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Mr. President,

Italy aligns itself with the statement by the European Union and wishes to add some national remarks.

Afghanistan has made significant steps forward over the past 14 years. Democratic institutions have been strengthened. Over 3 million girls today attend school. Many other positive results have been achieved for the Country’s economic and social development owing to the efforts of Afghan Authorities and the support of the international community.

But the challenge has not been completely overcome and there is still a risk of losing ground. Despite the remarkable improvements – education for girls is at constant risk, demonstrated by the shutdown of over 200 schools in the first nine months of 2015, limiting access to education for more than 20,000 female students, according to recently published United Nations data.

Violence by insurgent hostile groups whose aim is to destabilize the country has, in fact, further worsened. The number of civilian victims of the conflict has increased. The security situation in the Country is cause for great concern. Uncertainty about the future is bringing growing numbers of migrants and refugees to leave Afghanistan.

The Government of National Unity is committed to ensuring peace, stability and prosperity for Afghanistan and its people, and Italy staunchly supports these efforts.

Together with our partners, we actively participate in the framework of the NATO-led Train, Advise and Assist Mission “Resolute Support”, particularly in the western region of Afghanistan, to further strengthen the capacity of Afghan Forces to achieve their mandate and ensure security throughout the Country.

Nevertheless, we are aware that long-term stability in Afghanistan will require internal reconciliation. It is therefore necessary to promote conditions for a meaningful peace process but without jeopardizing the progress we’ve made and the values of liberty and gender equality that constitute inalienable human rights.

Such conditions also require genuine cooperation between all countries of the area. In particular, close cooperation is fundamental among the main actors and, in this context, we hope that Afghanistan and Pakistan can establish constructive cooperation.

We hope that the upcoming Fifth Conference of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process, that will be held in Islamabad on December 9th, may represent an occasion for such cooperation.

Mr. President,

It is also crucial for Afghanistan to effectively carry out the much needed internal reforms. The government’s reform plans and the programmatic platform established through the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) last September certainly represent a step in the right direction.

It is now necessary to rapidly implement such plans. Only tangible progress in this sphere will increase people’s trust in state institutions; create an environment that promotes private entrepreneurship and investment; continue the process of democratic strengthening and lead the country towards economic self-reliance.

At the same time, the partnership with the international community can be strengthened so that the former will be motivated to continue its support for Afghanistan, also with a view towards the Brussels Conference in October 2016.

In the context of this pressing reform process, action to promote the rights of women must remain a priority. The Afghan Government’s commitment and the results achieved so far are worthy of praise. But the fight to counter violence against women and the objective of full women’s empowerment in Afghan society must be pursued with utmost determination, as the path to achieve such goals is still long.

I thank you, Mr. President.