Thursday, April 24, 2014

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Stetement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations  Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Thank you Madame President.  I thank you for your able leadership of the Council this month.  Thanks also to our friend Special Representative Jan Kubiš for his statement, and for his skillful leadership of UNAMA in Afghanistan.  We convey our gratitude to Australia and Ambassador Quinlan for committed work as the penholder on Afghanistan, and for the spirit of cooperation shown during the course of negotiations for the UNAMA resolution.  I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome the recent Secretary General’s report on the Situation in Afghanistan.

Madame President,

On 28th March 2002, in the wake of the Bonn Conference, this Council voted for the establishment of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), a political mission to lead international civilian coordination efforts and to support Afghanistan in building a democratic, stable, and peaceful country (SC/RES/1401).  Since then, its comprehensive focus on security, economy, governance and development challenges has been essential to my government’s work to lay the foundations for sustainable development and peace in the country, and the UNAMA mandate has been renewed regularly with the full support of the government of Afghanistan.

 Throughout the last decade, UNAMA has remained at the center of international engagement in support of Afghanistan, an engagement characterized by the involvement of more than 70 countries and dozens of international organizations known as the donor community.  The international community’s collective efforts have spanned all dimensions, and our achievements, attained through shared efforts, have been exceptional.  The country is more unified; millions of boys and girls are in school; more Afghans have access to healthcare than ever before; and all Afghans enjoy their fundamental human rights as guaranteed by our constitution.

 Madame President,

 We reached the final stage of transition this year, as the country began to stand on its own feet and take charge of its own destiny. Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) assumed full security responsibility nationwide, showing evermore capability and professionalism as international forces draw down.  The government began to renew its international partnerships while asserting greater Afghan ownership and leadership over the country’s future. And now, after 12 years of unprecedented international cooperation and engagement, the Afghan people are less than a few weeks away from the pinnacle of transition: Presidential and Provincial elections.

Madame President,

 On 5th April, Afghans will cast their votes to choose the future leader of the country and their provincial representatives.  This is an historic event; it marks the first peaceful transition of power through a democratic process. Moreover, a legitimate political transition is essential to our efforts to secure a brighter and more peaceful future.  After decades of war, Afghans have worked intently to build a new foundation for progress in Afghanistan. Elections represent the hope that this work will continue, and provide an opportunity for its advancement throughout the Transformation Decade.

 Madame President,

 Election preparations have been long underway with the help of the international community and the United Nations.  It is crucial that elections are legitimate, credible, and transparent, as expected by all.  To this end, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) is in the lead in administering, adjudicating, and managing the polls, overseeing logistical and technical preparation with the support of our international partners.   The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) is well positioned to prevent fraud and misconduct. Furthermore, the Ministry of the Interior has intensified efforts to ensure security on Election Day, preparing 400,000 Afghan security forces to protect the 7,168 polling stations on April 5th, with plans to deploy 13,000 female polling station searchers and provide security to the 308 female Provincial Council candidates.  The numbers of international and national observers are in the thousands.

 Participation of Afghans in the lead up to the elections has been monumental. All segments of society are deeply involved in elections, many of them for the first time, keenly participating to ensure they get a say over the country’s future.  Importantly, women are involved in the elections as candidates, campaigners, electoral workers and voters. Today, of the 3.4 million new voters registered for the April elections, 35 percent are women. Additionally, Presidential candidates have had historic media exposure, particularly through a number of televised debates, allowing candidates the opportunity to present their programs to the electorate and enhancing countrywide involvement in the political process.  This sets a new precedent for our young democracy.

 Madame President,

 With all Afghans focused keenly on the elections, we are not losing sight of the challenges that we face this year that are crucial to the preservation of the gains of the last decade, and to a successful departure towards the Transformation Decade.  To address these challenges, serious focus is needed on the following three main areas:

 First, Afghanistan’s continuing cooperation with the international community. This is essential to successful transition this year, to the Transformation Decade ahead, and to long-term peace, security and development in the country. The Afghan people, as demonstrated by the Consultative Loya Jirga of November 2013, believe in the importance of continuing strategic relations with the United States, NATO, and the wider international community.  To this end, we are certain that the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States will be signed soon.

