Saturday, December 20, 2014

Statement by Mohammad Ashraf Ghani President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the NATO Ministerial Meeting in Brussels

December 2, 2014

Brussels, Belgium

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Mr. Secretary General,

Distinguished Foreign Ministers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Compelled by tragedy and cemented by mutual sacrifice, the partnership between Afghanistan and NATO is entering a new phase. We welcome the end of the combat mission but more significantly, we welcome the noncombat mission. Our forces are ready to assume their patriotic duty of defending our homeland but our trust and performance of that duty is enhanced by the knowledge that through the Resolute Support Mission, our forces will be helped in training, supporting and assistance.

NATO’s combat mission has demanded immense sacrifice in blood and treasure. Over 3400 personnel have been killed in action, over 30,000 wounded in actions, and hundreds of thousands of veterans live with memories of war in our country. We pay tribute to the fallen, the wounded and the veterans. May God protect and comfort them and their loved ones.

We have a political and social consensus on our strategic partnership with the United States and NATO, acting on the mandate provided by the election and the Consultative Loya Jirga, our first act as the government of national unity was to sign the bilateral security agreement with the US and the Status of Forces Agreement with NATO.

 The ratification of both agreements by the two houses of Parliament, which I had the honor of signing into law on November 30 is further proof of the value that our people and government attach to our partnership with NATO. On behalf of our masters- the people of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah, the CEO and I express appreciation for NATO’s ongoing steadfast support, emphasizing the importance of NATO’s contribution to our security efforts.

During NATO’s decade of presence in Afghanistan, North America, Europe, Australia, Japan and other troop-contributing countries have been safe from massive acts of terrorism, thank God.

 Our people– whether children or adults, civilians, military—and our public places- whether mosques, markets, schools, homes or critical infrastructures- have been and are subject to heinous acts of senseless terror routinely. To hold the mangled body of a child from a volleyball field or speak to the father of a young girl blown to pieces on her way to college is to experience the depth of our fall from the values of tolerant Islamic civilization.

We had fervently hoped that NATO’s presence would enable our people to live in safety and security, enabling our society to focus on elimination of poverty, and empowerment of our women and youth.

Security, unfortunately, is still our top priority. Fortunately, our people grasping the nature of imposed conflict on us, while yearning for peace, are extending full support to our security forces, enabling us, the leaders of the government of national unity, to identify with, take pride in and lead and manage our security forces.

I am proud to be the Commander-in- Chief of such a patriotic force and fully identify with and represent the ANDSF-the Afghan national security forces are a young but credible force, having grown from a division to a professional force of 350,000 during the last 13 years.

 Having had the privilege of leading the security transition before the elections, I know the conditions of our soldiers, non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers first then, as I have been to their barracks and training centers in all 34 provinces of our country.

 Knowing their commitment and concerns, we are committed to implement the necessary reforms to create systems of accountability, management, and personnel to ensure the trust of the men and the women in uniform in their officers and leaders.

The flower of our youth is fighting and dying to build a new nation. God willing, we will prevail and overcome the past. Despite our limited revenues, we are allocating more than the agreed share of our resources to support of our national security forces. When the support for the Directorate of National Security is included, which was omitted in Chicago, our contribution for 2015 will be $750 million, exceeding the agreed figure of $500 million by 50 per cent.

Having been in the lead for security operations for two years, our forces are now ready to assume full responsibility for national security starting next year. This is a remarkable achievement in four years, after the articulation of the notion of transition in the Chicago summit. Despite our firm commitment, we are not yet able to do everything alone. Your continued support will, therefore, be key in ensuring that our collective gains of the 13 years will be enduring. Specifically, we need your help to build the processes and systems necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of our forces and to honor your financial commitments made in the Chicago summit during the forthcoming decade of transformation.

 Meeting the gap in numbers for the Resolute Mission is critical, as is the presence of framework nations across the critical areas of our country to create a sense of balance and trust.

