Friday, November 28, 2014

United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine

UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France

At the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is meeting from 29 May –1 June to discuss the question of Palestine and help mobilize the international community to empower women and children. The meeting is addressing plans for empowering women and children in the Palestinian territory. It is also emphasizing the role of women in the political process and the resistance movement. The meeting aims to involve women and children in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered the opening remarks by video. “Women and youth have much to contribute to securing a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace,” Secretary-General Ban said. The Secretary-General noted that women and youth have risen up against human rights violations and oppression throughout the Middle East. He encouraged the Committee to facilitate a stronger role of women and youth in the peace process and to empower the next generation of Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers.

After Secretary-General Ban’s opening remarks, the meeting divided into three plenary sessions. H.E. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, chaired the first of these plenary sessions on 30 May. Titled “The situation of youth and women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, this first plenary session illustrated the impact of the occupation on women and children, concentrating on its socioeconomic and public health ramifications. The session also focused on the situation of refugees in the territory. The session closed with a discussion of how best to provide opportunities to women and children to overcome the pernicious effects of the occupation and engage in the political process.

Many plans for educational, social, and public sanitation and health programs were discussed with the aim of devising programs that will provide women and children with social, professional, and political opportunities. The role of civil society in this process was a central facet of the conversation: the Meeting is considering ways in which members of civil society can better coordinate their efforts with governments and UN entities to work with Palestinian and Israeli youth and women organizations.

Speakers at the plenary session chaired by Ambassador Tanin were: Siham Rashid, Project Manager at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), Ramallah; Matthias Burchard, Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Representative Offices to the European Union and Geneva, Brussels; Nour Odeh, Freelance journalist and media consultant, Ramallah; Akram Natsheh, Youth Against Settlements, Hebron; and Mohammed S. M. Iqtifan, Campaign Coordinator at Migratory letters Campaign, Gaza.

The meeting will continue with two more plenary sessions on May 31st and meetings with Civil Society on June 1st.

UN WOMEN Lunch Discussion Afghan Women and the Transition

Speech of Ahmad Zahir Faqiri, Deputy Ambassador , Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations ,

I would first like to thank UN Women and the Permanent Mission of Sweden for co-sponsoring this important and informative event on the future of Women in my country, Afghanistan. I would also like to take a moment to recognize all of the exceptional and insightful speakers that have joined us today.

My country and its people have collectively suffered through the more than three decades of war and conflict,it is women who have particularly felt the consequences. Afghan women have been the target of physical violence as well as structural violence on the part of extremist organizations that sought to systematically subjugate Afghan women.

In the last ten years the Government of Afghanistan has worked tirelessly to provide women with equal standing in all aspects of life in Afghan society. Despite many hurdles, we have already seen women in Afghanistan living a significantly different life then they did just ten years ago.

The amelioration of women’s living conditions in Afghanistan is exemplified in numerous areas of private and public life, ranging from education to politics from economic to development opportunity. I am proud to share with you some of these encouraging developments: Educational opportunities have grown increasingly accessible to Afghan women and girls. Women and girls attend school at record numbers; out of 6.2 million students, women and girls make up 41% in primary education and 20% of students enrolled in universities and higher education are female.

Ensuring the rights of women is only half the battle; we also need to see the full participation of women in building and maintaining peace and security , amelioration of economy, sustainable development and etc in my country. The representation of women in governance and political participation has been steadily increasing. We have succeeded in holding two Presidential and two parliamentary elections, in which women actively participated as candidates, election staff, poll watchers and electorates. Women comprise 27 percent of the parliament making Afghanistan the 30th in the world with the highest representation of women in Parliament. The Afghanistan National Parliament has also established a resource centre for women parliamentarians to enhance their capacity to include women’s voices and perspectives effectively in the national development and reconstruction plans.

