Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

Statement by  H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin  Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Open-Ended Informal Consultations on the Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

I would like to profoundly thank all the Member States for the nomination as Chair-designate of the “Fifth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects,” tentatively scheduled for 16–20 June 2014. I am grateful for your trust, and I look forward to playing this role to the best of my abilities.

Around the world, small arms and light weapons are fueling conflict, instability, and creating obstacles to development, peace, and security.   The human cost is massive, and their impact fueling violence by terrorists, drug cartels, criminal gangs, and insurgents is extreme.

Since the adoption of the Programme of Action in 2001, the world has witnessed a great deal of progress in dealing with illicit arms circulation. Member states have made major achievements in terms of establishing national laws and commissions, enhancing capacities of institutions, increasing the security of their arms depots and ammunitions, and preventing the diversion of these weapons to non-state actors.

The outcome document on the implementation of the Program of Action to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, which was adopted by consensus during the 2nd review conference from the 27th of August to the 7th September last year in New York, represented considerable progress.   We consider this document a major success of the international community on the implementation of the Programme of Action.

Still, much work has to be done. Cooperation among states in tracking illicit arms remains a challenge. Many countries lack the capacity to exercise effective control over unregulated weapons within their borders.  Others have weak national reporting mechanisms. State budgets are still invested in weapons at the expense of investment in development programs.

Curbing the devastating scourge of illicit small arms and light weapons is of prime importance for countries like my country, Afghanistan.   Afghanistan has been a major victim of this scourge; more than 1.5 million Afghans have been killed by these weapons.  The atrocities are ongoing- one of the biggest killers is the IED used by the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

As Chair-designate, I would like to reassure you that I will do my utmost to have an open, inclusive, and balanced process in dealing with this issue. I will listen carefully, and pay close attention to your views and suggestions.

The upcoming First Committee will be an excellent and timely opportunity to consult with you on your priorities for BMS5. Therefore, I intend to organize our first open-ended consultations in October to discuss priority issues and topics of relevance to be addressed during the BMS5, as well as problems and opportunities arising from the implementation of the Programme of Action.

Moving ahead, I am open to your suggestions, comments and concerns. Thank you and I look forward to your cooperation.

Ambassador Zahir Tanin Nominated as Chair of the 5th Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms and Light Weapons

Press release on the Open-Ended Informal Consultations on the Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

Today, the 29 August 2013, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin was nominated as Chair-designate for the 5th the Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects at Open-Ended Informal Consultations in New York.

Daniel Prins, Chief of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA’s) Conventional Arms Branch, chaired the conference, in the absentia of the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, who is currently in Syria.

The meeting followed Asia-Pacific Regional Group’s 31 July 2013 endorsement, which formally put forward the candidature of His Excellency Zahir Tanin for the position of Chair-designate of the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States (BMS5).

The Chair congratulated Ambassador Tanin on his nomination as Chair-designate. “I am confident that Ambassador Tanin, with his proven knowledge in particular of matters pertaining to international security, and his excellent diplomatic skills, possesses the qualities and qualifications needed to generate trust and build the consensus necessary to bring the BMS5 to a successful outcome,” he said.

Ambassador Tanin’s nomination was endorsed by consensus.   Noting the general agreement in the room, Mr. Prins congratulated the Ambassador and noted that this gives him a strong mandate to prepare the BMS5 well in advance.

Taking the floor, Ambassador Tanin thanked member states for his nomination as Chair-designate.  “I am grateful for your trust,” he said, “I look forward to playing this role to the best of my abilities.”

Ambassador Tanin noted the gravity of this particular issue.  He reflected, “Around the world, small arms and light weapons are fueling conflict, instability, and creating obstacles to development, peace, and security.”

He praised the progress of member states in dealing with illicit arms circulation, mentioning achievements in terms of “establishing national laws and commissions, enhancing capacities of institutions, increasing the security of their arms depots and ammunitions, and preventing the diversion of these weapons to non-state actors.”

“Still,” he said, “Much work has to be done.”  He noted the importance of this issue to his country, Afghanistan.  “Afghanistan has been a major victim of this scourge,” he said, “More than 1.5 million Afghans have been killed by these weapons.”

He reassured delegates that he would do his utmost to have an open, inclusive, and balanced process in dealing with this issue. “I will listen carefully, and pay close attention to your views and suggestions,” he noted. He expressed his intention to organize the first open-ended consultations in October to discuss priority issues and topics of relevance to be addressed during the BMS5, as well as problems and opportunities arising from the implementation of the Programme of Action.

Ambassador Tanin concluded his statement by thanking member states and communicating his enthusiasm for their cooperation.  In closing, the Chair expressed his confidence that this early endorsement would lead to a productive meeting next year and adjourned the Open-Ended Informal Consultations.

United Nations Ambassadors attend High Level International Conference on Water Cooperation

Press Release

photo-(9)The High Level International Conference on Water Cooperation was held on the 20and 21 of August 2013 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.  It was a remarkable event focusing on an issue of enormous significance both in the region and the world, an issue that despite its importance is too often pushed to the sidelines.

