The new Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, presented his credentials today to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ambassador Saikal is a senior Afghan diplomat and international development specialist with over two decades of experience with governments, international organizations, private sector and civil society. Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Saikal served as Special Representative and Senior Advisor to the Chief Executive of Afghanistan (2014-2015), Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan (2005-2006), Ambassador of Afghanistan to Australia and New Zealand (2002-2005), First Secretary and later Counselor Minister Plenipotentiary at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Tokyo (1993-1994).
Ambassador Saikal was instrumental in the negotiation of various agreements, including the 2014 agreement on the formation of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, the “Joint Declaration on Regional Peace and Stability” a track II initiative launched in Kabul in 2013, the “Afghanistan Compact” which was launched at the London International Conference on Afghanistan in 2006, as well as the 2006 Afghanistan-NATO Declaration, which set out the Framework for Enduring Cooperation in Partnership.
He was deeply involved in the promotion of regional cooperation, resulting in Afghanistan’s membership in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), strengthening Afghanistan’s membership in Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), and formulation of the process of Regional Economic Cooperation Conferences on Afghanistan (RECCA).
Ambassador Saikal has a Master’s Degree in International Development from Deakin University of Melbourne, as well as two bachelor degrees from the University of Sydney and the University of Canberra. He graduated with First Class French Baccalaureate from Lycee Esteqlal of Kabul.
Born on 1 January 1962, Ambassador Saikal is married with two children.
H.E. Dilber Nazari, Minister of Women’s Affairs is in New York to participate in the N-Peace award ceremony, which is a multi country initiative managed by UNDP to further the women, peace and security agenda, and to promote broader conflict prevention and peace building work in Asia. She visited the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations on Oct 22 and addressed the staff of the Mission and the Consulate.
Speaking at length about the achievements of Afghan women in the past fourteen years, Minister Nazari gave special emphasis to the participation of women in the public sphere—she said how there have been significant changes in women’s participation in education, workforce, and political life. President Ashraf Ghani has promised seven ambassadorial level positions for women; currently four ministries and two governorships are held by women. The presence of women, though in small numbers, in senior administrative positions herald a new era of women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.
Minister Nazari spoke of the 100 day plan for her ministry which focused on increasing capacity for women’s institutions in urban as well as rural Afghanistan. A review of the ministry found that 80 positions were vacant, which were filled by recruiting the best talents in a competitive manner. Improving women’s access to justice and legal aid in case of duress was another significant facet of the 100 day plan. Developing strategies for implementation of a law prohibiting violence against women, which was recently approved by the cabinet, is also a priority for the Ministry.
Despite the significant progress in women’s empowerment and social status, multiple challenges persist for women in Afghanistan. Most of the development dividends and public participation is still concentrated in urban areas; life for rural Afghan women hasn’t changed much. Persistent security threats act as significant impediments to securing and strengthening women’s rights in the country. During the recent Taliban attack on Kunduz, Minister Nazari elaborated how she had to evacuate female staff and residents of women’s protection centers on a very short notice and under tremendous security challenges. She mentioned that Kunduz is safe and secure now; about 8,000 families have returned and the city is slowly getting back to normal life. She also spoke about the need for continued support from the international community and how it is absolutely essential to guarantee women their rightful position in society.
The next 100 days plan focuses on educating the population, especially in the remote rural areas, about rights of women. The focus would be on engaging men in the process and making them equal stakeholders in creating a just society based on gender equity. Support for widows and destitute women would also be a significant aspect of the next 100 days plan by the Ministry.
Minister Nazari’s visit was really beneficial to get a glimpse of the progress made by Afghan women in the past decade and also realistically gage the challenges ahead and strategies to counter them