Monday, July 28, 2014

“Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin,  Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN

Delivered by: Mr. Mohammad Erfani Ayoob, Minister Counselor, Charge d’ affairs, a.i.
At the Security Council debate under agenda item

“Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

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Mr. President,

I would like to begin by congratulating you for your assumption to the Presidency of this Council, and thanking you for holding this meeting today, which is highly important for my delegation . I would also like to thank Under Secretary-General Mr. John Holmes for his typically concise and insightful presentation . And finally, I would thank His Excellency the Secretary-General for a thoughtful and comprehensive report and its annex on constraints on humanitarian access . The United Nations has brought serious attention to the plight of suffering civilians caught in the crossfire and established a comprehensive framework in the Security Council to deal with protection of civilians during the arm conflict . However , with the recent trend towards asymmetric conflicts , and the tendency of non-state actors to use civilians as human shields or worse , this work is even more essential.

Mr. President,

The Government of Afghanistan with the assistance of our friends in the International Community, making a good progress to provide Afghans the opportunity for a better life, while the enemies of Afghanistan are continuing to bring more suffering to the civilians of this war stricken nation. As numerous UN reports have detailed , the Taliban and their local and international allies show an increasingly blatant disregard for human life in Afghanistan .They rely increasingly on the use of improvised explosive devices detonated in high-density civilian areas, which cause indiscriminate damage and loss of life , and affect predominantly women and children. The Taliban have stepped up their use of assassinations, school attacks, kidnappings, and threats targeted against those accused of “cooperating” with the government or the international community . They continue to use civilians as human shields, milking accidental tragedy for their propaganda.

Mr. President,

The Taliban have two simple aims ; first, they want to terrify our citizens and convince them they are helpless and cannot trust the international community or their government to protect them; and secondly, they seek to divide the Afghans and the international community, weakening us both. We cannot and shall not let them succeed in either of these goals.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately , in the course of our fight against terrorism, some time civilians have become victims, however unintentionally, of our actions as well . Every civilian death hurts our cause. Each death undermines the faith of the people in their government, and weakens our most valuable asset in the rebuilding of Afghanistan : the Afghans themselves . The Afghan people rightly expect that efforts to fight terrorism would be part of a larger counterterrorism effort rather than vice versa. Their security , should be central. The best hope for the Afghan people is the continuing support of the international community, and Afghans are more aware of this than anyone . We all understand the necessity of defeating the brutally violent and dark minded elements who wage war on peace, stability and prosperity in our region and in the world. Our allies have sent their sons and daughters to fight on foreign land, and Afghanistan is profoundly grateful for this . Without the assistance of international community and their military presence, our people would not have escaped the repression and brutality of the Taliban era and would not, now, have a better future in sight.

Mr. President

The safety of each person and the prevention of death of innocent civilians are critically important for us , and the Government of Afghanistan has raised this issue so repeatedly with our friends and allies. Afghans should be made to feel that their security ,safety and integrity are the centerpiece of our fight .We welcome the recent reviews on this issue, and applaud decisions by the US and NATO to improve rules of engagement in populated areas, minimize the use of air bombardment, and make human security a priority in our strategy . In addition to this Mr. President , it is fundamentally important that the international community should focus and do more on the professional training and better equipping of our growing Afghan National Army and Police forces, so that the Government of Afghanistan should take more and eventually all responsibility for the protection of its citizens. The main goal of Afghan Government and our allies to fight terrorism is to bring a better future for Afghan people . Therefore , while fighting their enemies, we must take every measure to protect them and make sure that they do not become victims of that conflict , and have the opportunity to build their lives in safety and dignity .
Thank you, Mr. President.

United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development

The United Nations is convening a three-day summit of world leaders from 24 to 26 June 2009 at its New York Headquarters to assess the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression. The aim is to identify emergency and long-term responses to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially on vulnerable populations, and initiate a needed dialogue on the transformation of the international financial architecture, taking into account the needs and concerns of all Member States. The UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development will provide a uniquely inclusive forum to address issues of urgent concern to all nations.