We have begun implementation of the 10 year National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) based upon the priorities of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. As part of this action plan (NAPWA)we have established Gender Units in 17 of 25 government ministries, however, even with a 10 year time line, accelerated efforts need to be made to ensure the full implementation of such a comprehensive action plan with vital goals that include 30 percent of governmental positions held by women by the end of 2013 and a target of 35 percent participation of female students in universities by the end of 2013.

We have also made strides in the rule of law, we have established the national Commission on Elimination of Violence against Women following enactment of the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women. This is vital in enhancing Afghan women’s access to legal redress, sending the strong message that the Afghan government is committed to the rights of women and ensuring that there is no impunity for those who violate them.

The UN has played a significant role in the future of women in Afghanistan. We at the Mission have participated in important panel discussions, Security Council debates, General Assembly debates, and exhibits on the issue of Women in Afghanistan in the past, present and future. The UN and its organs such as UN Women have established the much-needed dialogue on Women in Afghanistan, so we can learn from expert’s knowledge and other countries post-war experiences with Women’s rights.

While we have made incredible strides for women in Afghanistan, there is still much work to be done.

When reviewing these facts and figures, let us not lose sight of the great personal risk that these women undertake in order to participate in the governance of their country and their future. I wish to take this opportunity to honor the women who continue take risks to assume an active role in the future direction and peace of our country.

Unfortunately, the last Four decade of war and unrest cast a dark shadow on Century-old established values, like respect for women has been pushed back by extremism and the military war culture. I was heartbroken to learn about the 120 schoolgirls who were poisoned by Taliban extremists last week. Our greatest weapon in defeating extremism is education, and the Taliban know it. Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said that the Taliban appear intent on closing down schools that teach women ahead of a 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops. I envision a post-2014 Afghanistan where women enjoy the protection of a just rule of law that protects women with equal Afghan rights. Post-2014 Afghanistan has a lot of uncertainty, but these challenges will be met head-on

We need to make a firm commitment on the improvement of women’s status as a long-term priority, and we have. While no one can erase what has already been done, we will continue to reverse the disturbing trend of violence against women. I am proud of the progress that our women have made, and we are grateful for the insights and support of the international community. Women right is human right and your dedication to Afghan women’s rights is indicative of our shared commitment to the protection of the rights of all women, men, and children worldwide.

 

I thank you

 

Remarks by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN Regarding Afghan-Indian Cooperation and the Positive Results of South-South Cooperation

 Thank you for having me at this important event on the sidelines of the High Level Committee on South-South Cooperation to share with you Afghanistan’s extensive experience with South-South Cooperation and the benefits it offers. I am happy to illustrate the fruitful results of Afghanistan’s South-South relationships particularly as we are joined today by India’s Secretary of External Affairs, Ambassador Vasisht. Ambassador Mitra Vasisht has seen the productive relationship between our two countries from India’s perspective, and I am sure her thoughts and expertise will add great value to this discussion.  I wish to thank my fellow panelist, Ambassador Kamau, and Moderator Mr. Warren Hoge.

 

Thank you very much to Christopher Coleman and everyone at UN CivCap for hosting this important conversation and for their commitment to increasing civilian capacity in post-conflict regions. I wish to thank in particular Ms. Sarah Cliffe for her presentation on the Civcap initiative, the CAPMATCH on-line platform. I would also like to thank the International Peace Institute for their continued support of peace building and hosting us here today.

 

From Afghanistan’s perspective, South-South Cooperation has been integral to development efforts. It helps us develop our civilian capacity as we rebuild in the aftermath of thirty years of conflict in Afghanistan. Conflict has not only led to loss of human capital, but the destruction of infrastructure in the country including schools, clinics, roads, and industrial and agricultural facilities. Throughout decades of war and conflict, the state grew weaker.

 

In a sense, Afghanistan’s development was frozen in time. While the rest of the region delved into the world of new technologies, Afghanistan’s capacity for modernity remained limited. A great number of educated people left the country as a result of waves of war and bloody foreign intervention.

 

The reconstruction of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, began as a major North-South project.  The international community who mainly committed to rebuilding the country were primarily the US, the European Union, Japan and important regional partners including India, China, Iran and others.  India became one of the biggest partners for development in Afghanistan.