Our security expenditure is nearly 2.5 times our national revenues. Neither wanting nor expecting your indefinite support. We are determined to implement a strategy of self-reliance. Our actions since my inauguration and the formation of the government of national unity should speak louder than our words that we are delivering on our commitment of forming a compact between the people and the state and the government of Afghanistan and our partner governments and international organizations. Permit me to articulate some of the foundational principles of our strategy of self-reliance:

Generating and utilizing political capital is our first principle. We have taken the rare step in South Asia and middle-east to form a government of national unity that represents the absolute majority of the population, this should establish full trust in our capacity to focus on delivery to our people and make sure that we can deliver.

Second, we have political will and have demonstrated that political will will be used to create facts on the ground. Our signing of bilateral security agreement and SOFA are one indication but Kabul Bank – the symbol of corruption in our country on the second day is another.  I am glad to report that the Supreme Court has affirmed the judgment of the appellate court and Kabul Bank will be dealt with through the rule of law.  Approval of the agreements by parliament again is a critical indication that political will will result in generation of partnership.

Promoting good governance from a perspective of the whole of the state and whole of the government is our third principle. We are committed to ensure that reforms are driven by us, owned by us and implemented by us, but of course, we want to make sure that our partners and us are aligned. We know that the international fatigue with aid, we are keen to win not only governments and parliaments of our partner countries but the public and we are keen to work with you to align delivery and communication.

Rights of women are critical to us and we are committed to bringing at least four women which would be 16 per cent of our cabinet. In the coming two to four weeks, the cabinet will be formed from new faces based on the principles of competence, commitment, accountability and transparency.

Creating a competitive export-driven economy is our fourth principle. We intend to use all our key assets to create an economy that would answer the needs of both our security and the eradication of poverty.

Engaging neighbors in a dialogue on peace, stability and prosperity is our fourth principle. our actions in the last two months should be clear in this regard. Yesterday, we were in Azerbaijan and again we have had a breakthrough, as well as with our other neighbors and the Arab world. We intend to produce a regional consensus that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is essential for regional security and prosperity and for the emergence and consolidation of an Asian continental economy.

Providing a platform for global cooperation is our fifth principle.  Instead of being at the center of a vicious circle of conflict, we intend to be at the center of a virtuous circle of cooperation.

Ensuring stability for our people is the sixth and most significant principle of our strategy of self-reliance.  Sustaining security generated through use of legitimate force requires that it should be embedded in a stable order.

 Hence, our determination for sustaining the political consensus and consent of the people through our comprehensive reform program, especially those of security forces.  As peace is our national priority, we are dedicated and determined to launch, lead and own an inclusive Afghan peace process. Political differences must be resolved politically, but we will not permit anyone to use our country as battlefield for pursuit of illusory ideas, arenas of criminal networks or spaces of breeding.

Terror is supported by networks of criminality and violence but the most significant enabling condition are those governments that in a short-sighted manner decide to tolerate these networks or use them as measures of state practice. We must realize that regardless of the rationale for the genesis of the symbiotic relations that produce reliance on non-state actors by states as lethal instruments of competition, it should be clear that such measures have blow-back effects, destabilizing the state system as such.

As Afghanistan and NATO mark the resolute support mission, we need to notice that the threats that brought NATO to our country, are not only still present but also constantly morphing into new forms. NATO’s gaze must, by necessity, be global, taking stock of its neighborhoods in the world, focusing on strengthening the international state system as a system of rights and obligations, and striving to persuade states not to support or adopt behavior characteristic of malign non-state actors, however, will have multiple benefits for the safety and stability of our interconnected world.

We, the people and government of Afghanistan, are committed and determined to overcome history and form value-based compacts with our partners and interlocutors.

  Let us, therefore, use the opportunity of the launching of the Resolute Support Mission to articulate and agree on the principles of enduring partnership. We have a strategic relationship that requires strategic understanding, strategic patience and strategic delivery.

Mr. Secretary General, we look very much forward to our continued partnership and be assured that there is a new spirit of partnership in Kabul that will drive the process forward.

Thank you!

