Saturday, July 26, 2014

Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

On the report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan

At the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Working Group,

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening today’s meeting to discuss the report of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan. I would also like to thank the Department of Children and Armed Conflict as well as the Working Group as a whole, for its efforts to report cases of violations of children’s rights and to monitor the implementation of Resolution 1612 in countries affected by conflict.

Before sharing some of my delegation’s comments on this report, I would also like to reiterate my government’s wholehearted commitment to implementing Resolution 1612. Thirty years of war in Afghanistan have devastated the lives of our children, especially girls, and deprived a whole generation of basic education. With the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan at 67% for men and 87% for women, the future of the nation really does depend on protecting and educating our children.

Mr. Chairman,

We have achieved substantial progress since 2001. We have established juvenile legislative frameworks and judicial institutions and ratified most of the international human rights treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. We have committed ourselves to implementing the Millennium Development Goals through our National Development Strategy (ANDS). Moreover, dramatic progress has been realized on the ground. For example:

-          Almost 7 million children, 35% of them girls, have returned to school;

-          More than one hundred thousand children were recently vaccinated against polio in southern Afghanistan;

-          The Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) now reaches 81% of the population, up from 9% in 2003. This package includes maternal and new born health, child health and immunization, public nutrition, and communicable disease control;

-          Our National Strategy on Children at Risk, which lays out specific activities to prevent violence and exploitation of children, was launched in May 2006;

-          We established a special task force to protect children in bordering provinces from traffickers. As a result, since 2002, 317 children have been rescued from traffickers.

Nevertheless, today the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts to protect the rights of its children and provide them with a bright and promising future are seriously threatened by critical security challenges in some parts of the country that jeopardize the gains made in the past seven years and undermine our collective efforts.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation had several meetings with the Department of Children and Armed Conflict prior to the issuance of this report and we had hoped that the Department would take our concerns into consideration. We are deeply disappointed with the report as it stands before you. For the sake of brevity, I will touch on three of our most pressing concerns. First, the report demonstrates a questionable understanding of the political and socioeconomic realities in Afghanistan and the region, breaks with accepted UN analysis of the situation and thereby misidentifies both the causes and the solutions to the grave abuses of children’s rights which are of substantial concern to us all. Second, the conclusions described in this report seem to be based on sparse, largely anecdotal accounts from unknown, and thereby unverifiable, sources. And finally, the language and tone of the report suggest a shift in focus from the Taliban to the Government of Afghanistan which is wholly unjustified.

Mr. Chairman,

The report misrepresents the historical and socio-economic context of Afghanistan. Terrorism constitutes a major threat and drastically affects the daily lives of our people, particularly children. Terrorists are recruiting, training, and exploiting children as combatants and suicide bombers. They rely more and more on asymmetrical attacks against civilians, and on using civilians as human shields. They attack international workers and create an environment where humanitarian aid cannot reach those who most desperately need it. Vulnerable girl students are a main target of intimidation. A few days after this report was completed, a brutal acid attack on fifteen young girls on their way to school blinded some and permanently scarred others.

This report detracts from the seriousness of the threat. It is the Taliban and other terrorists groups that remain the main violator of human rights, including children’s rights, in Afghanistan. It is our duty to concentrate our common efforts in finding ways and means to protect Afghan children from the atrocities perpetrated by the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. For a successful implementation of 1612 in Afghanistan, it is essential to recognize and address the overriding socio-economic and political challenges facing the country and the region. This report fails to identify or substantively address issues of security, governance, and development, and largely ignores the regional scope of many of the problems described. The conflict is not some sort of civil war between pro-government and anti-government forces. Afghanistan’s government, people, and the international community are in a fight with terrorist groups threatening the entire region and the world from sanctuaries outside of Afghanistan. In this the reports breaks from previous Secretary General’s reports on Afghanistan and on Children in Armed Conflict.

Mr. Chairman,

This report, as the first country-specific report on Afghanistan, should provide a factual, comprehensive point of comparison for future reports. It does not. The credibility of the information contained in this report is dubious for many reasons, of which I will mention a few:

1.                  This report seems to base many of its broad conclusions on one or two anecdotes, or less. For example, paragraph 61 asserts that the “overall ability” of child protection officers at schools “has been questioned”, but offers nothing to support that claim.

