Saturday, November 29, 2014

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.

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the Third Committee Agenda Item 27 Advancement of Women

Thank you, Madam Chair,

 

It is a pleasure to have the chance to speak on this important issue. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General for all his reports highlighting key issues on the Advancement of Women, and the Director of UN Women for her comprehensive reports. We also thank the United Nations for its ongoing support to our efforts to support the advancement of women in my country.

 

Madam Chair,

 

Afghanistan has entered a new chapter in its history with the election of a new President and a national unity government. This represents a new beginning for the country, and an important moment for the women of Afghanistan.

 

We have made tremendous progress since the collapse of the Taliban. For the past 13 years, the Government of Afghanistan has been committed to the advancement of women. Afghan women have been liberated from the tyranny of the Taliban, a tyranny that oppressed women first and foremost. The Afghan Constitution guarantees the equal rights of all Afghans, and the political discourse in the country regularly recognizes Afghan women and the valuable role they play in society. Women’s empowerment has become a critical criteria for social advancement in the country, and government institutions and civil society have vocalized the importance of upholding women’s rights and ensuring their participation. The international community has been stood by us steadfastly in these efforts.

 

The involvement of women in the recent Presidential elections represented a deeply significant demonstration of progress. Thousands of women voted despite threats to their lives, a situation unprecedented in Afghanistan. Additionally, five of the vice presidential candidates for the 2014 elections were women and many were elected to seats in provincial councils.

 

Since the fall of the Taliban, several laws have been developed and adopted to safeguard the rights of women. These include the Elimination of Violence Against Women law. The National Action Plan for Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) is the main vehicle for government implementation of gender commitments at all levels.  In addition, Afghanistan is pursuing the vigorous implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to ensure that women are meaningfully represented in peace, security, reconciliation and conflict resolution efforts and initiatives.

 

Furthermore, a number of policies in the areas of women’s political participation, education, health and economic empowerment to benefit women have been adopted. Today 22% of Government employees and 27% of the Members of Parliament are women. Women hold 120 judicial positions.  In health sector, policies to enhance women’s access to health services have been promoted.  Between 2001 and 2013 maternal mortality fell from 1,600 to 327 deaths per 100,000 births, and infant mortality decreased from 257 to 77 deaths per 1,000 live births. We have also seen significant growth in the economic sector for women; today 700 small companies in Afghanistan are managed and led by women. This is a stark comparison to the past when women had zero involvement in the economic life of the country.

 

Madam Chair,

 

Despite significant gains, the path toward progress on women’s advancement in Afghanistan remains challenging. Women have been profoundly impacted by three and half decades of conflict, insecurity and violence. Their vulnerabilities are further compounded by negative traditional and customary practices that discriminate against women, low levels of literacy, lack of job opportunities and widespread poverty, particularly in the most remote parts of the country.

 

Women in Afghanistan suffer from violence, child marriage and gender discrimination, which impedes their involvement in all sectors of society.  It is of great concern that women’s rights defenders face threats as a result of their efforts to improve the lives of women in the country. Moreover, weak rule of law poses a major threat to women in Afghanistan, as made evident in their lack of access to the justice system. This has had a devastating impact on women, particularly those who are victims of gender based violence.

 

Madam Chair,

 

Recognizing these profound challenges, the new government is committed to upholding and promoting the rights and advancement of women in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani is adamant that women are essential to successful development and peace in the country. His commitment was demonstrated in his first address to the people of Afghanistan, in which he pledged to promote women’s advancement in Afghanistan and highlighted the important role that his wife, Rula Ghani, played during the campaign.  Furthermore, he noted that as First Lady she will remain dedicated to the cause of women’s rights and that she would oversee a committee aimed at providing advice, technical support and expertise to the President on women’s issues. This is historic step; it is the first time that the First Lady of a democratically elected president in Afghanistan has adopted a public role.  It has great inspiring power, and sets an example to the wider region.

 

As Afghanistan focuses on building a national unity government, and begins on a comprehensive reform program, it is clear that women’s real, full participation in the country’s future is imperative. Also, the President’s focus on enhancing the rule of law will deeply improve the situation in the country for women. Besides from their involvement, it is crucial that Afghanistan aim towards a situation where women feel safe, where they have the same freedom others have, to walk freely, to receive education, and to participate as equal members of society- not as second class citizens. The new government in Afghanistan is committed to change, and also to continuity, and so we will build upon the great achievements of the last 12 years.

 

Afghanistan is fundamentally committed to the advancement and empowerment of women; I thank the international community for their continued support of our efforts for the women of our country and their rights.

 

Thank you.

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations     At the General Debate of the First Committee

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, let me join other delegations in congratulating you on your election as Chairman of the First Committee. We wish you and the members of the Bureau every success leading the work of the Committee, and assure you of our full support and cooperation.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan associates itself with the statement delivered on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). However, I wish to make the following observations in my national capacity:

Afghanistan reiterates its full commitment to multilateral diplomacy, as an important principle for advancing disarmament, non-proliferation and international security. We believe the global goals towards arms control, arms reduction, and the full eradication of any type of Weapons of Mass Destruction can only be realized through all sides displaying strong political will.