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations at the General Assembly Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

 

Thank you, Mr. President. As we come together to adopt this year’s General Assembly Resolution on the Situation in Afghanistan, I would like to thank all Member States that participated in the negotiation of the resolution. I would also like to thank Ambassador Braun, Ambassador Thoms and their teams, particularly Daniel Schemske, at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations for their hard work facilitating the negotiations.

 

Mr. President,

 

At the end of this year, the government of Afghanistan will take full responsibility for the security of the country. The mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), authorized by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, is set to expire on December 31st and Afghanistan will move towards a more normalized international status as a sovereign nation. We have been striving for this moment for the last decade. It is a major accomplishment and an important step towards achieving a peaceful, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

 

While the NATO combat role will end, Afghanistan and NATO remain committed to a long-term strategic partnership. NATO will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) beyond 2014 through the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) on the basis of the NATO-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the United States of America-Afghanistan Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement (BSA). We welcome the General Assembly’s message of support for the new mission. I also would like to take this opportunity to express my government’s profound gratitude to all those international civilian and military men and women who served shoulder to shoulder with their Afghan partners towards a better future for the people of Afghanistan. The Afghan people will always remember and honor their sacrifice and dedication.

 

Mr. President,

 

Afghanistan has emerged from an historic election that marked the first democratic transfer of power from one president to the next, an important milestone in Afghanistan’s multifaceted transition. While the challenges that arose in the election period tested our resolve, the wisdom of the country’s leadership and the support of its friends and partners allowed us to overcome the difficulties and move towards a unified, peaceful, democratic and prosperous future. The establishment of a government of national unity has generated an atmosphere of broader political inclusivity and participation; it will enable Afghans from all walks of life to contribute to the economic and social development of the country, the sustainability of the Afghan state and its security forces and the peace and security of Afghanistan and the wider region.

 

The newly elected President of Afghanistan, His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, and the national unity government are vigorously pursuing a comprehensive reform program to deliver on their campaign promises and to promote peace, stability and prosperity across the country. I would like to highlight three key components of this comprehensive reform agenda:

 

1. Eliminating corruption. Corruption corrodes state effectiveness, security, public faith in government and progress towards peace and prosperity. It feeds insurgency, patronage and illegal interests. Tackling corruption is paramount to the government’s reform agenda. In his inaugural address, President Ghani stressed his zero-tolerance policy in regards to corruption, and as soon as he assumed the Presidency, he ordered the Supreme Court to reopen an inquiry into the Kabul Bank fraud case. Since then, the court has sentenced the bank’s executives to 15 years in prison, ordered the payment of substantial fines, and froze the assets of those accused of corruption. Other suspects will now be investigated for their involvement in the $900 million embezzlement scandal. This courageous step demonstrates the government’s firm commitment to eradicate corruption and end impunity.

 

2. Enhancing democratic accountability, governance and rule of law. Afghanistan’s leadership is in the process of establishing a functional, merit-based cabinet as part of its wider commitment to build effective governance at every level. In addition, we will reform electoral institutions, electoral processes and relevant laws as well as necessary amendments of the constitution. The government will also focus on reforming the judiciary and all law enforcement institutions, including by taking concrete actions to expand access to justice and uphold the rights of all Afghan citizens, particularly women and girls. I would like to call attention to the government’s recent adoption of the Afghanistan National Action Plan for women, peace and security, which represents an important step in this regard.

 

3. Promoting economic growth and social development. The national unity government is committed to economic reforms that stimulate growth and tackle poverty, inequality, and unemployment. These include strengthening cooperation between the government and the private sector, removing obstacles to investment and trade, promoting sustainable livelihoods, reinvigorating counter-narcotics efforts, and using aid effectively to reinforce development and stability. Continuing implementation of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework remains central to these efforts and we look forward to the next ministerial meeting on Afghanistan to be held in London next month. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the United Kingdom for hosting this important meeting.

 

Mr. President,

 

The Afghan people have been victims of terrorism and violence for almost 40 years. The violence perpetrated by terrorists, extremists and illegal armed groups continues to have daily, devastating impacts on all civilians, particularly women and children and poses the greatest obstacle to political, economic, and social progress in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) continue to demonstrate professionalism and courage in protecting the Afghan people. Moving forward, the national unity government will work tirelessly to continue to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to uphold the security of the nation, and to preserve the achievements of the last decade. The continuing support of our international partners, namely through the new NATO mission, is crucial to the success of these efforts.