2.                  This report, in relying on anecdotal evidence, fails to provide any sort of holistic or objective view of trends over the course of the year reported, and no comparison of the severity of various problems. Instead, it showcases a variety of individual examples chosen seemingly at random.

3.                  The sources used in the report are not identified, and it is unclear how far the accuracy of these sources was verified.

4.                  This report contains factual inaccuracies that have now been widely repeated in the media. For example, in paragraph 22 the report mentions the demobilization program for child solders. However, the programme took place from 2004-2006, not before 2003 as the report states, and since then the government has set up local committees to monitor and assist with reintegration into society.

Moreover, isolated cases cannot constitute a solid basis for identifying the Government of Afghanistan as a violator of children’s rights. With regards to alleged recruiting of children, alleged detention of children in contravention of the law, and alleged sexual violence committed against children, the Government of Afghanistan has very clear laws which are in line with international law. Incidents in contravention of the law by individuals in the national forces or anywhere else are therefore condemnable but not indicative of systematic violations of children’s rights.

Regarding the practice of baccha baazi or “boy play”, we commend the report’s denunciation of this abominable practice, and we welcome the recommendation contained in this report to study ways and means of combating it with the support of civil society and religious leaders. However, my delegation would like to underline that any form of pedophilia or pederasty is certainly not cultural, nor particular to Afghanistan, and it is unhelpful to identify the problem as specifically an Afghan one.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman,

We were disturbed by the apparent shift in focus of the report from the Taliban to the Government of Afghanistan. My government welcomed the visit of Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. H.E. President Karzai subsequently endorsed the establishment of the monitoring and reporting mechanism. The expectation of my Government in this regard was to work in a spirit of cooperation with the Department of Children and Armed Conflict, to improve our government’s capacity, legislation, and development strategies, and address issues of security and poverty. It was with great bewilderment that we found that this report has chosen instead to unconstructively target the Government of Afghanistan. Are we penalizing the Government of Afghanistan for its commitment and good will? It is imperative that this discussion be refocused immediately if we want this working group to deliver productive outcomes that will improve the lives of children in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

To correct the problems we have identified, we will distribute a list of political and technical recommendations next week. Today I will highlight a few. We recommend that the Secretary General:

1.      Request the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting to work in close consultation with the Government of Afghanistan, and in line with the restrictions contained in 1612, when preparing a plan within three months to extend the monitoring and reporting mechanism to all areas of Afghanistan.

2.      Request relevant United Nations agencies, including UNDP and UNICEF, within their respective mandates and under the leadership of the Government of Afghanistan, to address broader socio-economic, governance and security issues which will also contribute to the welfare of children affected by armed conflict.

3.      Refocus the discussion, in his next report, on the Taliban as the main violator of children rights in Afghanistan, as originally mandated through inclusion of the Taliban in Annex I of the Secretary General’s last report on Children and Armed Conflict.

Finally, we recommend that the members of the Working Group address a message to the Taliban through a public statement of the Chairman of the Working Group, condemning the use and recruitment of children for terrorist activities and calling for the end of attacks on schools and hospitals, and condemning in particular the use of barbaric tactics to repress and intimidate girls.

Mr. Chairman,

The report before us today fails to advance our goals. It distorts the situation in Afghanistan, it relies on information of questionable credibility, and it takes an unwarranted and accusatory tone towards the Government of Afghanistan. We urge the council to refocus our debate on the true enemy and adopt our recommendations in a spirit of cooperation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chicago Tribune’s interview Q & A: With H.E. Hamid Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai sat down to talk with Tribune correspondent Kim Barker in Kabul on Thursday, Dec. 18. In a frank, one-on-one exchange, Karzai reacted to criticisms by then presidential candidate Barack Obama, criticized the U.S.-led military operations in his country and called for focusing the war on terror more on neighboring Pakistan than Afghanistan. He also delivered a message to the families of Illinois National Guard troops now being deployed to his country. Here is an edited transcript:

Q What do you think about being described [by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama] as weak and spending too much time in a bunker?

