Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ambassador Tanin speaks about Legal Aid in Afghanistan in a Panel Discussion at the United Nations

On 13 November 2014 at the United Nations, the Permanent Missions of Afghanistan, South Africa and the United States to the United Nations, the Rule of Law Unit (on behalf of the UN Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group) and the International Legal Foundation co-organized a panel discussion on “Enhancing Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems”. The panel featured H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, the Hon. Judge Dunstan Mlambo, President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa and Chair of the Board of Directors for Legal Aid South Africa, Judge Lisa Foster, Director of the United States Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative, Ms. Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of the International Legal Foundation. Ms. Simone Monasebian, Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, moderate the discussion.

All panellists stressed the importance of access to legal aid. “No justice system can be credible without legal aid”, said the Hon. Dunstan Mlambo. Ms Foster discussed the establishment of legal aid services across the globe, including in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Tanin explained the historical context of the justice system in Afghanistan and the significant achievements made over the past 10 years to expand access to legal aid services. “Decades of conflict,” he said “rendered Afghanistan’s legal system virtually non-existent.” Now, legal aid is available across all provinces in Afghanistan. A mbassador Tanin emphasised the important role played by international partners, civil society and non-governmental legal aid organizations in expanding access to legal aid.

While significant progress has been made in Afghanistan, many challenges remain. These include lack of awareness about defence rights, financial constraints, scarcity of justice professionals, limited capacity in regional areas and corruption, Ambassador Tanin explained. Moving forward, he noted, “the new government of Afghanistan will prioritize combating corruption and strengthening the rule of law countrywide.” However, the sustained support of the international community and non-governmental organizations will remain central to these efforts.

Following individual statements, the panellists answered questions from the audience about legal aid provision in conflict and post-conflict settings, understanding legal aid in the development context, and the challenges of monitoring and evaluation activities. The event was well attended by Government representatives, civil society and staff of various United Nation bodies.

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.”



Ambassador Tanin Welcomes East West Institute Report, “Afghanistan Reconnected” at the United Nations

On 17 October at the United Nations, the East West Institute (EWI) presented key recommendations from its latest report,  “Afghanistan Reconnected: Regional Economic Security Beyond 2014,” which highlights the potential for economic growth and stability in Central Asia.  The event was supported by the Permanent Missions of Germany and the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations.  Permanent Representatives to the United Nations of several of Afghanistan’s neighbor countries, including China, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkey, Tajikistan and other government officials participated in the event, as well as United Nations officials, civil society representatives, and experts.

IMG_2722Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, delivered the welcome address. He highlighted the importance of EWI’s Abu Dhabi Process report and its aim to identify and promote opportunities for economic growth in Afghanistan and the region.  The initiative “could not have come at a more timely moment,” the Ambassador remarked.  “Just a few weeks ago, a new President was inaugurated in what was the country’s first democratic transition of power from one President to the next.”  The new national unity government, led by newly elected President Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai,  is focused on securing long-term peace, security and economic development in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Tanin emphasized the importance of regional cooperation to stability in Afghanistan. “Our economic cooperation and our economic interconnectivity provide us with a solid basis for strengthened peace, security and stability both in Afghanistan and in the region, which in turn will a create a safe environment for investment and build greater confidence between countries,” he said. “This mutually enforcing relationship applies not only to Afghanistan but also to region as a whole.”

Following Ambassador Tanin’s remarks, other distinguished government representatives, civil society members and business leaders participated in panel format to frame the economic and political context following the recent Presidential elections and to discuss opportunities for economic growth in Afghanistan.