 

But Mr. President, the country will not achieve peace through military efforts alone. President Ghani has called on all armed opponents of the government to enter political talks and play their part in building a strong and successful Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan is working to establish a wider inclusive political framework for lasting peace including a new outreach to the armed opposition and national reconciliation. This is an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process, but at the same time we recognize the important role of regional and neighboring countries, particularly the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in contributing to our efforts to end the conflict. President Ghani initiated serious efforts to further a political settlement during his recent visits to Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan and his meetings and conversations with the leaders of neighboring, regional and partner countries.

 

Mr. President,

 

Regional cooperation is not only key to peace and security but also to prosperity in Afghanistan and the wider region. In this connection, the government of Afghanistan is committed to deepening cooperation with its neighbors and regional partners. Last week President Ghani paid an historic visit to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where the leaders of the two countries opened a friendly, forward-looking dialogue and made concrete agreements related to improving bilateral economic, trade and investment relations. The visit generated an unprecedented surge of optimism and set the groundwork for long-term cooperation between the two nations.

 

In October, President Ghani conducted another historic state visit to the People’s Republic of China, where bold steps were taken towards increasing cooperation in economic development and stabilization efforts. The visit coincided with the annual Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference on 31 October, which reaffirmed commitments to strengthen regional security and cooperation for a secure and stable Afghanistan. We are grateful to the government of China for its leadership and for hosting the meeting and thank the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for hosting the next Ministerial Meeting of the Istanbul Process in 2015. The president of Afghanistan looks forward to furthering regional engagement by attending the upcoming South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit at the end of this month in Kathmandu.

 

Deepening regional cooperation will open the doors to a flourishing continental economy in the heart of Asia. Afghanistan has great potential to enhance the development and prosperity of the entire region by unlocking the country’s capacity to serve as a hub for connectivity and trade across Asia. This will entail key energy and power projects such as the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan– Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI) and the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA 1000) as well as the building of a wide regional transport network including railways and highways. All regional partners can play a role through working together and engaging chambers of commerce and business communities for a joint and coordinated action to turn potential into reality.

 

Mr. President,

 

As the new government focuses on a renewed regional cooperation, our long-term partnerships with the wider international community remain the backbone of our efforts for peace, security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. The support of the international community has allowed us to build a new Afghanistan and will continue to be crucial in the transformation decade ahead. The President’s upcoming visit to the London conference and his upcoming visit to the United States will be an important step in furthering our mutual cooperation and partnership with the international community.

 

Mr. President,

 

The past 13 years have seen the international community’s unprecedented engagement in supporting the government of Afghanistan in its efforts to build peace and stability. While the goals set over a decade ago have not been fully realized, Afghanistan is determined to bring sustainable peace, security and prosperity to the country with the support of our international partners. The government of Afghanistan’s ambitious agenda of reform, the collaboration of all Afghan political forces, and the support of the Afghan people will enable us to put an end to the destructive narrative of toxic extremism and reach the beginning of an era of peace. In doing so, we will change the course of history in the heart of Asia, to the great benefit of our people, our neighbors, the wider region, and the international community.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN Enhancing Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems

 

Thank you. I would like to thank the Permanent Missions of South Africa and the United States, the United Nations Rule of Law Resource and Coordination Group, and the International Legal Foundation for organizing this important event. I would also like to thank Mr. Selous for his kind introduction, the Honorable Dustan Mlambo, Ms. Foster, and Ms. Smith for their remarks and to Ms. Monasebian for her able moderation of the event.

 

Chosroes, the great King of Persia, once said “Do not stay in a country which lacks these five things: a strong rule, a just judge, a fixed market, a wise physician, and a flowing river.” Decades of war and conflict in Afghanistan destroyed all of Chosroes’ five markers except the country’s flowing rivers. The other four, particularly rule of law and justice, were destroyed as a result of sustained violence in my country.

