Mr. President,

I would like to begin by thanking SRSG Otunbayeva, Mr. Rajasingham and Ms Akbar for their presentations.

The New Agenda for Peace highlights education as one of the proven development paths that strengthen the social contract and human security. In Afghanistan, 84,234 secondary school graduates took the university entrance exam this year. Not one of them was a woman. I repeat, not a single woman was among the 84,234 high school students with the prospect of going to university.

At the same time, we note that in the medium term, the most likely economic scenario for the country is that of a recession, along with an increase in poverty in the country. Afghanistan's economic development is inconceivable without the contribution of women; whether as entrepreneurs or employees, Afghan women are indispensable to prosperity. The Arria-format meeting at our Mission on 11 December confirmed this once again: Afghanistan can only achieve lasting stability, security and prosperity with the full participation of women.

Mr. President,

The international community must adopt a common strategy and act with unity. And we have just heard it: the Council has been united, and it must remain so. The independent evaluation that the Secretary-General has submitted to us provides an opportunity to develop such a strategic approach. We support the co-pens in their efforts to find a way forward.

For Switzerland, in addition to the inclusion of women in all processes and activities, two other aspects will be essential on this path. Firstly, there is the massive forced return of Afghans from Pakistan, 60% of whom are children. This represents an enormous challenge for an economic and humanitarian system that is already severely strained. Switzerland recognises the immense efforts made by neighbouring countries to take in these refugees. At the same time, we recall the obligations of international law, including international refugee law, and the need for durable political solutions. On this last point, we are grateful to UNAMA for its commitment and fully support it. These events also underline the importance of the broader regional context of Afghanistan. States in the region need to be closely involved in all efforts.

Secondly, there are climate issues. A week ago, the Council's informal group of experts on climate and security met to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. On that occasion, UNAMA highlighted the scale of the impact of climate change on the country, both in humanitarian and livelihood terms. It is essential that we step up our efforts on this issue, particularly in view of its regional and global impacts. Switzerland is also in favour of reviewing the international commitment on this matter, as part of the follow-up to the independent assessment.

On the occasion of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, High Commissioner Volker Türk reminded us that we must rebuild a foundation of hope. For Afghanistan, we could find hope in the prospect of a country where the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every individual are respected. Where living in security, free from fear, is guaranteed. Educational opportunities for all, but especially for women and girls, are a key ingredient in this foundation of hope for a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.

Switzerland remains determined to continue its active support for Afghanistan. We also continue to support UNAMA and its vital work on the ground.

I thank you.

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