Thursday, August 21, 2014

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

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

At the Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

Allow me to begin by congratulating you on your assumption of the Presidency of this Council for this month of October. We wish you every success. We also extend our appreciation for the convening of today’s important debate and welcome the Secretary General’s report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security. We are also grateful for Mr. Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary General, for his insightful briefings this morning.

Mr. President,

Seven years ago this month, an unprecedented war was launched-a war not against a country, not against a state, but against the amorphous scourge of terrorism that was threatening to undermine security in all reaches of the world. This war was unavoidable, inevitable, and absolutely necessary.

Now, in 2008, despite hard work on the part of international coalition forces and Afghans alike, terrorism appears to be on the rise again.  The Taliban burn down schools, stamp out reconstruction, and butcher civilians. They attack roads and regions around Kabul, hampering international humanitarian relief. Ordinary people are increasingly their targets. Their belligerence against true progress and security in Afghanistan is continuous, boundless and cruel. To push back against this scourge, we must first understand the changes in the sources and the strategy of the threat since 2001.

The Government of Afghanistan, first, recognizes that the Taliban is a heterogeneous group, some members of which may be willing to participate in the peace process. Our government will keep the door open for these members.

Second, the Government of Afghanistan acknowledges the evolving strategy of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. While the world’s attention was focused within the borders of Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaeda intensified operations in the FATA border regions of Pakistan. They now hope to use the timing of the elections in the United States and Afghanistan to force a change in international commitment in Afghanistan.

Third, the Taliban are fighting a war of perception. They seek to instill uncertainty about prospects for peace in Afghanistan by launching attacks of a spectacular nature-attacks that the media and the news can easily seize and broadcast.

Mr. President,

We must also recognize that security is not confined to military security. Real security is established by improvement in the day-to-day lives of Afghans: measured by improvement in humanitarian efforts, in governance and rule of law, in counter-narcotics, in the upcoming elections, in a strong army and police, and in a strong and sustainable economy.

First, the humanitarian situation regarding the food shortage in Afghanistan needs immediate attention from the international community, especially as winter approaches. This crisis is the first topic discussed and pursued in every Afghanistan cabinet meeting this year. Our government hopes that the world heeds the UN’s call for increased international relief efforts.

Secondly, three days ago, our government took a crucial step toward improving governance and eliminating corruption: H.E. President Karzai announced the reshuffling of the cabinet, including the appointment of a new interior minister.  This key move accompanies the creation of High Office of Oversight for Anti-Corruption and special anti-corruption police and prosecutors. We are also strengthening local governance through new appointments, trainings of local administrators, and new incentives for accountability.

Third, counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan are seeing the beginning of a breakthrough. More than half of provinces are poppy-free. The few remaining centers of poppy cultivation are in the insecure areas of Afghanistan, where international and government efforts have been unable to put down real roots. The Government of Afghanistan applauds NATO ISAF forces’ recent decision to target opium factories for the first time.

Fourth, our government understands the tremendous importance of secure, transparent, timely and credible presidential elections in the summer of 2009. There is no alternative to elections in ensuring the legitimacy of the peace process in Afghanistan. To this end, we have drafted legislation on the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and held our first day of registration last week. However, our government also cautions that the elections require a process of sustained long-term efforts, and hopes that that we ensure that the political process acts as a unifying, rather than a divisive, force for Afghanistan.

Fifth, the Afghan National Army has accomplished significant improvements in control and command, and plans are in place to increase its numbers from 75,000 to 134,000 by 2010. The Afghan National Police has also increased its activity and is the focus of rank and pay reform.  Sixth, the Government of Afghanistan is strongly dedicated to improving the economic livelihood of every Afghan. We are building roads, schools and clinics in more than 2/3 of villages through the National Solidarity Program. As a testament to our efforts, the GDP has tripled since 2001.

In short, the Government of Afghanistan is making progress on many fronts. However, our goals are so ambitious as to need strong and sustained international support to be fully realized.

Mr. President,

The way forward in Afghanistan is to recognize that abandonment and failure are not options. We must stop engaging in the wrong debate of whether or not we will fail-we must instead focus on the right debate, on how we can succeed. This right debate acknowledges the absolute necessity for the following four items: a regional solution, sustained international commitment, appropriate strategies in this war of perceptions, and lastly, a consideration of all components important to a successful political solution to Afghanistan’s challenges.