 Second, the fiscal stability and sustainable economic growth and development of Afghanistan. We welcome progress made towards fulfilling commitments set out in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF), which is essential to the country’s long-term stability and sustainability.  In addition to TMAF, the government continues to further the agreements reached at the London, Kabul, Bonn and Tokyo Conferences and the Lisbon and Chicago Summits that aim to enhance national leadership and ownership and Afghanistan’s economic self-sufficiency strategy.

 Third, regional cooperation.  As we move towards the end of transition this year, it is fundamental to Afghanistan’s stability that its neighbors and countries in the region play their role in contributing to peace and security in the country.  It is clear that the prosperity and security of all countries in the region are deeply interlinked and therefore my government continues to strengthen networks of regional cooperation through multilateral processes such as the Istanbul Process as well as bilateral efforts. Regional cooperation also is essential to peace and reconciliation, and related outreach to the Taliban and other groups that continue to fight against the government.

 Madame President,

 Throughout all this, protecting the rights of all Afghans remains a fundamental priority.  This includes ensuring the right of all Afghan people to good governance, justice, healthcare, education, and the right to live free from violence.  In this regard, Afghanistan is committed to preventing and mitigating the toll of violence on civilians, particularly women and children.  We condemn in the strongest terms continuing violence against the Afghan people, including women and children, by extremists.  With elections presenting an opportunity for all Afghans to come together in unity, the impetus for the armed opposition to reject their brutal tactics, contribute meaningfully to the country, and heed the call for peace, has never been stronger than it is today.

 Madame President,

 As we renew the mandate of UNAMA for another year, we are well aware of the continuing importance of the role of the United Nations as a whole in this crucial time for the country. We expect the international community to stand firmly for peace and security in Afghanistan, to further our work to ensure that the hard won achievements of the last decade are protected. After decades of war and instability, and 12 years of tremendous progress, it is crucial that momentum continues towards our goal of achieving a long-lasting, stable, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan.

 I thank you.

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Campaign Launch: Children, Not Soldiers

 

Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for your participation at this event and for the leading role of the Ambassador of Luxembourg, Sylvie Lucas. I would like to thank our esteemed friends Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative to the Secretary General, Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Mr. Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for their statements, and for their collective work to prevent the suffering of children in armed conflict in countries like mine and around the world.  I am honored to speak at the launch of the Special Representative’s commendable campaign to end the recruitment and use of children by government security forces.

Children have suffered profoundly in Afghanistan as a result of over 30 years of violent conflict. War cast a shadow over their daily lives, cutting their childhoods short, subjecting them to violence, and leaving them without their families and loved ones.

 Yet, while children have experienced indescribable anguish throughout Afghanistan’s long conflict, the nature of today’s wars and the tactics of terrorist groups have made the past several years particularly brutal for children.

Excellencies,

War in Afghanistan left young boys and girls without support systems and forced them to become the main breadwinners for their families.  Motivated by poverty, children in my country often try to join the national and local police or the army, even lying about their age so that they can serve. This is not a result of a systematic attempt by the government to recruit children, but rather a result of children’s desperation to provide for their own and their family’s livelihoods.

 Understanding these awful circumstances, my government still affirms that child recruitment is unacceptable in all cases.  Preventing children from joining security forces in Afghanistan has thus become a focus for my government, as it has for the international community.

 To this end, the government of Afghanistan has taken strong measures to ensure that recruitment and use of children by our security forces ends completely, among them I can name:

 In 2006, the Ministry of the Interior set the age requirement for recruitment at 18-35 years, and has since issued identity cards to verify the ages of those enlisting.  Relatedly, the Ministry of Justice enacted a criminal law imposing a penalty of 5-10 years in prison for the falsification of identity cards.  In addition, since 2010 a series of strong Presidential and Ministerial decrees have been issued condemning the recruitment of children in both the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan National and Local Police.  Now both the Local and National Police have high-level focal points working to limit recruitment.  Also, Afghanistan created the first ever Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee to implement the 2011 Action Plan to halt child recruitment, signed with the UN.

