Friday, October 31, 2014

Children and Armed Conflict

STATEMENT

BY

H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin

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

at the Security Council Debate on

Children and Armed Conflict

NEW YORK

Madam President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, please allow me to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency of the Council, and thank you for convening this meeting; your Excellency’s presence here today reflects Mexico’s enduring commitment to advancing the international agenda on this issue. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his report, and the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for her briefing this morning.

Madam President,

More than half of Afghanistan’s 30 million people are under the age of 18. This is a half of the country whose earliest memories are violence and war; who have grown up amidst a decimated economy, shattered institutions and broken society. But these children are also the best and only hope for the future of Afghanistan, and my Government is fully committed to protecting them and to developing their potential.

Madam President,

A country of youth poses unique challenges. Thirty years of warfare have left thousands orphaned or disabled. Mines and unexploded remnants of war kill and injure hundreds more every year. Many children are the primary breadwinners for their families. Poverty, unemployment and weak national institutions create unrest and particularly disadvantage children, putting them at risk for diseases and malnutrition, and making them easy victims for crimes and extremist ideology.

But more than this, children in Afghanistan suffer from the terrorism and violence of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and their allies. These groups are responsible for heinous acts against civilians – including the recent heartbreaking murder of a 7 year old boy, hanged as a government spy. Their complete disregard for human life is well documented, and they continue to bear the overwhelming responsibility for the danger to children across the country.

Madam President,

The Government of Afghanistan has taken many legal, institutional and practical steps to promote security, development and good governance, and to fulfill its national and international obligations to protect children.

In addition, as part of an ongoing dialogue with the Office of the Special Representative, and in line with the recommendations of the Security Council Working Group, the Government of Afghanistan has taken further steps to address the particular needs of children in armed conflict. Many of them are not fully reflected in the current report. For example:

1. My Government welcomed the recent creation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism in the country, and established an interministerial steering committee to develop a governmental action plan on children and armed conflict.

2. The Government established a Commission to oversee the needs of children and juveniles, and another to ensure the observance of human rights during detention and interrogation, as required by law.

3. The Government is working with civil society and religious leaders to address sexual violence, which is contrary to both Islamic teachings and national law.

4. Because of the threat from the Taliban, the Ministry of Education has instructed that schools will no longer be used as polling stations in elections.

5. The Government is engaged with international forces to improve protection of civilians, and welcomed recent tactical directives in this regard.

6. Focal points for child recruitment have been identified in the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and the Ministry of the Interior has tasked the Unit on Human Rights, Gender and Children to address any allegations of children in the Police, as well as allegations of sexual violence.

7. The recruitment process for both the Army and the Police is increasingly centralized and standardized, including through the introduction of biometric verification procedures, and records are kept of underage applicants who are turned away.

8. The Interior Ministry recently released an executive directive reinforcing the existing legislation by banning recruitment of anyone under 18 to the police, requiring that any children found to be reintegrated into society within thirty days, and mandating disciplinary measures for those responsible.

Madam President,

Given these steps and others we have taken, my Government is disturbed by the decision to list the Afghan National Police Force in the Annex of the present report. As the Special Representative herself has recognized, recruitment policy is clearly designed to prevent children from being involved with the security forces. This decision creates an unacceptable equivalence between the Police and the intentionally abusive practices of the Taliban and their allies, and undermines the efforts of the Afghan Government and the international community to build strong, effective and responsible Security Forces under very challenging circumstances. I have outlined my Government’s concerns more fully in a letter to the Secretary-General on this subject, which will be circulated as an official document of the Security Council. In particular, my Government was not provided with any evidence to support this report’s allegations of child recruitment in the Police, or of mistreatment or torture in government facilities in contravention of national law, and we are not satisfied with the partial and anecdotal nature of the report itself.

However, and despite our reservations, my Government remains ready as always to engage fully with the Office of the Special Representative and with the monitoring and reporting mechanism to ensure the full implementation of Resolutions 1615 and 1882, among others, and to continue to improve our capacity and procedures for the protection of children.

Madam President,

Earlier this week we became aware of vast mineral resources in Afghanistan that have the power to transform the country’s economy; likewise, the millions of children in Afghanistan are an untapped wealth of human potential, who will grow into an economic, political and social force that will remake the future of the country. My Government is fully committed to educating these children, to protecting them, to providing them with a bright and promising future, and to building a country that they can be proud to inherit. This is not just a moral and legal duty; it is also the only way for Afghanistan to fully and finally emerge from conflict.

I thank you.