Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Advancement of Women

Statement By Mr. G. Seddiq RASULI

Counsellor of Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Third Committee Debate On

Agenda Item 62 (a):  Advancement of Women

on behalf H.E. Zahir Tanin

Mr. Chairman,

Eight years have passed since the signing of the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan.  Over the course of this time, in spite of serious challenges, the people and government of Afghanistan have made advances in various sectors, including education, health, and institution-building.

Since the collapse of the Taliban, Afghanistan has seen the re-employment of women in government organizations and the resumption of female education.  Women have also begun participating at broad and unprecedented levels in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of Afghanistan, for example in the formation of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and in the creation and execution of the new Constitution and the recent Presidential and Provincial elections.

Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan remains fully committed to human rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality. The government’s commitment to these goals is embodied in the Afghan constitution, which strongly adheres to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  For example, Article 22 of the constitution states that “the citizens of Afghanistan, men and women, have equal rights and duties before the law.”  Similarly, Article 44 stipulates that “the state shall devise and implement effective programs to create and foster balanced education for women,  … as well as eliminate illiteracy in the country.”

As part of Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy (ANDS), launched in June 2008, benchmarks such as advancing gender equality, promoting the participation of women in state and non-state activities, providing legal privileges for women, and implementing a national action plan for the development of women should be realized by 2010.  These benchmarks are intended to build upon the existing policy framework that integrates women into all aspects of Afghan life.

Women continue to play an important role in the political life of Afghanistan.  In the most recent Afghan elections, two women ran for President, and seven Vice Presidential candidates were women.  Three-hundred twenty eight women ran for provincial council seats.  Moreover, women currently hold 17 seats in the Upper House and 68 seats in the Lower House of the Parliament.  Of the 4.5 million new voters in the 2009 elections, 38% were women.

Women’s access to educational services has also improved since 2001. Of the 6.2 million students enrolled in primary and secondary school, 41% are girls.  20% of students enrolled in universities and institutes of higher education are female.  In 2008, more than 75% of the 300,000 students attending the literacy courses offered throughout Afghanistan were women.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In spite of the progress made during the last eight years, efforts towards the empowerment and advancement of women in Afghanistan face enormous challenges.  Enemies of the people and government of Afghanistan continue to ravage the Afghan countryside by burning down schools and creating an atmosphere of precariousness and fear, which in turn affects school attendance and enrollment, particularly for women.  The Afghan Ministry of Education estimates that girls represent less than 15% of total enrollment in provinces with the lowest level of security.

The government of Afghanistan recognizes that the successful socio-economic development and reconstruction of Afghanistan requires the complete and equal participation of Afghan women in all socio-economic activities.  Regrettably, despite efforts towards progress, the security situation of Afghanistan has thus far affected the engagement of women in productive activities.

Mr. Chairman,

Violence against women is an intolerable breach of human rights.  The Afghan government has criminalized violence against women, and is engaged in a variety of initiatives to properly address this issue.  The Government remains firmly dedicated to The National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), a ten-year program designed to implement the commitments made to Afghan women in the country’s constitution.  Recently, the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs partnered with UNIFEM to create a thorough review of cases involving violence against women, in order to better address reported claims of violence.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan continues to be fundamentally committed to the advancement of women, both within its borders and across the world. Efforts to improve the situation of women face many of the same challenges that confront Afghanistan as a whole: a deteriorating security situation, weak state institutions, and an infant economy. With the help of the international community, the Afghan government is comprehensively addressing each of these issues, with particular attention to the essential role of women in the stabilization of Afghanistan. We will work towards this goal until every woman in Afghanistan can pursue the full enjoyment of her rights in safety.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

International Conference on Population and Development “ICPD at Fifteen”

Statement of H.E. Zahir Tanin

Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the General Assembly plenary debate

On “The ICPD at Fifteen”

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, let me thank you for convening this meeting to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development and the resulting Programme of Action. Afghanistan aligns itself with the statement delivered on behalf of the G77 and China, and thanks UNFPA for the leadership role it has taken in implementing the ICPD since its inception. We hope that all nations will take this opportunity to recognize our substantial progress and take stock of our remaining challenges.

Mr. President,

The International Conference on Population and Development, held 15 years ago in Cairo, was a breakthrough in the way we collectively understood the relationship between people and economic development, and it ushered in a revolution in our attitudes towards reproductive health and human rights. This understanding heavily informed the Millennium Development Goals, whose tenth anniversary we will be celebrating next year.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan remains strongly committed to the ICPD Programme of Action, the Millennium Development Goals, and to other IADGs. Through the framework of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and other National Strategies, Afghanistan is aiming to systematically rebuild the shattered infrastructure of the country, build a dynamic national economy, and improve the daily lives of Afghans by providing security, access to basic services and healthcare, and through a focus on human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls.  We have made progress in each of these areas, and we are certain that, with the help of the international community, we will eventually be able to guarantee a dignified, healthy life for all Afghans.

In particular, health indicators in Afghanistan have improved since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The percentage of access to basic health services has increased from 9% in 2001 to 85% in 2008. There has been a threefold increase in use of modern contraceptives in rural Afghanistan, from 5 percent in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2003 to 16 percent in the Afghanistan Health Survey (AHS) conducted in 2006. Trends in antenatal care use in rural Afghanistan show a several-fold increase from 5 percent in the MICS 2003 to 32 percent in the AHS. Use of skilled birth attendants was substantially lower than use of skilled antenatal care, but a threefold increase was observed in rural Afghanistan, from 6 percent in MICS 2003 to 19 percent in AHS 2006. Overall approximately 15 percent of women who had delivered in the last two years had their delivery in an institution.

In addition, over six million children are now in primary and secondary school in Afghanistan, up from one million in 2001. Tens of thousands of students are in higher education, and more institutions to accommodate them are being built every year. Most notably, these students include more than 30% women and girls; something which was unthinkable under the Taliban.

However, Mr. President,

In Afghanistan, a particular challenge remains the high levels of maternal and infant mortality. In addition, illiteracy, lack of roads and transportation, inadequate financing for many of the key programs; inadequately trained health staff at all levels, including a general lack of female health staff, has contributed to impeding access to health services.  Moreover, the deterioration of the security situation in certain parts of Afghanistan, especially in the south and south east, have impacted on the gains made in the past years in the area of health and gender and are impeding the successful achievement of MDGs in Afghanistan. Finally, the lack of comprehensive, up-to-date data is a serious impediment to our efforts in Afghanistan, and we ask UNFPA to continue to support us with technical and financial assistance as we seek to undertake the Afghanistan Population and Housing Census, rescheduled from 2008.

Mr. President,

Globally, according to the most recent MDG report, we are still lagging behind in several areas, particularly in MDGs 3, 4, 5 and 6. We encourage the international community to take this conference as a call to redouble our efforts towards achieving the MDGs and the other IADGs in the larger framework of the ICPD Programme of Action. In particular, South-South cooperation, through regional groups and other multilateral organizations, will be crucial to achieving our goals. We must also ensure that the financial crisis and other constraints do not restrict the technical and financial aid to developing countries, least developed and post-conflict countries. Though the past fifteen years have seen groundbreaking progress, we must sustain our achievements to date and recognize that all of our efforts will be required if we are to successfully achieve the ambitious goals we have set for ourselves.

Thank you, Mr. President.

H.E. Zahir Tanin

H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin at 63 General Assembly of the United Nations

H.E. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, addresses the sixty-second session of the General Assembly