January 2018 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 December 2017
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ASIA

Afghanistan and Central Asia as a Model to link Security and Development

Expected Council Action

The January 2018 Council President Kazakhstan will hold a ministerial-level debate on the threats to international peace and security focusing on the topic: “Building Regional Partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a Model to Link Security and Development”. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov will chair the debate, and Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief. Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani will address the Council. The Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement.

Background

In preparation for the January debate, Kazakhstan has circulated a concept note to Council members outlining some of the main issues that the debate will seek to address. The note emphasises the strong interlinkages between security and development and the importance of integrating the economies of Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbours. The concept note focuses on three aspects that are crucial for achieving progress in Afghanistan. First, there is a need to recognise that security and development are closely interrelated. Second, the solutions to country-specific issues generally require a regional approach. Third, international assistance requires integrated and better coordinated regional development strategies on the part of the UN, considering the vast number of UN agencies operating in the area.   

As a prelude to the debate, on 27 November 2017, Kazakhstan, together with Afghanistan and Germany, organised an Arria-formula meeting that addressed issues of security, development and peace in the Central Asian region. Briefers at this meeting included: Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan); Ambassador Christoph Heusgen (Germany); Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal (Afghanistan); Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenča; Barnett Rubin, Associate Director of the Center on International Cooperation; and Jasmin Jahanshahi, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager at the Aga Khan Foundation. The participants at the meeting discussed ways to formulate coherent strategies on stabilisation, peacebuilding and development in Afghanistan and the region. During the meeting, the Council members emphasised the importance of a regional and comprehensive approach to Afghanistan with an aim of achieving long-term stability.  

There are various regional platforms that focus on economic cooperation specifically on Afghanistan. The most notable ones are the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and “Heart of Asia”-Istanbul Process. Both of these initiatives are in their seventh year of existence and have so far facilitated the undertaking of various projects in the field of economic development and greater integration of the region.    

Key Issues and Options

The Council faces multiple, closely interrelated issues with regard to Afghanistan and the broader region. The deteriorating security situation, the growing number of civilian causalities, and political instability remain the most prominent concerns for the Council regarding Afghanistan. In the context of the debate, the Council could explore ways in which it could promote a more coordinated regional approach toward addressing the regional implication of instability in Afghanistan, while developing more coherent approaches to preventive diplomacy.

The Council is gradually becoming more cognisant of the interlinkages between security and development. In the case of Afghanistan, support for economic development is a crucial part of the effort to build peace in Afghanistan with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandated role to coordinate international assistance. The lack of viable economic opportunities in some areas has pushed the local population towards opium production and trafficking, activities also undertaken by some insurgent elements to finance their efforts to undermine government authority. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, opium production and cultivation reached record high numbers in 2017, while also expanding to more regions in Afghanistan. 

There also persists the strong link between the insurgency and illicit drug production and trafficking. In this regard, the Council could explore ways to increase the efficiency of the existing sanctions regimes and counter-terrorism platforms to address the insurgency, terrorism and drug production problems in Afghanistan. A related issue for the Council is how to facilitate better international and regional security cooperation to counter a threat posed by the terrorist groups and returning foreign terrorist fighters, as the security environment has been severely exacerbated by the presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Afghanistan in recent years.

A significant number of international and regional organisations, with often overlapping agendas, operate in Afghanistan and the region. The Council could address ways in which these efforts could be better coordinated and made more effective on the ground. .   

Kazakhstan has announced that it will seek to adopt a presidential statement at the meeting. This statement, among other things, could:

  • emphasise the importance of regional development and cooperation for achieving security in the region;
  • call for greater coordination between the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), UNAMA, and the relevant UN agencies and regional organisations in strengthening the region’s capacity to overcome its challenges;
  • encourage greater international and regional security cooperation, including information-sharing, border control, law enforcement, and criminal justice to counter the threat of terrorism; and
  • commend efforts by Central Asian countries in support of peace efforts and development in Afghanistan.
Council Dynamics

The Council’s discussions of Afghanistan have mainly been limited to quarterly debates on UNAMA, which are primarily focused on the political and security situation in the country and the role of the UN mission. Semi-annual briefings in consultations on the UNRCCA have provided another opportunity for the Council to address the situation in Afghanistan through a more regional approach, although the UNRCCA meetings have been limited in raising wider awareness of the issues facing the region due to the closed format of the meetings (briefing in consultations).  

During its term, Kazakhstan, the first Central Asian country to be elected to the Council, has placed a great emphasis on addressing issues pertinent to its region. In Council deliberations, Kazakhstan has underscored the importance of reviewing the Council’s approach to Afghanistan with an aim of strengthening regional partnerships in Central Asia. In particular, Kazakhstan has stressed the importance of devoting more attention to interlinkages between security and development regarding Afghanistan. To that end, Kazakhstan has been a proponent of increased regional interconnectivity and integration of Afghanistan into the Central Asian region’s trade and economic cooperation.  

The Council shares the concern about the volatile security situation in Afghanistan and its particular impact on the civilian population. In general, the Council seems to share the view that economic development and greater regional cooperation is an important factor in achieving security in Afghanistan. However, there might be some differences as to what is the Council’s role in addressing the nexus between development and security. Some members, most notably Russia, might be wary of the Council taking up issues that they perceive as beyond the Council’s mandate to maintain international peace and security.

Similarly, Council members generally support the efforts of regional organisations in Afghanistan, although there are some diverging views on their specific roles. In the previous debates on UNAMA, Kazakhstan and Russia have emphasised the importance, among others, of regional organisations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). P3 members seem to mistrust the SCO and CSTO as they see them as vehicles for enhancing Russian influence in the region. These diverging views are an important reason why the Council failed to adopt a press statement following the UNRCCA briefings during the past two years. 

Among permanent members, Russia has continued to emphasise the urgency of the threat posed by ISIL while also expressing disappointment that some members have, in its view, tried to downplay its significance. Several Council members, most notably France, Russia and Kazakhstan, continue to raise concerns regarding the connection between the insurgency and drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan.

The Netherlands will be the penholder on Afghanistan in 2018.

UN DOCUMENTS 

Security Council Resolution
17 March 2017 S/RES/2344 The Council renewed the mandate of UNAMA until 17 March 2018.
Security Council Meeting Record
25 September 2017 S/PV.8055 This was the Council’s quarterly debate on Afghanistan, which focused on the most recent UNAMA report.
Security Council Press Statement
23 January 2015 SC/11751 This press statement welcomed the briefing in consultations on 21 January by Miroslav Jenĉa, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, and reiterated support for UNRCCA as an early-warning and preventive-diplomacy tool.