 

Afghanistan supports, unequivocally, all initiatives in the sphere of Nuclear disarmament.  Consistent with a core pillar of our foreign policy, we are fully committed to realizing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in Asia and other parts of the world. In this regard, Afghanistan is party to both the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

As highlighted in two previous conferences in Oslo and Nayarit, the catastrophic consequences and humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons are unbearable and should serve as an imperative to prevent any use of these weapons in the future. We echo other delegations in saying that the only guarantee against this is the total elimination of all Nuclear Weapons. We welcome the call made at the Nayarit conference, for the development of a legally binding instrument prohibiting any use of Nuclear Weapons and we are looking forward to the 3rd Conference to be held in Vienna in December this year.

 

Decades after the adoption of the NPT, we have yet to see any substantial progress towards its implementation particularly with regards to Article VI of the Treaty. As we approach the 9th review conference of the NPT next year, we believe that sincere commitment and cooperation is required by all, particularly Nuclear Weapon States; in order to move towards the realization of the overall goal of the NPT and the objectives of its review conference.

 

We strongly support the establishment of a Middle East zone free of Nuclear Weapons and all other Weapons of Mass Destruction. Any continuing delay in the establishment of the Middle East Zone runs contrary to the commitments made at 2010 Review Action Plan and we call, in this regard, for the convening of the conference without further delay.

We also stress the importance of achieving universal adherence to the CTBT and we believe its entry into force will prevent further development and proliferation of these inhuman weapons.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

This year marks one of the deadliest years for the Afghan people since 2001. Use of high Explosive Weapons systems with wide area effect, such as mortars, rockets and grenades, by terrorists groups in civilian populated areas and use of civilians as human shields have resulted in a dramatic increase in civilian causalities.

 

Indiscriminate and unlawful continuing use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), including pressure-plate IEDs, roadside bombs and suicide attacks by terrorists and extremist groups continue to cause an overwhelming loss of life of ordinary civilians, as well as Afghan and international security forces on a daily basis; and are in direct violation of international humanitarian law. However, my government in 2010, prohibited the import, export, and transfer of ammonium nitrate, the main substance for manufacturing IEDs, we still face a situation in which such substances continue to be trafficked into our territory from within our immediate region. As such, we call for more coherent efforts and integrated mechanisms to address this challenge in our region and beyond.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

Having experienced enduring conflict and violence, Afghanistan has been one of the main victims of small arms and light weapons. During war time, millions of illegal arms and light weapons were imported or trafficked into our territory and over a million people were killed by small arms and light weapons alone and approximately one million people were disabled or handicapped because of these weapons and associated ammunitions. Small arms and light weapons have clearly been the main destabilizing and destructive element in Afghanistan over the last three decades. Afghanistan bears witness daily to fact that terrorists’ access to illegal small arms and light weapons fuels the cycle of violence in Afghanistan and in our region.

In this regard, Afghanistan fully supports the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects.  We welcome adoption of the outcome document of the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States, a process chaired by Afghanistan, and I thank all Member States for their cooperation throughout the process.

Despite the progress made in regulating the manufacture, trade, transit and circulation of small arms and light weapons, greater international cooperation and assistance is still needed to address challenges arising from the illicit circulation and uncontrolled spread of these weapons in many region of the world, particularly in conflict and post conflict situations. Hence, we also welcome the inclusion in the SDG’s the goal towards the reduction of illicit arms flow by 2030.

Mr. Chairman,

War and violence has left Afghanistan heavily mined; in fact it is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Abandoned landmines and explosives ordinances continue to pose a great threat to the lives of many Afghan civilians and further jeopardize the security and development of Afghanistan and its people. Over a million people have already lost body parts due to landmines, and this widespread destruction and loss of life continue today. Moreover, at present, the Taliban and extremist militant groups continue use mines to achieve their ultimate goal of threatening stability, safety, and development in Afghanistan.

Notwithstanding the many challenges ahead, the end of Afghanistan’s landmine and Explosive Remnants of War problem is in sight as Afghanistan has commenced work on a ten year plan in line with Ottawa Treaty extension request that will see Afghanistan mine free by 2023. This will be a monumental achievement for the country, a result of the hard work and dedication of the thousands of Afghan de-miners who have been supported technically and financially for many years by numerous donor states and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). Yet financial constraints greatly hinder our ability to meet this tremendous challenge successfully, therefore sustained international support and assistance is core in our shared efforts towards achieving this goal.

We welcome the Maputo+15 Declaration adopted at the Third Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personal Mines and Their Destruction. We condemn in the strongest terms all use of anti-personnel mines, and support the “completion” goals of the Maputo Review Conference. While the Convention has had great success in fomenting the international community’s resolve against such indiscriminate weapons and in implementing country-specific commitments, Afghanistan still suffers from the consequences of past use.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, Afghanistan is fully committed to the eradication of cluster munitions, and ratified the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions in September 2011. With the destruction of thousands of different munitions, Afghanistan is pleased to have destroyed all weaponry of this kind within its military stockpiles. We are fully committed to the provisions of the convention on cluster munitions, condemn all use of these weapons which are indiscriminate in their impact and we encourage its universalization.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.