Friday, November 28, 2014

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Third Committee: Agenda Item 61  

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to thank the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Guterres, for his comprehensive report and also the dedicated staff of UNHCR for their commitment and assistance to the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Mr. Chair,

 

Almost 40 years of war and crisis have forced millions of Afghans to seek safety and security away from their homes in unfamiliar slums, cities, and towns in and outside of the country. Generations of Afghans have been born and raised as refugees. Renewed conflict and security concerns have made this year particularly difficult for IDPs, refugees and returnees in Afghanistan. Currently, over three million Afghans are refugees or IDPs, making Afghan nationals one of the highest populations of displaced persons in the world. This year 124,000 persons were displaced, bringing the cumulative total of the internally displaced to over 700,000 persons.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

The government of Afghanistan is committed to securing long-term peace and stability in the country and recognizes that the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees and IDPs is central to this goal. President Ghani, the newly elected President of Afghanistan, has made this a central element of his reform agenda, and to this end he called upon Afghan refugees to return to Afghanistan to “rebuild the nation” in his inauguration address.

 

The government of Afghanistan is dedicated to pursuing sustainable solutions for the repatriation of Afghan refugees who remain in exile. The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations (MoRR) is the main government body responsible for rebuilding the lives of refugees and IDPs and providing them with reintegration support. Related programs include oversight of encashment centres to facilitate assistance, cash grants, basic health services, mine awareness training and briefings on how to enrol children in school and access legal aid.

 

In addition, Afghanistan’s national policy on IDPs, endorsed by the government in 2013, provides a framework for the rights of IDPs as well as emergency response. The policy acknowledges the central responsibility of the government to prevent conditions leading to displacement, minimise unavoidable displacement, and mitigate and resolve its adverse effects without delay. It also establishes the government of Afghanistan’s responsibility to provide emergency assistance, longer term support and effective protection of IDPs. The government commenced implementation of the policy in September of this year, with plans for further expansion in 2015.

 

It is important to note that Afghanistan has one of the largest numbers of returnees in the world. 5.8 million refugees have returned voluntarily to Afghanistan since 2002, increasing the population of my country by 25 percent. In the first seven months of 2014, over 10,000 Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan. My government is working closely with UNHCR to continue to promote repatriation through the government’s Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, which provides a framework to facilitate voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of returnees.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

I would like to draw attention to the tremendous challenges faced by displaced persons in Afghanistan and around the world: they often lack access to justice and basic services such as healthcare and education and are particularly vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, disease, discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation. Recognizing these vulnerabilities, I reiterate the obligations of host governments under international refugee law with respect to the protection of refugees, the principle of voluntary return and full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian relief agencies to provide protection and assistance. It is critical that the rights of refugees and IDPs in both their country of origin and asylum are safeguarded and protected and that they enjoy the same standards of treatment as other nationals or foreign nationals in any given country.

Mr. Chair,

 

We are certain that the improvement of the security situation in Afghanistan will reduce the numbers of refugees and IDPs and will enable and incentivise them to return to their homes. In the meantime, my government remains committed to facilitating the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return, rehabilitation and reintegration of displaced persons in Afghanistan, and we thank the UNHCR and the international community for its continued support in this regard.  I would like to take this opportunity to express my government’s deep appreciation to those governments that continue to host Afghan refugees, in particular Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran, acknowledging the huge burden they have so far shouldered in this regard.

 

Thank you.

 

H.E. Ambassador Tanin Highlights the Importance of Women’s Leadership in the Future of Afghanistan at the Security Council Debate on Women, Peace and Security

On 28 October 2014, the Security Council held an Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, with the theme of “Displaced Women and Girls: Leaders and Survivors”. Executive Director of the UN Women, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Edmund Mulet, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Mr. Chaloka Beyani and a representative of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Ms. Suaad Allami delivered statements at the debate’s outset.

The Executive Director of the UN Women, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, opened the debate and noted that the Council is facing extraordinary challenges including the rise of violent extremism and the worst levels of displacement since the end of the Second World War. “We will not overcome these challenges without putting gender equality at the front and centre of our efforts to maintain peace and security,” she said.

Representatives from over 65 Member States and regional groups took the floor.  Speakers noted with concern the ongoing, protracted conflicts that are contributing towards the unprecedented levels of displacement, and the violent extremism directly targeting women and girls.

Taking the floor, H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, noted the timeliness of the Security Council debate. “War and conflict affect more lives today, all over the world but particularly in Afghanistan and the wider region, than at any time in recent history,” he said.  “Millions of families have been forced to flee their homes, and millions of women and children have been left vulnerable, bearing the brunt of the burden of these tragic circumstances.”

