Saturday, December 27, 2014

“Women and Peace and Security”

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
At the Security Council open debate on
“Women and Peace and Security”

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Statement

Mr. President,

First, allow me to congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of the Council for the month of August, and thank you for convening the debate on this crucial topic. I would also like to welcome the report of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, which reflects both the appalling scope and devastating effects of this issue.

Mr. President,
Afghanistan remains fully dedicated to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820 on the rights of women in conflict situations. It has become clear that the lack of a stable, secure state leads often to persistent violations of human rights, particularly women’s rights. Insecurity allows extremism to flourish, and makes it extremely difficult for governments and international organizations to provide even basic services to their citizens. Lack of resources and capacity limits the ability of governments to effectively enforce protective legislative and judicial mechanisms. Without the equal involvement of half of our populations in our civil societies, economies, and political systems, our nations are deeply incapacitated, and our children, economies, and even the stability of our countries suffer.

Mr. President,
Only eight years ago, under the brutal Taliban regime, Afghanistan had no provisions for the protection of women and human rights; but despite ongoing difficulties, we have made significant progress, particularly in education and healthcare. Women’s issues are taken into account at each stage of the national stabilization process and in national strategies like the ANDS. Afghanistan has the legal and judicial mechanisms in place to achieve success. We are also party to the relevant international mechanisms, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). However, the ongoing support of the international community for Afghan efforts is absolutely necessary, both to encourage our citizens’ bottom-up efforts towards success and to sustain the government’s top-down labors. We have emerged from the darkness of a long national nightmare, but we still have more work to do.

Mr. President,
In the past thirty years, Afghans have experienced violence on an almost unprecedented scale. Persistent poverty and other symptoms of conflict have disproportionately affected women. And for the first time in the 1990s, during a bloody internecine war, physical and psychological violence was accompanied by horrendous acts of sexual abuse. The scars of these abuses continue to be seen and felt today.

Women in Afghanistan still face not just sexual violence, but sexual discrimination and oppression caused and exacerbated by enduring insecurity and the terrorist activities of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In some particularly unstable parts of the country, where the Taliban are still active or where the rule of law is not yet strong, women attempting to work or hold office face abuse, threats, and physical attacks. Other women have their rights curtailed, and are forced into marriage and other exploitative situations. Even in areas free of the Taliban threat, a creeping Talibanisation promotes an un-Islamic, un-Afghan culture that denies women’s basic rights.

Mr. President,
Afghanistan supports the Secretary-General’s analysis that a central step towards preventing violence against women is to combat gender discrimination, and to give women a larger role in political and decision-making processes. Afghanistan’s experience shows that there is no better advocate for women’s rights than women themselves, and so we must do everything we can to help them be heard.

In the upcoming presidential and provincial elections, the participation of women will be crucial to success. We have had some praiseworthy victories: millions of women have registered to vote, and educational programs run by the Government, UNFPA, and UNAMA educate women about the voting process and their rights and opportunities as citizens. Our Constitution guarantees women at least 25% of seats in provincial councils, and 27% of seats in Parliament, and women have served as governors and in the Cabinet. A growing number of women have registered as candidates: a record-breaking 328 women are running for provincial councils, and 2 women are among the presidential candidates.
Nonetheless, Mr. President,
Some women parliamentarians have suggested that security concerns may prevent them from presenting themselves in the upcoming 2010 parliamentary elections. Even if the governmental mechanisms are in place to ensure equality, women are silenced within a culture of shame, and even more do not demand their rights due to a lack of awareness or support. My Government will continue to enlist cultural, political, and religious leaders to encourage a proper understanding of women’s Islamic and political rights, and to explicitly and publicly condemn all violence against women and girls; impunity only reinforces patterns of violence.

Mr. President,
Afghan women need the support and protection of the UN, the international community and the government of Afghanistan as they work to transform society. The role of the UN and international community in this struggle should be to support the Government of Afghanistan with resources, knowledge, policy guidance, and capacity-building. Led by this Council, we should also encourage a moral and legal awareness of women’s rights both locally and in multilateral forums, and keep violence against women at the top of the international agenda. With this support, we can work to strengthen judicial mechanisms and decrease reliance on local, ad hoc justice systems that frequently disadvantage women. We can increase the number of women in the Afghan National Police and have more units dedicated to domestic violence. We can also do more to combat extremism and educate the public about the rights of women by publicizing and enforcing international and Islamic human rights norms.

Mr. President,
The women of Afghanistan continue to suffer from violence. However, social transformation, like political stabilization and economic development, is a gradual process that requires security and continuity. We have learned that the surest way to improve the situation of women is to provide them education, protection, and support, and to give them a platform from which to speak for themselves. My Government remains fully committed to this cause.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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Central Asia’s Northern Exposure

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN – Russian agreement to allow U.S. military over-flight rights to ferry lethal goods to Afghanistan was one of the signal achievements of the recent meetings in Moscow between Presidents Barack Obama and Dimtri Medvedev.

