steady achievements… but we’ve always got to be realistic; the Afghans are realistic.”
“We should not overstress enormous strides. There is not going to be any miraculous transformations to the economy, to the conflict that plagues the country or in the political achievements.”
About difficulties in the UN’s role in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign troops, Haysom: “What we have seen is not simply a military withdrawal. We’ve also seen an international civilian withdrawal.”
He said there had undoubtedly been an economic contraction with more visible signs of poverty, even in Kabul itself.
“In the three years that I’ve been in Kabul, there has been a deterioration of security. The way in which we do our work is more circumscribed.”
He said they were now unable to make use of social networks in the way they used to, to engage not only Afghans but also the non-Afghan non-governmental organizations and diplomatic communities.
Politically, he said, it had also been testing for the UN. “We are working with a government which has made it clear that it expects value from the UN.”
To a question if Afghanistan was becoming a forgotten crisis, Haysom he looked at it from two dimensions.
He said internally there had been a reduction in size of the international community’s presence in regard to the media, the diplomatic missions and might be in the engagement of economic entities as well.
“One would hope that those remaining are more committed and engaged and that there is still a lot that can be done.”
Externally, he said, they would recognise that there were more pressing issues outside of Afghanistan. “Those issues occur in places that are closer to Europe and the traditional European-NATO type countries that are heavily invested in Afghanistan.”
On the one hand, he said, Afghanistan needed to acknowledge that it was not the only case that had a compelling claim to international attention.
“But on the other, it needs to make the case that it would be disastrous, and lead to potential reversals if the international community would lose attention – take their eye off the ball, so to speak.”
When asked how optimistic he was for Afghanistan as a whole, Haysom said: “Once you adjust to the hurdles you think the country must meet, to the level of realism, I am optimistic.”
“As I said, there is not going to be any miracles, there is going to be gradual engagement with challenges it meets, against realistic benchmarks. And they have the potential to meet them.”
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