Recent assessments of the impact of the ongoing economic crisis increasingly highlight the deteriorating social and political fallout in the least developed countries and middle-income countries as well. Prospects for an early recovery have faded, forcing countries to prepare for a prolonged downturn in trade, investment and employment.

In 2009 global economic growth has entered negative territory. Credit flows have dried up and major investment firms and lending institutions have been wiped off the map. Jobs are disappearing by more than a million a month, according to the International Labour Organization, and trade has dropped at the steepest rate since the Great Depression, the World Trade Organization observed.

A development emergency

The situation in the world’s developing countries – which contributed least to the crisis and are most severely affected – has led some economists to warn of “lost decades for development” which could have catastrophic consequences for rich and poor countries alike.

After struggling with high prices for food, fuel and fertilizers as well as the effects of climate change, these countries face rapidly shrinking trade and export-import credits. Private capital flows to emerging economies this year are projected to be down by 82 per cent from the boom year of 2007, the Institute of International Finance says. The World Bank, which has described the crisis as a “development emergency”, projects a finance gap of up to $700 billion in these countries, and the possibility of a “lost generation,” with added deaths of 1.5 to 2.8 million infants by 2015. Over 100 million people are expected to be tipped into extreme poverty each year for the duration of the crisis.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently warned that the international community, “should not lose sight of the challenges and plight of hundreds and hundreds of million of the poorest people of the developing countries who have been impacted by this crisis.” Middle income countries are increasingly affected by the downturn as well.

Conference at the highest level

The United Nations summit of world leaders in June was mandated at the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development, held in December 2008 in Doha, Qatar. Member States requested the General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann to organize the meeting “at the highest level”. The conference will consist of plenary sessions and four interactive roundtable exchanges among world leaders and representatives of the United Nations system, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as civil society organizations and the private sector. The summit will produce an outcome document, a draft of which can be found on the Conference website.

The four Roundtables for examining and overcoming the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development will address the issues of: 1) the impact on the crisis on employment, trade, investment and development, including the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals and the Millennium Development Goals; 2) actions and appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis on development; 3) the role of the United Nations and its Member States in the ongoing international discussions on reforming and strengthening the international financial and economic system and architecture; 4) contributions of the United Nations development system in response to the crisis.

The Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development brings to bear the full authority of the General Assembly, the only universal body of sovereign states. It is not a counter-measure or alternative channel to existing international fora on economic cooperation and financial regulations. Rather, it opens up a complementary and supporting process that brings with it the voice, and ultimately the buy-in, of all 192 UN Member States.

“We have an historic opportunity – and a collective responsibility –to bring new stability and sustainability to the international economic financial order,” Assembly President d’Escoto declared recently. “This transformation – which could begin to narrow the North/South divide — requires the involvement of all nations of the world. This is the meeting of the G-192.”

To amplify the voices of all countries, rich, poor and middle income, and to clarify global thinking on the most far-reaching 21st century challenge to date, the General Assembly has held a number of timely interactive debates and consultations on the issues to provide inputs into the conference. These have served to develop a shared view of the scale, scope and impact of the crisis; to assess resource requirements and mobilization; and to review institutional roles and relationships among world bodies, especially within the UN system itself.

Inputs for Final Outcome Document

A commission of experts established by the President also submitted a score of preliminary recommendations on immediate and longer-term measures vis-à-vis the workings of the global financial system in March. Comprised of economists and finance officials from all regions and chaired by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System highlighted a range of practical proposals for improving the international financial architecture in March. These and other inputs serve as the basis for the drafting of a conference outcome document, a draft of which can be found on the Conference website..

Source: United Nations

U.S. Toughens Airstrike Policy in Afghanistan

By DEXTER FILKINS-

KABUL, Afghanistan – The new American commander in Afghanistan said he would sharply restrict the use of airstrikes here, in an effort to reduce the civilian deaths that he said were undermining the American-led mission.

In interviews over the past few days, the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, said the use of airstrikes during firefights would in most cases be allowed only to prevent American and other coalition troops from being overrun.

Even in the cases of active firefights with Taliban forces, he said, airstrikes will be limited if the combat is taking place in populated areas – the very circumstances in which most Afghan civilian deaths have occurred. The restrictions will be especially tight in attacking houses and compounds where insurgents are believed to have taken cover.