Last month in Moscow, Russian officials told us that Afghanistan was the area where American and Russian interests are most closely aligned, and cooperation on stabilizing Afghanistan may be the most promising area to “reset” our bilateral relationship.

Less publicized has been Moscow’s agreement earlier this year to allow for overland transit of nonlethal goods through Russian territory and on to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (with Kazakh and Uzbek agreement, of course) where they cross into northern Afghanistan at Heraton. These goods are shipped on trains that originate in the Latvian capital of Riga, and since the transit corridor was established, at least 20 rail convoys have made the trip. The supply trains have been given preferential right-of-way to speed the trip to about nine days.

Perhaps even less well-known is that Russian commercial cargo carriers have been shipping non-lethal goods out of the Middle East aboard massive Antonov 124 “Ruslan” cargo planes to Afghanistan for more than a year. To the great relief of the Pentagon, whose own cargo fleet is under tremendous stress, this heavy lift service was one of the few areas of U.S.-Russian cooperation that did not fall victim to the breakdown in the relationship last year over the Georgia war.

It seems a little odd that aspects of this cooperation on Afghanistan – one of Washington’s highest foreign and security policy challenges – are not better known. Perhaps that is because there remain questions about just how much Russia wants to see the United States succeed in Afghanistan. This issue was certainly raised earlier this year when the government of Kyrgyzstan announced that it would close the U.S. base in Manas, a decision that was reversed shortly before the Obama-Medvedev meeting last month, presumably with Russian support.

In our recent discussions in Tashkent with very high-level Uzbek government officials, this question came up repeatedly, and the answers we got were not reassuring. Uzbekistan is the key country in the establishment of the northern supply route, what the U.S. military calls the Northern Distribution Network. The United States needs the NDN both because of its over-reliance on a single line of transit through volatile regions of Pakistan and because its growing military force in Afghanistan will require a threefold increase in supplies.

Uzbek officials are deeply skeptical of Moscow. They believe the Russians see their interests best served by continued instability in Afghanistan. Instability will increase both the terrorist threat to Central Asia as well as the flow of drugs, and serve to justify a heightened Russian military presence in the region.

Afghan instability also prevents opening or expanding southern transit corridors for Central Asian exports that could quickly reach global markets from ports in either Pakistan or Iran. Instead, the bulk of goods from Uzbekistan and its neighbors must be shipped northward, leaving them dependent on routes controlled by Moscow.

The Russians already have a major military presence in Tajikistan, as well as an air base in Kyrgyzstan at Kant, near the Manas airport outside the capital of Bishkek. Moscow hopes to finalize an agreement soon to establish a new base in Kyrgyzstan near the southern city of Osh in the volatile Fergana Valley that would house a newly established Rapid Reaction Force – mostly manned by Russian troops – of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Tashkent views the growing Russian military presence in the region as a security threat. The manner in which Russian “peace-keeping” forces were mobilized in the Georgia war last summer made a deep impact on Uzbek policymakers, heightening their sense of vulnerability. Uzbek skepticism about Russian goals is so deep that several key figures intimated that when it comes to Afghanistan, Iran would be a more reliable partner for Washington than Moscow.

The Uzbeks we spoke with were unanimous in the view that eventual success in stabilizing Afghanistan requires as much attention to social-economic development as it does to military goals. Any security gains will certainly be short-lived if Afghanistan remains impoverished and economically isolated. Building a transportation infrastructure linking Afghanistan to regional and global markets will be essential for this success and should be a key element of President Obama’s regional strategy for Afghanistan.

For strategic and economic reasons, Uzbekistan wants to be a key partner for the United States and its allies in these efforts. Unfortunately, high levels of corruption and a highly complicated investment environment do not make it easy for American companies or U.S. institutions like the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to operate. Resolving these differences to enable greater U.S. economic engagement will be a critical and difficult step in strengthening U.S.-Uzbek relations.

Washington’s potential for success in Afghanistan will also depend to some extent on how well the new NDN supply line operates. There are still political and logistical kinks in the route. U.S. policymakers have to contend with eliciting cooperation from Moscow without compromising the sovereignty and independence of other Central Asian partners. Uzbekistan is key to the success of the supply route as well as broader Afghan stabilization, but the Uzbeks remain very concerned about Moscow’s announced doctrine of “privileged relations with its neighbors.”

Andrew C. Kuchins is director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Thomas Sanderson is deputy director of center’s Trans-National Threats Program.

By ANDREW C. KUCHINS and THOMAS SANDERSON

Source: The New York Times

Afghanistan Today weekly (Dari/Pashto) programme: No 4

1 August 2009 – Afghanistan Today weekly (Dari/Pashto) programme: No 4