Thursday, April 24, 2014

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.

Opening Remarks H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Chair –Designate of the Fifth 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 (BMS 5) First Informal consultations

Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates,

I’d like to offer a warm welcome to all of you in my capacity as Chair-designate to this first informal consultation on the preparations for the Fifth 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, also known as “BMS5”, to be held in New York from 16 to 20 June 2014.

I would like to thank you for the trust you have bestowed upon me earlier this year, by endorsing my nomination as Chair-designate for BMS5. I look forward to taking on this role and to working with all of you as we move forward.

Please be assured that I will work closely with Member States to ensure the success of BMS5. Moreover, I am committed to an inclusive and fully transparent process from beginning to end, leading into the meeting next year.

The Programme of Action remains an important instrument at our disposal to tackle the complex issue of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which continues to wreck havoc in many regions and impede socio-economic development.

The Biennial Meetings of States, which are aimed at considering the national, regional and global implementation of the Programme of Action, are an important opportunity to take stock of our efforts, and identify how to improve our collective approach in the fight against the illicit trade in and uncontrolled proliferation of these weapons. Next year’s BMS5 is significant in this regard, and offers us the chance to move forward with the goals of the PoA especially in light of last year’s successful Review Conference.

Today, I look forward to hearing your input on the possible agenda, outcome, and other substantive and organizational aspects of BMS5.  I am committed to fully hearing your views and concerns throughout our consultations.

As indicated in my letter to you of 10 October, BMS5 will include a separate segment on the International Tracing Instrument, also known as “the ITI”. This is in line with past practice and with the mandate of the ITI, which was adopted by consensus in 2005. It is my intention, also in accordance with past practice, to appoint a moderator for the ITI segment of BMS5.

In regards to our working methods for BMS5: I intend to use the same working methods which were successfully used during previous Programme of Action meetings. This includes an early circulation of a ‘zero-draft’ outcome document, leaving ample possibility for open, transparent consultations in the lead-up to the meeting itself.

Furthermore, as in the past, I would suggest that the BMS5, due to time constraints, have again no general debate nor a high-level segment, but moves directly into the thematic debate.  I hope this will allow us to make effective progress on substantive issues so that we ensure a successful outcome of June’s meeting.

In regards to our discussions today on the BMS5 agenda, Member States will recall that I put forward some very initial proposals, based on what States agreed to in the last Review Conference, including:

  1. Stockpile management;
  2. Marking, record-keeping and tracing: the International Tracing Instrument;
  3. International cooperation and assistance;
  4. Other issues.

Of course, these are only very tentative, preliminary proposals.  I will work hard to listen to you so that the final agenda is fully representative of all your ideas and interests, and to this end, I look forward to your comments today.  It would be my intention to reach an informal agreement on an agenda for BMS5 by December.

I would also like to remind you of the importance of the timely submission of your national reports on the implementation of the PoA and the ITI.  The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs circulated a Note Verbale on 20 September, calling on Member States to submit their national reports before 31 December this year. UNODA can assist you with obtaining a password to log into the online reporting page in order to submit your report.

Also, you will recall that in the 2012 Review Conference outcome, States requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on “implications of recent technological developments in small arms for marking, record-keeping and tracing”, which will be considered at BMS5. States agreed that they would provide information on this in their national reports. In this regard, I would encourage you to make use of your national reports to submit this information, since I envisage that this Secretary-General’s report will be considered at BMS5 under the ITI section. In this regard, I ask the Secretariat to ensure that the Secretary-General’s report is issued in a timely manner so that we can all study it well in advance of our meeting next year.

Regarding the next steps of the BMS5 process, I intend to hold at least four rounds of open, informal consultations with Member States, in New York and possibly in Geneva, before the start of BMS5.

I would like now to open the floor for comments.

I give the floor to the delegate from…

 

 

 

[Member States take the floor…]

 

Are there any other issues Member States may wish to bring up?

 

Ambassador Tanin Convenes First Information Consultations of the BMS5 as Chair-Designate

On 25 October 2013, Ambassador Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, convened the first informal consultations of the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illict Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (BMS5) in his capacity as Chair-Designate.  The meeting was intended as a forum for Member States to share their views on the substantive and organizational aspects of the BMS5, which will be held in June 2014.

The BMS5 will provide Member States with the opportunity to consider the national, regional and global implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (PoA), an instrument which calls for states to take action on the illegal trade of small arms and light weapons.

Ambassador Tanin opened the consultations by offering a warm welcome to Member States.  “I look forward to taking on this role,” he said, “and to working with all of you as we move forward.  Please be assured that I will work closely with Member States to ensure the success of BMS5.”  AmbassadorTanin also emphasized his commitment to an inclusive and fully transparent process from beginning to end, leading into the meeting next year.

In his statement, Ambassador Tanin expressed his intention to use the same working methods which were successfully used during previous PoA meetings, including an early circulation of a ‘zero-draft’ outcome document, and a move directly to thematic debate with no general debate or high level segment, as in the past.  He also put forward four very initial proposals for the agenda items during the BMS5, proposals based on agreements made at the last Review Conference in 2012.  These included stockpile management; marking, record-keeping, and tracing; international cooperation and assistance; and other issues.

Member States congratulated Ambassador Tanin on his nomination as Chair-Designate and offered their support to him throughout the process.  Further, Member States remarked on the proposed agenda, working methods, and other substantive issues of note leading up to the BMS5.

Closing the consultations, Ambassador Tanin reiterated his commitment to listen to Member States and expressed his desire to hear from each representative in the months to come.