A Bunker? We are in a trench, and our allies are with us in the trench. We were on a high hill with a glorious success in 2002 [after ousting the Taliban regime following Sept. 11], backed fully by the Afghan people. … And the Taliban and the Al Qaeda were defeated, without a fight, especially in southern parts of Afghanistan. … We must now look back and find out as to why are we in a trench, or if you’d like to describe it, as a bunker. Why are we in a bunker? Thousands of the Taliban went back to their homes. They began a normal life. The coalition forces began to employ thugs, and went with those thugs to the homes of hundreds of elders and community people, frightened them into running away from Afghanistan. I’m surprised that the Afghan people still have so much trust in what we are doing. I’m surprised that people after having been bombed, many, many times over, with their children and families killed, torn to pieces, still come to me as their president. … And we can be easily out of the bunker, or as I describe it the trench, if we begin to correct our behavior. The international community should correct their behavior, and the Afghan government should begin to be helped to do more…For years we’ve been saying that we need concentration on the sanctuaries. We were ignored. For years I’ve been saying that the war on terrorism is not in Afghanistan, that it’s in the training camps, it’s in sanctuaries [in Pakistan]. Rather than going there, the coalition went around the Afghan villages, burst into people’s homes and … committing extrajudicial killings in our country. The latest example was the day before yesterday in Khost, where a man, a woman and a 12-year-old boy were killed. Were they Al Qaeda? And even if they were, was there a court order to shoot them down in their homes? And if they were, was the 12-year-old boy Al Qaeda too? Or the woman? And if this behavior continues, we will be in a deeper trench than we are in today. And the war against terrorism will end in a disgraceful defeat.

Q What do you mean, the coalition hired thugs?

A They hired [Afghan] thugs…thugs or warlords or whatever. They created militias of those people who had no limits to misbehavior and who were sent to people’s homes to search their homes, to arrest them and to intimidate them. And we’ve been trying to tell them for seven years now that that is wrong. We’ve tried to control it. There has been some improvement, but still, it continues to happen….This has to stop if you want to succeed. Only then we can begin to build the Afghan government. If they go to the Afghan homes and burst in and arrest or kill, does that leave the Afghan people with the feeling that they have a government? No. That is actually the destruction of the Afghan government. If Afghanistan is a sovereign country, if Afghanistan has an elected government, if Afghanistan has a constitution, if Afghanistan has laws, and if there is the slogan of strengthening the Afghan democracy and institutions, then the Afghan sovereignty and the Afghan laws must be respected, and not violated in such an extreme manner as it is being done today. Therefore my plea to the international community and to the American government is – and I will do this with them, we have already sent them some documents and reports on this – that we want to sit down and redraw the map of relationship in which we take responsibility for what’s gone wrong in my government, whether it’s corruption, whether it’s narcotics, whether it’s inefficiency… but we are committed to improving as we have improved already, and I would like the international community also to commit strongly to respecting the Afghan sovereignty and Afghan laws in conducting the war on terrorism with the right tools and the right attitude.

Q But the West is now talking about doing some sort of Awakenings movement in Afghanistan, which would do precisely what you’re talking about – empower these tribal groups.

A That’s wrong. If we create militias again, we will be ruining this country further. That’s not what I want. I have been talking for a long time first of all about raising a proper police force. For a long time now, which didn’t happen, which is only beginning to happen. And then I was talking for a long time about regaining the trust of the communities, meaning, in the first stage, to stop harassing them, to stop bursting into their homes, to stop arresting them at will, and to stop bombing villages. Once that happens, then we begin the recovery process of getting in contact with them, bringing back and giving them the trust that they need and enlisting them to cooperate, as they did in 2002. The Taliban were defeated with the help of the very people who are now under attack by the coalition forces. And this attack must stop.

Q How will more troops solve the problems in Afghanistan?

A Sending more troops to the Afghan cities, to the Afghan villages, will not solve anything. Sending more troops to control the border, is sensible, makes sense. Sending more troops to help the Afghans regain the territories that we had, in that by making terrible mistakes we lost to the Taliban, makes sense. That is where I need help. I don’t need help anywhere else.

Q But the U.S. is talking about sending the bulk of 4,000 troops to Wardak and Logar provinces, just outside Kabul, next month. What do you think about that?

A I don’t think we need forces there. I think we need them on the border and I think we need them especially to bring [southern] Helmand [province] back under the control of the Afghan people and the Afghan law.