Ambassador Tanin stressed that the people of Afghanistan, particularly women and girls, have suffered immensely as a result of almost 40 years of war and conflict. “Violence in my country shattered their lives, interrupted their educations, threatened their livelihoods, destroyed their communities, and pushed them from their homes to other countries or to unfamiliar cities and slums,” he said.  Despite these challenges, the Ambassador noted that the new President and National Unity Government are committed to women’s full and equal participation at all levels of governance and decision-making.

 

Ambassador Tanin concluded his statement by emphasizing that as Afghanistan prepares for the challenging transition from international security forces to Afghan forces and institutions at the end of this year, the Government of Afghanistan believes that women’s participation is critical to preserving and enhancing the gains of the last 12 years and to the future stability, democracy, prosperity and peace of the country. “Afghan women,” he said, “have suffered immensely as a result of Taliban rule, extremism and decades of war. It is only when they are free from violence, want and fear that we will be able to secure democracy, stability and lasting peace in Afghanistan.”

 

 

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the Security Council Open Debate on  Women, Peace and Security

Thank you, Madam President, for organizing such an important meeting and congratulations on your leadership of the Council this month.  I would also like to thank previous speakers for their statements and the Secretary-General for his recent report on Women, Peace and Security. I look forward to his global study on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 and the upcoming High Level Review of the resolution.

 

This debate could not have come at a more timely moment: war and conflict affect more lives today, all over the world but particularly in Afghanistan and the wider region, than at any time in recent history. Millions of families have been forced to flee their homes, and millions of women and children have been left vulnerable, bearing the brunt of the burden of these tragic circumstances.

 

Madam President,

 

The people of Afghanistan, particularly women and girls, have suffered immensely as a result of almost 40 years of war and conflict. Violence in my country shattered their lives, interrupted their educations, threatened their livelihoods, destroyed their communities, and pushed them from their homes to other countries or to unfamiliar cities and slums.

 

Afghanistan remains the largest protracted refugee situation in the world, and this year the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has increased due to a resurgence of insecurity in parts of the country. Women suffer disproportionately in situations of displacement; they often lack access to the most basic services and resources and are at a higher risk of discrimination and human rights abuses.

 

This past year saw a rise in the violent activities of the Taliban, terrorists groups and other anti-government armed opposition, and the greatest increase in civilian deaths of the past 13 years, many of which were women and girls. The Taliban and other anti-government elements continue to launch targeted attacks and intimidation campaigns against women from all spectrums of society- from school girls to female leaders, including women police officers, human rights defenders, media personnel and politicians. Insecurity has also hampered the government’s ability to prosecute human rights abuses and uphold the rule of law, exacerbating women’s vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence, domestic abuse, harassment, forced marriage and other crimes.

 

Madam President,

 

Despite these challenges, Afghanistan has arrived at an important turning point that offers tremendous opportunity for strengthened progress on the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Last month the new President was inaugurated, representing the first democratic transition from one elected president to the next in the country’s history. In this year’s Presidential and Provincial Council elections, millions of women participated as voters, and hundreds played a significant role as candidates and as campaigners, despite facing threats and intimidation. Their involvement set the tone for an Afghanistan in which women participate and contribute equally to the country’s future.

 

President Ghani and the national unity government are committed to women’s full and equal participation at all levels of governance and decision-making. The President made this clear in his inaugural address, in which he pledged to promote women’s advancement in Afghanistan and praised his wife, Rula Ghani, for the role she would play as an active public figure dedicated to promoting women’s rights. This gesture is a first for our young democracy.

 

Just a few days ago, Afghanistan signed the Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan, which aims to make progress on the four main areas of participation, protection, conflict prevention and relief and recovery. We appreciate the Government of Finland’s support for the development of the plan and remain committed to implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda through key institutions as well as the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA). We are also dedicated to promoting the participation of women in the security sector, and aim to increase the number of women police officers from its current 2,230 to 10,000 by 2017.

 

Madam President,

 

As Afghanistan prepares for the full transfer of security responsibility from international to Afghan forces at the end of this year, the President and new leadership of the country are committed to a comprehensive reform agenda. Over the next two years, Afghanistan will hold district and parliamentary elections, reform electoral laws, convene a Loya Jirga to consider amendments to the constitution and conduct a reinvigorated outreach and reconciliation process with the armed opposition. Throughout, the active role of all segments of the Afghan population, particularly Afghan women, will be essential. The government of Afghanistan believes adamantly that their participation is critical to preserving and enhancing the gains of the last 12 years and to the future stability, democracy, prosperity and peace of the country. In this regard, the international community’s continued support of Afghanistan’s efforts to advance women’s rights and status remains crucial.

 

Madam President,

 

Afghan women have suffered immensely as a result of Taliban rule, extremism and decades of war, and it is only when they are free from violence, want and fear that we will be able to secure stability and lasting peace in Afghanistan. For these reasons, we welcome the opportunities provided to us by the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Beijing conference on women, the 15th anniversary of 1325 and the adoption of the sustainable development goals to make further progress on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda for women in Afghanistan and for women around the world.

 

Thank you.