 

In an increasingly globalized world, there is still logic behind the use of resources within regional neighborhood, which can be more efficient economically and environmentally. South-South Cooperation is an example of that efficiency. It is not only a matter of cost efficiency but also cultural convenience.

 

More recently our focus has turned to forging regional relationships, and Afghanistan’s role in the middle of regional cooperation in the heart of Asia. We are still working to define and redefine these relations. The Istanbul Process for regional cooperation has been central to those efforts, as well as work in the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

 

Cooperation is not only economic in character, it includes efforts to build social and cultural cooperation between the many countries in the region. South-South cooperation involves the sharing of knowledge, experiences, policies, along with lessons learnt and best practices.

 

As outlined by Ms. Cliffe “CivCap”, the new UN-wide initiative that seeks to strengthen international support to countries transitioning out of conflict, has identified five deficiencies of capacity that Afghanistan and other South countries have in common:

1) An Inclusive Political Process

2) Basic Safety and Security

3) Justice

4) Economic Revitalization

5) Core Government Functionality

 

Our deepening partnerships within our region and with India have been, and will always be, central to developing the five aforementioned civilian capacities in Afghanistan.

 

The relationship between Afghanistan and India can serve as a positive example from which others can learn. India’s unwavering support in Afghanistan has been important to our national development. India has been a strong strategic partner in the region since the early days of its independence. India has helped us move forward as a strong country that provides its people with security, justice, and economic opportunity.

 

Over the past 10 years India has spent nearly $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan, making India by far the most substantial regional donor supporting our transition efforts. Most of this funding has been spent on reconstruction, road building, health clinics and an array of small development projects:

 

  • India provides 2,000 scholarships to Afghans annually for schooling and training in India, including for 500 Afghan civil servants. India has also set up an Agricultural University to tap the potential in Agriculture in Afghanistan.

 

  • More than 100 Indian-supported but Afghan-owned small development projects are being implemented.

 

  • Five Indian Medical Missions (IMMs) have been working in Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif, attending and disbursing medicines to 30,000 patients per month. India also undertook the rehabilitation of the Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health (IGICH) in Kabul, the largest pediatric hospital in Afghanistan. Capacity building of Afghan doctors has been a vital component of assistance and many IGICH specialists train at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.

 

  • In November, 2011, India eliminated base line customs duties on virtually on imports from Afghanistan, and in December, a consortium of 7 Indian public and private sector companies were awarded the bid for 3 blocks of the Hajigak iron ore reserves

 

  • One notable project made possible by Indian aid was a $17 million grant for the modernization of a hydropower plant in Tajikistan further boosting co-operation in the region.

 

 

The October 2011 the strategic partnership agreement signed by H.E. President Karzai and H.E. Prime Minister Singh is indicative of the significant cooperation that benefits Afghans and Indians alike. This agreement formalized a framework for cooperation in the areas of: political and security; trade and economic; capacity development and education; and social, cultural, civil society and people-to-people relations.

 

India’s support has made a fundamental, positive change in our development. Perhaps even more importantly, India’s sharing of expertise, experience in successful post-conflict transition, and best practices has been invaluable to our progress.

 

Despite Afghanistan’s improvements through South-South Cooperation, it is important to also view our development in light of the challenges we face. Afghanistan as a landlocked least developing country faces unique challenges to accessing the world markets. These challenges impact our transport infrastructure, border crossing and high transport and trade costs.

 

We see South-South cooperation, not as a substitute for but rather as a complement to North-South cooperation, and wish to see continued support from the international community for the efforts of the developing countries to expand South-South cooperation. But as the example of the relationship between Afghanistan and India shows, South-South Cooperation is important in itself. The concept is young, but it is reinforced by our experience.

 

We are grateful for the support of India and our other development partners, with whom we have established strong bonds of cooperation. Increasing South-South Cooperation can help Afghanistan become a beacon of social, political, and economic success that will enrich both the region and the global community.

 

Thank you.