Q There are supposed to be presidential elections next year. Are you planning on running, and why should people vote for you, given the situation in the country right now?

A I was not planning to run again, but I’m determined to do it now, because I’ve gained a lot of experience, because I have a relationship with the international community that’s based on truth-telling and sincerity, because in that sincerity I tell them the harsh truth that sometimes annoys them but is good for us, it’s like a bitter medicine, because I raised my voice for the protection of the Afghan people, and the Afghan people must continue to have this service. Because I’m committed to an Afghanistan that is not a burden on the international community, because I want to complete this journey and this mission for the good of Afghanistan and the international community. I want them to succeed in Afghanistan and by them, the international community, succeeding in Afghanistan, Afghanistan will have a better life, and that’s what I want to deliver to the Afghan people.

Q Is there a deadline for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan?

A No such thing as a deadline, no, we don’t want that. We want a success line, not a deadline. We want time for success. We want time for mission accomplished. And mission accomplished is defeat of terrorism and a prosperous, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan.

Q What do you want as part of this new plan you’re talking about, this new agreement you want to reach with the international community?

A Redraw a relationship on the military conduct of the international community in Afghanistan. Focus on the war of terrorism with effectiveness of removing the sanctuaries and the reasons for it and the financers of it and all that. Removing the hurdles inadvertently created in the way of the Afghan government, allow it to work and to strengthen…Deliver the international assistance more effectively to Afghanistan. You can achieve a lot more with the money that you spend in Afghanistan if you do it differently, and have proper coordination of assistance.

Q Do you believe that your neighbor, Pakistan, is serious about the war on terrorism?

A President [ Asif Ali] Zardari is, no doubt, there’s no doubt about that. And I hope he and his government will succeed in this regard … I have full trust in him and his intentions. He has personally suffered a colossal loss [the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto] at the hands of terrorism, so I am sure he will do the right thing.

Q What about the Pakistani civilian government’s ability to control the country’s powerful army and intelligence agencies?

A That’s a different question. The intention’s right with President Zardari. The ability is something we must all help around.

Q What do you think about the performance of the new Pakistan civilian government?

A President Zardari and his government are committed to working against terrorism, but the sanctuaries are still there, and we all have to work together to have them removed. And now unfortunately, Pakistan is suffering too. Because we did not act in time to remove those sanctuaries, it’s become a victim of terrorism.

Q What do you think is the biggest mistake that has been made in the last seven years?

A Lack of concentration on the sanctuaries and lack of recognizing the immense goodwill in the Afghan people.

Q What is your biggest mistake in the last seven years?

A There’s a lot that I can talk about…When we succeeded in 2002, when I had talks with various representatives of the international community on supporting the Afghan government, and removing local power-holders, the illegal power-holders, I was told that they’re not going to be green on green. I should have stood up then and said, ‘Well, in that case, you decide whether you want to stay or leave.’ ..Second, I began to talk to the international community in private, with persuasion, and with a very soft manner. And unfortunately a lot of them thought that it was weakness. It was not. It was manners, and respect displayed, and great trust in the relationship that we wanted to build. And now that I am speaking for the last two years with a louder voice, it’s the frustration of the past, of the years before 2007, and I’ll give you an example to illustrate what I mean. In 2004, the Afghan people came to me from all around the country and said the police [are] weak…A particular instance of that was the example of Arghastan district in Kandahar, having a 250-kilometer border with Pakistan. The people of Arghastan came to me – this was 2004, right after presidential elections – they said: ‘President, we have only 40 policemen for 60,000 people. Some are on sick leave, some are off duty, and 15 or 20 are on the job, without vehicles, without means of transportation and without equipment, and a $20 a month salary.’ I raised this with our allies, and we kept talking and talking and talking and talking and talking. And then finally I believe in 2005 or 2006, after having spoken for so long, in a meeting downstairs, in the dining room, mid-day, the representative of the coalition forces that day told me, when I began to push the point, he said, ‘Mr. President, think of the positive. We are building clinics.’ As if clinics were a substitute for the police.

Q It sounds like you’re very frustrated with the international community.

A No, I’m not. I’m not. I’m trying to bring home a point, that Afghanistan, the Afghan people, are friends, and if you give them the right institutions we will succeed, and the right support, we will succeed.