First, it is now clear that the Taliban is a regional threat. Its base of operations is no longer in Afghanistan, but in the border regions of FATA. We have found in the new President of Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, a friend and trusted leader to address terrorism together. Our Foreign Minister, H.E. Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, will visit Pakistan on October 22nd to further this collaboration and discuss long-term strategic relations between two countries. However, the international community also has the responsibility to continue this momentum between the elected government of Pakistan and Afghanistan by boosting joint efforts to eradicate the threat of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Second, the Government of Afghanistan applauds the international community for its reinvigorated attention on Afghanistan. We commend Mr. Kai Eide’s leadership to coordinate the efforts of the international community. Only six months into his term, we are seeing positive results from the stronger collaboration between our government and the UN. In addition, the Bucharest summit and Paris conference produced a strong consensus that the international community will stay engaged in Afghanistan as long as is necessary, verifying international aid pledges that totaled more than $20 billion. In the seven years since international forces first entered Afghanistan, international attention has often flagged. But, this new relationship with the UN, the Bucharest consensus and the Paris momentum are all indications that international attention is refocused. Let us sustain this attention and not lose focus again.

The third important aspect of the way forward is a full consideration of how to wage a smarter war of perception. Three things need to be done:

1. We should be careful with what we say about Afghanistan. Media outlets move with astonishing speed in Afghanistan and word of mouth carries any pessimistic news quickly to the Afghan people. The Taliban have used some recent statements and reports as a powerful weapon to convince the Afghan people that the international community’s resolve is wavering. This is undeniably harmful for our operations and efforts forward in Afghanistan.

2. We must not underestimate our successes. The GDP of Afghanistan has tripled since 2001. In two-thirds of Afghanistan, there is no conflict and millions of Afghans work and live their lives peacefully. The international community must not under-report the many success stories in Afghanistan.

3. Our assessment and reports must be stronger in reporting destruction and brutality caused by the Taliban. We build a school in six months; they burn it down in six minutes. The Taliban are, in fact, responsible for the majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan this year.

The last aspect of the way forward is in regards to the Secretary General’s “political surge” in Afghanistan. Such political surge must consider all these components to be successful:

1. Reconciliation efforts must be better framed both inside and outside of Afghanistan. Currently, these reconciliation efforts are portrayed as an “alternative” to the efforts of the last seven years. In fact, reconciliation is but another tool in our arsenal to ensure progress is continued towards a stable Afghanistan. From members of the Ulama to tribal leaders, strong forces desire peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.  Thus, important steps have been taken in recent months to begin this reconciliation process.

2. A “political surge” includes not only reconciliation with interested parties, but also a strengthening of relationships with Afghan communities themselves. This outreach of the Government of Afghanistan will be extended to both communities under Taliban influence and those in secure, peaceful regions.

3. A political surge cannot afford to neglect the importance of military action. Afghanistan must be able to negotiate from a position of strength, which depends on the strong backing of international troops and the Afghan National Army.  An increase in international troops is an essential and necessary first step to counter terrorist activities.  However, these troops must also be willing to face enemies and conduct operations thoroughly. They should address responsibly the issue of civilian casualties that is a challenge to our goal of winning the Afghan people’s hearts and minds.

Mr. President,

We face at this time a critical opportunity to turn the tide against forces of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan will devote itself fully and completely to the quest for security and peace. In turn, we hope that this venerated council will continue to generate the right debate, a debate that acknowledges the importance of a regional solution as well as sustained international commitment; a debate that assembles, with urgency, appropriate strategies to fight effectively in this war of perceptions; and a debate that considers all of the components important to a successful “political surge.”

Thank you for your attention.

Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 56: Advancement of Women

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 56: Advancement of Women

Mr. Chairman,

On behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, I would like to fully align with the statement made by the distinguished representative of Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Mr. Chairman,

The situation of women in Afghanistan began to attract the international community’s attention when the barbaric regime of the Taliban, in power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, implemented its discriminatory and totalitarian policies aimed at excluding women from the political, economical, social and cultural life of Afghanistan. Never in the world’s modern history has a regime been more cruel, repressive and misogynistic than under the Taliban’s rule. Based on a wrong interpretation of Islam, basic rights such as the right to free movement, to education, to work as well as to receive health care were denied to women for five long years. A whole generation of Afghan women has been deprived of the fundamentals of knowledge that would have allowed them to aspire to a better future.

The fall of the regime of the Taliban has contributed to liberating Afghan women from the oppression that they were subjected to and has allowed them to regain their position in Afghan society as equal citizens benefiting from the same rights and having the same duties as their male counterparts. Today, seven years after the beginning of the stabilization, reconstruction and development of the country, significant progress has been achieved in Afghanistan to restore women’s equal participation in all aspects of life and reduce gender disparities.