“Air power contains the seeds of our own destruction if we do not use it responsibly,” General McChrystal told a group of his senior officers during a video conference last week. “We can lose this fight.”

“When we shoot into a compound, that should only be for the protection of our forces,” he said. “I want everyone to understand that.”

The statements by General McChrystal signaled the latest tightening of the rules for using airstrikes, which, while considered indispensable for protecting troops, have killed hundreds of civilians.

They have also angered the Afghan government, which has repeatedly criticized American and NATO forces for not taking enough care with civilian lives.

In December, the American commander at the time, Gen. David D. McKiernan, issued guidelines ordering his soldiers to use force that was proportional to the provocation and that minimized the risk of civilian casualties.

General McChrystal’s new guidelines follow a deadly episode last month in the Afghan village of Granai, where American airstrikes killed dozens of civilians.

The episode highlighted the difficulties facing American officers under fire, as they are forced to balance using lethal force to protect their troops with rules restricting the use of firepower to prevent civilian deaths.

The episode, on May 4, began when a large group of Taliban fighters attacked a group of about 200 Afghan soldiers and police officers and American advisers. During the firefight, which began just after noon and carried on into the night, the Americans on the ground called for air support.

American fighter jets, and then bombers, came to the scene, dropping a number of 500- and 2,000-pound bombs. The bombs succeeded in ending the attack, but they did much more damage as well.

A Pentagon report estimated that at least 26 civilians had been killed in the airstrikes. It concluded that American personnel had made significant errors, including violating procedures, that led to those deaths. Among those errors, the report said, was a failure by the American personnel to discern whether Afghan civilians were in the compound before they attacked.

Other credible estimates of civilian deaths in Granai ranged much higher. An investigation by a Kabul-based group, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that at least 86 women and children had been killed, and as many as 97 civilians altogether. The Afghan government said 140 civilians had been killed.

The Pentagon report did not dispute the conclusions reached by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and referred to its “balanced, thorough investigation.”

The deaths in Granai make up part of the huge rise in civilian casualties that are characterizing the war in Afghanistan.

A United Nations report found that the number of Afghan civilians killed in 2008 was 40 percent higher than in 2007. The Taliban and other insurgents caused the majority of the civilian deaths, primarily through suicide bombers and roadside bombs.

The changes highlighted by General McChrystal go to the heart of what went wrong in Granai. In that case, there were at least four airstrikes: the first by F-18 fighters and the other three by a B-1B bomber. The report found that it was the last two airstrikes that probably caused the civilian deaths.

In those cases, the report found, the bomber’s crew tracked suspected Taliban fighters as they entered a building, and then attacked without determining whether civilians were inside. The report said there were probably civilians inside those buildings when they were destroyed.

Under the rules that General McChrystal outlined, those strikes would almost certainly be prohibited. They would be prohibited, the general said, even if it meant letting some Taliban get away.

Referring to airstrikes, General McChrystal said, “If it is just to defeat the enemy, then we are not going to do it, even if it means we are going to step away from that firefight and fight another time.”

According to the Pentagon report, the B-1B dropped five 500-pound bombs and two 2,000-pound bombs. The initial airstrikes, carried out by four F-18 fighters-bombers, the report said, killed insurgents but no civilians.

Ahmad Nader Nadery, the director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said Sunday that the American response in Granai was “disproportionate.” And he said he was pleased by the changes outlined by General McChrystal.

“We are looking forward to seeing the new guidelines, and actually seeing how they would be translated into practice,” he said.

Last September, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered new rules specifically to defuse tensions over Afghan civilian deaths.

During a recent visit to Kabul, Mr. Gates said the American military would quickly apologize and offer compensation to survivors in cases of civilian deaths, even in advance of formal investigations to determine exactly what had happened.

“I think the key for us is, on those rare occasions when we do make a mistake, when there is an error, to apologize quickly, to compensate the victims quickly, and then carry out the investigation,” Mr. Gates said after a meeting with President Hamid Karzai.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.

The New York Times