Q What is the status right now of negotiations with the Taliban?

A I’d like to negotiate with them very much. And I’ve had an opinion on this from the very first day. But I don’t have an address for them. I don’t know where to find them. You can find the Pakistani Taliban…but I don’t know where to find the Afghan Taliban. I try to find them, I keep sending them messages, I don’t know their address. That is another big problem. The Afghan Taliban not having an address. Therefore, I will go back to my initial words, we must concentrate on the sanctuaries and on having it right with our brothers in Pakistan.

Q What do you think of President-elect Obama?

A I find him a very capable person, and I’m sure he has an understanding of the needs and the difficulties of the Afghan people. I’m not treating his remarks as a criticism of me. He reads reports. Of course I am at times quite rough with officials here, and when you are rough with someone, it’s bound to reflect in various ways back home. Look – we are walking through a very difficult period, both for America and Afghanistan in this war against terrorism. And this is a journey that has gone for a long time and that will continue to go for a long time. So in this journey, there are days that you are not happy with each other. There are days that you speak louder than softer or lower. At times the American leadership has tolerated my extreme harsh talk, and I am grateful to them for that. And at times, I have tolerated their lack of knowledge and lack of information on Afghanistan.

Q In many ways, it seems you have become the face of what’s gone wrong in Afghanistan, and people just blame President Karzai for everything. What do you think of that?

A That’s absolutely wrong, but I’m the president. Naturally people will blame me. I’m the president. I’m the punching box. And the Afghan people have expectations, the international community has expectations, I have expectations, and the Afghan people have expectations of the international communities…but the Afghan people know my heart for them, and my work for them. The international community at times fails to recognize that. And after all, the international community, especially the Western press, has been calling me the mayor of Kabul from the very first day. It’s nothing new. I was called the mayor of Kabul in 2002…And I’m still the mayor of Kabul. So it hasn’t changed. While this is the first time in the history of Afghanistan where we have a government that has reached more than half of Afghanistan’s nearly 40,000 villages. This is the first time in the history of Afghanistan where you have gone as far as the Pamir mountains of Afghanistan with a mobile clinic, and health facilities and schools. This is the first time in Afghanistan where you’ve reached the farthest parts of the country with roads. This is the first time in Afghanistan where your health services have gone beyond 85 percent of the population…There is a lot in this country that we can talk about and be proud of and the international community shares that pride with the Afghan people equally and we are grateful to them, in spite of my anger and criticism of the things that we must correct.

Q If civilian casualties continue and these raids continue that you mention, will there come a point when Afghanistan says enough, it’s time for the international troops to leave?

A I hope it will stop. I hope they will not make us go that far. I’m extremely angry and frustrated, and this I want to show, because I want them to know the anger that I have inside me, and the anger that the Afghan people have. But we are very tolerant, and the Afghans are very tolerant, because of this desire to succeed. And because of the friendship we have with the international community.

Q But at no point, will you say, time to leave?

A If it doesn’t stop, someday suddenly the Afghan people will ask for it.

Q As far as just getting more troops in here and empowering local militias, you don’t believe -

A Not militias, look, they have not understood the point…They are wrong, tell them that they are wrong. I saw in the press today, somewhere in the international press, talking of the international community raising tribal militias. That’s a disaster. That’s not what I have asked for. I am asking for regaining the trust of the Afghan tribes and communities and their elders and influentials. I am asking for first stopping their harassment and intimidation and arrest and going into their homes and then gaining their trust and that to through the Afghan government, through the mechanism that we have suggested, and that does not include raising militias. The Afghan people don’t want to have any more militias. They have suffered at the hands of the militias for so many years.