Recognizing the necessity of international cooperation on the use and management of water and its related risks, organizers aimed to promote dialogue and mutual understanding and to strengthen partnerships on water issues among all stakeholders at all levels.  The Government of the Republic of Tajikistan convened the Conference according to General Assembly Resolution A/67/204 “Implementation of the International Year of Water Cooperation, 2013,” adopted on 21 December 2012, with the intention of mobilizing all stakeholders’ efforts to achieve these internationally agreed goals. Accordingly, subsequent steps must be taken to ensure the issue is placed highly on the international agenda.

More than 900 high-ranking guests, including Prime Ministers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers and the President-Elect of the 68th General Assembly participated at the conference.  United Nations (UN) Ambassadors represented countries as diverse as the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Guyana, Jamaica, Namibia, Thailand, Cape Verde and Afghanistan. The former Ambassador of Kiribati and the Deputy Permanent Representative of Fiji also attended the conference. In addition heads of UN agencies, funds, programs and the UN Secretariat, well-known specialists and experts from over 70 countries, representatives of numerous regional and international organizations, and delegations from many countries including Afghanistan took part.

Opening the conference, the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, welcomed participants from around the world. “Tajikistan has always been in favor of mutually beneficial cooperation and good neighbourly relations,” he stated in his introductory remarks. “We understand clearly that only civilized cooperation and political will can ensure for all of us a progress in this direction. Tajikistan is completely ready for such cooperation.”

Ambassador Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, attended the conference as a member of the “Friends of Water,” a group of UN Ambassadors who played a central role in promoting General Assembly Resolution A/67/204 “Implementation of the International Year of Water Cooperation, 2013.”  Ambassadors in this group participated in a special High Level Panel Discussion on the margins of the conference entitled “Sharing Lessons and Experiences on Water and Disasters.”  The Mr. Kenzo Hiroki, Principle of the International Center for Water Hazard and Special Advisor of the United Nation’s Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, facilitated the panel.

Ambassador Tanin of Afghanistan, speaking on the High Level Panel, offered lessons from the Afghan experience. He reflected that while the world often thinks of Afghanistan in terms of security and insurgency, another crisis exists in Afghanistan as well. “Today,” he explained, “millions of Afghans are without access to safe drinking water and sanitation.”

Yet Afghanistan, he said, is not a water-scarce country.  The country is endowed with sufficient water to meet domestic, agricultural-industrial and environmental needs. However, he said, Afghanistan “has limited capacity to make full use of potentially available resources.”

Ambassador Tanin explained that lack of access to water is primarily caused by poor water management.  For example, Afghanistan has the lowest water storage capacity in the region.  He explained, “if water becomes abundant during certain periods in the year, it cannot be stored to meet demand during periods of shortage,” which renders the country more vulnerable to drought and other climate shocks.

Ambassador Tanin pointed out that while water is seen as an essential public good, it is also a source of major disasters and climate shocks.  Afghanistan is particularly sensitive to the effects of drought and flood.  In 2002, for example, after four years with little or no rain, an estimated 60 percent of households were extremely debt insecure.  Following the dry year of 2004, 37 percent of the population across several heavily affected provinces became food insecure, he pointed out.

Such issues demonstrate the necessity of water cooperation and transboundary water management.  This is particularly true in the River basin area, where most of Afghanistan’s neighbors depend on surface resources originating from within the country.  Taking this into account, Ambassador Tanin stressed the importance of water diplomacy and impressed upon participants the necessity of legal cooperation and water sharing in the region and the world.

Looking to the future, Ambassador Tanin noted the importance of seeing water from a human development perspective. He stressed two human development challenges in particular: the necessity of securing access to water for all—regardless of gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status—and the need to provide protection against water-related shocks.  In addition, Ambassador Tanin remarked that climate change would have a powerful impact on water needs, particularly in terms of crop irrigation, seasonal behaviour of rivers, and increases in the incidence and intensity of drought. Scarcity and climate shocks must therefore be well managed, he said.

On conclusion of the Special High Level Panel and the other High Level Panels, Plenary Sessions, and Special Focus Events, participants put forward proposals for the future.  These included priority areas for action such as addressing the needs of the poor and enabling mechanisms for action such as fostering South-South exchanges of best cooperative practices.  The proposals represent important, concrete outcomes of the conference, and governments, international organizations and other relevant stakeholders are encouraged to refer to them for inspiration and follow up.

After the formal conclusion of the conference, UN Ambassadors participated in an official program that highlighted the unique water resources and needs of both Tajikistan and the region.  The Government of Tajikistan escorted these Ambassadors to Sarez Lake in the Pamir region, which is situated in the middle of 2,416 meter high mountain ranges stretching from Afghanistan to Tajikistan.  Sarez Lake, which not only flows through Tajikistan but Afghanistan as well, exemplifies the need for transboundary water cooperation. UN Ambassadors also visited the Usoi Dam, a natural landslide dam held by Sarez Lake.  At 567 meters high, the dam constitutes the highest among both natural and artificial dams in the world.

Afterwards, the UN Permanent Representatives also visited the Pamir Mountains, the center of Tajikistans Badakhshan region where they were welcomed by officials from Darwaz, a district neighboring the Afghan river Pyanj. From Darwaz, Ambassadors were able to see the villages of Afghanistan. Another day, Ambassadors visited the Nurek Dam, which was completed in 1980 after almost two decades of work while Tajikistan was still a republic of the USSR.  Nurek is currently the tallest man-made dam in the world, and generates energy that supports Tajikistan as well as the greater region.