 These successes, Excellencies, do not negate the tremendous challenges ahead of us.  We know that much progress is yet to be achieved.  While our government is working steadily to protect children, progress thus far has only been possible through the committed support of our international partners.  We need their technical expertise and funding- in addition to their advocacy- to prevent recruitment and to end this scourge.  We call on our international partners to continue their support so that this campaign is no longer applicable to our country.

Thank you.

UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Thank you, Madam President. I am pleased to see you in the Security Council seat as well as President of the Council this month.  I would also like to thank you for convening this important debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.  Thank you also to Ms. Valerie Amos, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General of the  Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Yves Daccord, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, for their useful briefings today.

Protection of civilians is of paramount importance to the government of Afghanistan. The Afghan people expected to see long-awaited peace when the Taliban regime ended following decades of war, unprecedented destruction and loss of life. Yet despite joint stabilization efforts towards peace and security, the suffering of the Afghan people continues. The security situation remains precarious today, and has in fact escalated in intensity since 2009.

 Afghan civilians are targeted with guns and bombs by enemies who measure success in terms of blood spilled and life lost.  Women, children, government officials, journalists, religious leaders, and judicial authorities are at risk as they go about their daily lives- shopping at a bazaar, visiting a friend, commuting to work.  They are attacked in villages, on public roads, in restaurants, government offices, courthouses, and mosques.

 Madam President,

 With pure and utter disregard for civilian life, the Taliban’s and other extremist groups’ brutal terrorist campaigns affect ordinary Afghans most profoundly. The Taliban are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, causing thousands of deaths in 2013 alone, which represents a sharp increase from previous years.

The brutal campaign opened a murderous era in Afghanistan’s history, devastating both in terms of its acute impact on Afghan people and in terms of its savagery. Terrorists’ tactics are a horrific manifestation of man’s inhumanity to man, of which graphic video footage of beheadings posted on Taliban websites, the recent heinous attack on a popular restaurant in Kabul, and the cold-blooded murders and violence against women and children are but a few harrowing examples.

 This Council condemned Taliban attacks in the strongest terms 6 times last year, stressing that terrorism in all its forms is criminal and unjustifiable and underscoring the need to bring its perpetrators to justice. It is clear, Madame President, that the Taliban show flagrant disregard for international law as well as the basic tenets and principles of Islam.

Madam President,

 We note with deep concern an increase in the indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices (IED’s) by armed insurgent groups in the past year.  IEDs remain the leading cause of civilian deaths and injuries, accounting for 34 percent of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan.  To address this menace, a national counter IED strategy was instituted by Presidential Decree in 2012.  We are working to strengthen our counter-IED capabilities, and the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF’s) related training programs for Afghan National Security Forces are a further important step in minimizing the danger these weapons pose.

 Madame President,

Tragically, ground engagements in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations have resulted in the deaths and injuries of civilians.  It is unfortunate that Afghans lost their lives during operations by international and national forces that aimed to protect their lives. To this end, the Afghan government has repeatedly called upon international military forces to take all necessary measures to stop Afghan civilian loss of life. In the past years, important steps were taken in this regard.

With Afghan forces now at the forefront of protecting the Afghan people from terrorist attacks, we see situations in which civilians are caught in the crossfire of ground engagements with the enemy. One life lost is one life too many, and with this sentiment in mind Afghan forces are strongly committed to the protection of civilians. Stabilization efforts are guided by their sense of responsibility, sobriety, and duty to their fellow Afghans.

Madam President,

It is clear that the surest way to protect the lives, honor and dignity of citizens is to end the cycle of violence that harms innocent civilians. In this regard, achieving peace and security in Afghanistan requires the following three key components: First international assistance throughout the next decade to support Afghan capacity to counter terrorist campaigns against Afghan people. Second, the elimination of terrorist sanctuaries that fuel the cycle of violence.  Third, vigorous pursuit of our Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, intended to engage those ready to renounce violence and contribute responsibly to their homeland. Effective regional and international cooperation is key to the successful outcome of the process.

Thank you, Madame President.