Q Some people say Afghanistan needs a strong leader -

A What does that mean? A strong leader means what? A strong leader means putting people in prison? A strong leader means kicking the international community out of Afghanistan? A strong leader means not asking for a change in strategy? A strong leader means what? Having a militia of his own? An army of his own? Or someone that has continued to hold the country together, that has made Afghanistan the home of all Afghans, that has raised a voice when it was necessary, that has spoken with almost the whole country, that has respected the freedom of the press, that has promoted the freedom of the press, that believes in democracy and the freedom of expression for Afghan people, and that has asked for the right changes in attitude of the international community. Now whenever I ask for change, I’m accused of not being a strong leader, and mostly by the international press. Well, OK. If I tow the line, I’ll be called a strong leader. When I ask for change, I’m a weak leader. I was a lovely man when I was keeping quiet. I’m a nasty man, a no-good leader, when I began to speak. Got the point? Alright…But of course, inside the country, I’ve been soft. Very, very soft. And I have been soft deliberately…I’ve been a persuasive man, not a pushing and shoving man, and I think that was the reason we kept the country together for the last seven years, in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of the environment in which we lived. We walked Afghanistan through a storm, cyclones, hurricanes, rocks and mountains, and we kept it going…So I’ve been soft inside Afghanistan, hard with the international community, when it’s needed.

Q What would you say to the parents of the Illinois National Guard soldiers, given that the Illinois National Guard is now sending its largest deployment since World War II to Afghanistan?

A Afghanistan’s prosperity and Afghanistan’s safety and security and the defeat of terrorism will guarantee safety and security and prosperity for the American families back home. Afghanistan was taken over by extremism and Al Qaeda, and that’s why Americans suffered. And I had warned of this, in July of 2000, when I spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in very clear words. So the Afghans are friends, all that I’m saying is, please treat Afghan people as your friends and allies, don’t suspect them, don’t burst into their homes, have them with you, don’t push them away from you.

Debate on the ACABQ Budget Report, including UNAMA

Statement by Mr. Wahidullah AminSecond Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Fifth Committee debate on the ACABQ Budget Report, including UNAMA

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, since my delegation is taking the floor for the first time during a formal meeting, let me congratulate you Mr. Chairman and the members of the bureau on your election. I would also like to thank Ms Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for introducing the report of the ACABQ on United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan, after twenty-five years of war and conflict imposed from outside the country, and six years of the Taliban regime, faced heavily damaged physical infrastructure, and a significant loss of human life. Afghanistan was hijacked by Al Qaida, who used Afghan territory to organize and lead their global terrorist acts and supported the Taliban in installing a regime of fear that brutally repressed the population. With the assistance of the UN and the international community, great progress has been made since 2001.

The Afghan Government has, as its primary goal, the creation of a stable constitutional, democratic state with effective institutions that can help our people rebuild their lives and their country after decades of war. This cannot be accomplished without the help and support of the international community. UNAMA plays an integral coordinating role by streamlining the efforts of the international community and supporting the ownership of the Afghan Government. National ownership of the reconstruction process is necessary to ensure the stability and sustainability of the results. UNAMA has done an admirable job thus far, and we look forward to working with them further as their new mandate is enacted.

UNAMA has grown since its creation precisely because it serves such an essential coordinating and advising role. The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Kai Eide, has become a trusted presence in this process, and we are grateful to him for his efforts. In order to effectively discharge its responsibilities, UNAMA needs increased staff and support, and more specialized expertise. It is in this regard that we fully support the proposed increased budget for UNAMA in the coming year.

Mr. Chairman,

The next elections, scheduled to be held in 2009 and 2010, will be the first to be administered by Afghan authorities since the 1970s. UNAMA is providing essential assistance for the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission in the voter registration process. Successful elections in 2009 and 2010 will reaffirm the legitimacy of the Afghan Government, and will form a necessary step towards creating a prosperous and peaceful society for all Afghans.

As the Afghan Government puts all of its energy towards the Afghan National Development Strategy, we look forward to the increased coordinating capacity of UNAMA to help ensure the success of the ANDS.

Mr. Chairman,

The harshest winter in 30 years, combined with lack of capacity of the Afghan government, has aggravated the existing humanitarian challenges in the country. Poverty and lack of access to food, medical care and education remain major obstacles to equitable and sustainable development. There has been significant progress in some areas, but Afghanistan still faces the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and 42 percent of the country still lives in extreme poverty.

In addition, with almost 2000 NGO’s, 20 international organizations, and 41 troop contributing countries all trying to work together in Afghanistan, it is essential that someone coordinate all of these efforts, to ensure the ownership of the Afghan people and its elected government, and the growth of national capacity. UNAMA has proven itself capable of a larger role in the stabilization process, and we will support them in the coming year.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.