Monday, December 22, 2014

Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan

Remarks of Ambassador Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan

Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I, as a representative of Afghanistan, am humbled by the strong words of commitment expressed by Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary Clinton, Former First Lady Laura Bush, Ambassador Verveer and other eminent speakers before me including the Foreign Minister of Norway. I am also pleased to see the representatives of Afghan women, present today here, at this impressive scene of solidarity with and dedication to the advancement of the rights of women in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, a new history is in the making: following a decade of extraordinary engagement of the international community, the country is entering a new phase, taking its density in its hands. At the end of next year, international forces will leave.  In a few months time, Afghanistan will arrive at its first peaceful democratic transition.  In a few days, Afghan representatives, in a consultative Loya Jirga, will discuss the security pact that lies at the core of Afghan-United States strategic relations.  Afghans look to the future, as Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized, with great hope and great concern; hope for a new beginning, for bold steps towards peace and transformation, and concern about the danger of returning to the nightmare of the destructive wars of the 1990s and the brutality of the Taliban.

Afghan women bore the brunt of war and extremism, which shattered their lives and families and diminished them to almost nothing.  They fear more than anyone else that they will lose what has been achieved, but they have more hope than anyone else that a better future will be built.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The emancipation of women has been strong in the mind of Afghanistan since the beginning of the 20th century. Women were already making inroads into the modern world before conflict and the fanaticism behind it silenced them and drowned them out.  The end of the Taliban era opened a new horizon and steps were taken to elevate women’s status, restore their rights, and strengthen their role as equal participants in building a new democratic Afghanistan.

However, there remains an urgent need to solidify the Afghan woman’s stake in the future.  The government of Afghanistan believes that the touchstone for the advancement of women is their active participation in the peace process, in elections, in social and political life, and in the economic development of the country.

In the last few years, women joined the High Peace Council, participated in a number of regional peace talks, and were largely represented in the Consultative Loya Jirgas.  Today, women are among the candidates for the presidential and provincial elections and the government and electoral authorities are doing their utmost to ensure the inclusion of women voters in elections. The role of women in social, political and economic life is improving. However, it is vital that we ensure their voices are heard, and that their role is not only symbolic, but genuine.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have listened today to tremendous support for and the calls for the inclusion of women in Afghanistan and the protection and promotion of their rights. It was an amazing debate now, and we are very thankful, Secretary Clinton, for your expression of real friendship with Afghanistan, you as well as Secretary John Kerry and  other leaders from the United States are seen, Madam Ambassador Verveer, as real friends of my country.  Continuing support is essential to ensure that these goals that were emphasized today are reached, and the Afghan government is committed to work for the advancement of women in the country, as enshrined in our constitution, alongside our partners.

Thank you.

 

Afghan Law Scholars Visit the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

H.E. Ambassador Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, met with deans and professors of Law, Political Science, and Shari’a faculties of Afghan universities at the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations.

The representatives and specialists from seven different Afghan universities were on a study tour through the University of Washington’s Legal Education Support Program-Afghanistan (LESPA). In addition to the meeting at the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations, the group’s itinerary included a trip to Washington DC, where they planned to meet Afghan and US government officials.

Jon Eddy, Professor of Law and Director of the Asian Law Center at the University of Washington School of Law and Alice Stokke, Assistant Director of the Asian Law Center, also attended the meeting.

During the group’s visit, Ambassador Tanin welcomed and briefed the faculty about the history, background, and membership of Afghanistan to the United Nations. He also highlighted recent discussion within the UN Security Council and General Assembly concerning the ongoing transition and the active role that Afghanistan plays at the United Nations on a wide range of issues.

 

Ambassador Tanin also detailed his roles and responsibilities as Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform, Vice-Chair on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Chair-Designate of the upcoming Fifth Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms and Light Weapons (BMS5). He underlined that his leadership positions within these committees demonstrate Afghanistan’s expanding role on the world stage and as an active member of the international community.

The meeting closed with a question and answer session between the Ambassador and faculty members on a number of issues.

 

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Third Committee debate on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Guiterez, for his comprehensive report this year.

This is a very important issue for my country, Afghanistan.  The refugee experience is one we know intimately; it has been a central part of the history of my country since conflict started decades ago.  Years of violence, brutality, and wars have forced over ten million Afghan men, women and children from their villages and towns to neighboring countries and to countries across the globe.  Today, nearly five million Afghans live in Iran and Pakistan.  Hundreds of thousands of others live in various other countries throughout the world.  Afghanistan still has more nationals living outside its borders as refugees than any other country.

Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan, along with our international partners, UNHCR in particular, remains diligently involved in wide-reaching programs to facilitate the return of refugees.  To this end, Afghanistan’s experience constitutes the largest repatriation movement in modern history, with 6 million refugees returning to the country since 2002. Voluntary repatriation programs have assisted the return of 4.6 million of these returnees. For refugees without land, a special Presidential decree provides refugees with plots of land for which to build shelters.  In 61 sites and 29 provinces throughout the country, 115,000 families have been selected as beneficiaries the program.

Support offered by the international community, has been essential for refugees to return and reintegrate back into the country in a way that is voluntary, safe, sustainable and dignified. We welcome the outcome of the International conference in Geneva in May 2012, which brought the Governments of the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, UNHCR and donors together to endorse a Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees.  The strategy pursues voluntary repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries, and facilitates the improvement of livelihoods of those returning to Afghanistan. To this end, we underscore the importance of fulfillment of obligations under international refugee law with respect to protection of refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite these successes, ensuring the provision of necessary services for Afghans returning from abroad remains a great challenge for the government of Afghanistan.   Many returned refugees are facing reintegration difficulties including lack of land, shelter, safe drinking water, and basic services such as health care and education.   Addressing the needs of returnees on such a massive scale requires on the one hand long-term social and economic development programs, and on the other hand capacity building programs through the National Development Strategy and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR).  Both depend heavily on international donor support.

In addition, a challenging security environment hinders refugees from returning to Afghanistan, and often prevents those who have returned from resettlement.  It is tragic that some return to their homeland seeking a prosperous future only to be faced with despair.  We are certain that the improvement of security and stability in Afghanistan will provide the refugees with more incentives to return, and our long-term efforts towards peace, security, and stability will further enable the sustainable return of refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to take this opportunity to express the government of Afghanistan’s heartfelt appreciation and sincere gratitude to governments that continue to host Afghan refugees, the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Iran in particular.  During the past decades they have shouldered an enormous burden, which we in Afghanistan see as a demonstration of their solidarity to their Afghan neighbours.  We welcome the decision of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to extend its welcome to Afghan refugees for another year.

Also, I would like to offer special thanks and appreciation to UNHCR for its tireless work for Afghan refugees.  As the High Commissioner’s report points out, the agency facilitated the repatriation of 98,600 Afghans back to the country in 2012, and has been deeply involved in other projects for Afghanistan’s most vulnerable refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion, we thank once again the international community and UNHCR in particular for its continued and sustained support to ensure the voluntary, safe, and sustainable return, rehabilitation and reintegration of refugees in Afghanistan.

I thank you.