Mr. Chairman,

The empowerment of Afghan women through the defense and promotion of their rights is a top priority in Afghanistan’s political agenda. A strong policy framework has been established to allow the implementation of this vision. The Afghan constitution, the Afghanistan Compact, the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and the Afghan Millennium Development Goals Report place gender equality as a core objective. Afghanistan has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) as well as CRC’s two Optional Protocols.

The efforts undertaken by the Government of Afghanistan to advance the status of Afghan women have not been limited to the enshrinement of policy documents. We have made significant progress in political, economic, social and human rights areas; allow me to share some of them with you.

Afghan women are participating more in the political arena. As a matter of fact, Afghan women represent 28% of the National Assembly and account for almost 26% of all civil servants. Moreover, Afghan women are no longer excluded from professional activities and play a significant role in Afghanistan’s economic sector. For instance, they represent 30% of agricultural workers.

Afghan women’s access to health care has improved through the development of the Basic Package of Health Services which includes emergency obstetric care. In addition, the number of health care workers has increased to 15,001 in 2007, of which 49.3% are women.

In the area of education, 40 % of the 6 million children enrolled in school are girls. In universities and other institutes of higher education, about twenty percent of 50,000 students are females. Recently, 58.8% of students enrolling in Teacher Training Institutions in Afghanistan were female.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government has also intensified its efforts to mainstream gender equality and implement the various commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Each Ministry has established a unit to facilitate the monitoring of the implementation of the ten year Afghan National Action Plan for Women (NAPWA). Moreover a Gender Budgeting Unit has been established in the Ministry of Finance that focuses on policies and resource allocation to specific programmes for women.

Nevertheless the capacity of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) needs to be significantly enhanced to be able to coordinate this effort, to provide technical assistance and gender training to the various Ministries, and to monitor the overall implementation of NAPWA.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite the intensification of efforts provided by our Government and the progress achieved, the resurgence of extremist ideologies and activities of the Taliban as well as widespread poverty contribute to difficulties Afghan women face today. This reality brings back haunting memories of challenges to Afghan women’s security, economic and social activities and human rights.

Although Afghan women’s lack of access to health services is mainly caused by illiteracy, poverty, lack of roads or transportation, and a limited number of female health professionals, the deterioration of the security situation caused by the Taliban has contributed to further impeding women’s access to health facilities. This constitutes an obstacle to reversing the serious statistic in which an Afghan woman dies every 30 minutes because of pregnancy related complications.

The access to education facilities of Afghan women, especially in rural areas, is limited by the lack of female teachers, the remote location of schools, and the bad roads and transportation. In addition, the terror campaign carried out by the Taliban has particularly affected girls’ enrollment in schools and attendance in provinces located in the south and east of the country. Schools are burned and female teachers and girl students are attacked, threatened or intimidated by the Taliban. According to the Ministry of Education, girls represent less than 15% of the total enrollment in nine provinces in the east and the south of Afghanistan.

The Government of Afghanistan believes that the sustainable reconstruction and development of the country require full and equal participation of Afghan women in socio-economic activities of Afghanistan. However, women in Afghanistan are more unlikely than men to be engaged in economic activities when they are insecure.

Mr. Chairman,

Violence against women is an odious violation of human rights that needs to be tackled with intense efforts. The Government of Afghanistan criminalizes violence against women and is strongly committed to working to address this issue through new initiatives. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has teamed with UNIFEM to develop a comprehensive database of cases concerning violence against women in order to be able to better address reported cases.

Mr. Chairman,

Poverty remains the biggest obstacle in Afghanistan in achieving MDG3. We would like to stress the need for a full partnership and expanded cooperation with the international community in our mutual commitment to attain the MDGs and advance the status of women in the world. In that regard, we highlight the need for a considerable increase in the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for Least Developed Countries, particularly countries emerging from conflict, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Finally Mr. Chairman,

The upcoming elections in Afghanistan are crucial to the future of the Afghan people for many reasons. Not only will we be cementing the achievements we have made in establishing a new democracy, but the people of Afghanistan will once again express their opposition to the perverse treatment of women and the barbaric injustice of the Taliban. However, the Taliban are continuing their intimidation campaign against the Afghan people, and if the international community does not rise to confront this challenge by the supporting the efforts of the democratic Government of Afghanistan, our achievements in the past seven years and all of the gains Afghan women have made will be in jeopardy.

Thank you for your attention.