Deborah Lyons, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan on Thursday told the Security Council that she expects “violence will be a top priority when the peace talks resume in early January.”
Achieving sustainable peace in Afghanistan will only be possible "if security anxieties are addressed and the process is inclusive from the outset, with meaningful participation by women, youth, minorities, victims of conflict and religious leaders," Lyons said.
"I ask all countries to continue to pressure the parties to the conflict to bring about a sustained reduction in violence and expect that this will be a top priority in the negotiations," she said.
Lyons said the ongoing security transition, coupled with the emerging reality of international troop withdrawals, have obviously added to the anxieties felt by the Afghan population.
“In the coming months, I anticipate that this larger security transition will become a central topic in the dialogue amongst Afghan officials, regional countries, and the larger international community,” she said.
As regional cooperation is critical to peace in Afghanistan, Lyons highlighted the need to support efforts to fight drug trafficking and transnational organized crime throughout Central and South Asia.
But she warned that sustainable peace will only be possible if it is inclusive from the outset, with meaningful participation of women, minorities, victims of conflict, religious leaders, and others.
She also said that although Afghanistan is coming to the end of a monumental year, authorities will still require international support as they assume greater responsibility for national security while battling COVID-19 and other challenges.
The “profound shift” brought about by developments during 2020, which include an agreement between the United States and the Taliban, the start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations, and a major donor conference, she mentioned.
“By all accounts this was a big year. But a bigger year lies ahead”, she said. “Clearly Afghanistan will continue to move forward in this New Year, but equally will continue to need the dedicated support of this Council,” she said.
However, she said that the “unrelenting violence” in Afghanistan continues to put lasting peace at risk.
Preliminary statistics reveal a rise in civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices, assaults on schools, rocket attacks, and targeted killings by anti-government groups.
“It is no surprise then that the Global Peace Index for 2020 ranked Afghanistan as the least peaceful country in the world for the second year in row”, she said. “Such a ranking illustrates the psychological impact of the violence.”
Afghanistan is also among the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, with six reporters losing their lives in 2020, she added.
Afghanistan is now facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, resulting in increased hunger and malnutrition. The UN has scaled-up assistance, and Lyons encouraged countries to generously support humanitarian operations.