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”
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.
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.
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.
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.