A modern justice system has been part of Afghanistan’s culture and history since the early 20th century, particularly since King Amanullah developed a forward-looking constitutional framework and legal code in the 1920s. However by the 1990s, decades of conflict had rendered Afghanistan’s legal system virtually non-existent. In the dark period of Taliban control, extremists ruled on the basis of their own strict interpretation of Sharia law. Mullahs replaced professional judges and prosecutors and ordered swift and exceedingly harsh punishments. Accused persons did not have the right to legal representation, or more accurately, any meaningful legal representation. The infamous office of the religious police controlled the Taliban’s system of punishment, employing violence in the name of justice. Despite the creation of a Legal Aid Department in 1989, waves of war and chaos prevented the department from providing defense services to the indigent. In fact, the department existed in name only.

 

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 great efforts have been made to reform the justice system. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, adopted in 2004, is based upon the supremacy of rule of law and rule by law; securing these values has been one of the highest priorities of the government of Afghanistan since its adoption. Access to legal aid is central to this priority: Article 31 of the Constitution guarantees the right to counsel to all accused persons and mandates the government to provide free counsel to the poor. The article states: “Upon arrest, or to prove truth, every individual can appoint a defense attorney…In criminal cases, the State shall appoint a defense attorney for the indigent.”

 

Building upon this precedent, the government of Afghanistan has made great strides towards the expansion of access to legal aid with the support of our international partners, civil society and the crucial assistance of legal aid service providers such as the International Legal Foundation and other organizations. I would like to highlight the very important role played by NGOs in providing legal aid and defense lawyers. This has helped reduce violence against women in my country. The achievements that are important include:

 

  1. Increased availability of criminal defense services for the poor. This has made judicial proceedings fairer, and has reduced the rate of arbitrary pre-trial detentions in Afghanistan.

 

  1. Progress in protecting the rights of accused persons. The rights of the accused are increasingly recognized in the country by defense lawyers, judges, police and the accused themselves.

 

  1. Enhanced role of defense counsel in providing legal aid to the accused. Defense lawyers today play an active role in criminal trials, including through efforts to obtain the release of persons that are unlawfully detained, challenge the use of torture, and win acquittals for the wrongly accused. Lawyers are also gaining unprecedented access to arrested persons at police stations. They often access the accused within the first 72 hours of arrest, which helps to protect the accused from unlawful and arbitrary police action and ensures access to justice.

 

  1. An increasing number of lawyers. Since the fall of the Taliban the number of defense lawyers has jumped approximately thirty fold: in 2001, defense lawyers were virtually non-existent in Afghanistan. Today there are around 3000.

 

  1. An increase in the number of organizations that promote legal aid. These include an independent legal aid board, a directorate for legal aid within the Ministry of Justice, an independent bar association and the development of clinical legal education programs with local universities.

 

While we have made significant progress in enhancing access to legal aid in Afghanistan, many challenges remain. Financial constraints in the justice sector continue to be severe, which effects the salaries of defense lawyers and justice professionals in general. The country still suffers from a scarcity of qualified justice professionals, particularly at the local and district levels. Disparities exist in terms of access to and awareness of legal aid both by the accused and in terms of police knowledge of their obligations towards those in custody between the cities and the peripheries; justice is often limited to urban centers. Although one of our achievements is that since 2001 justice has expanded to all provinces, access to justice remains weak in district and local centers. In addition, Afghans still lack trust in the justice system.

 

Corruption continues to be one of the most pressing challenges to our judicial system and across law enforcement in general. It compromises the quality of legal aid service in the country and obstructs the poor and disadvantaged from benefiting from the legal system. Its effects are far-reaching: as Afghanistan’s new President Dr. Ashraf Ghani explained in his inauguration speech, corruption in the judicial branch paves grounds for insecurity.

 

Moving forward, the new government of Afghanistan will prioritize combating corruption and strengthening the rule of law countrywide. We recognize that improvements cannot happen in a vacuum: a coordinated, effective and sustainable criminal legal aid system depends upon improvements in other areas including accountability and state capacity.

 

I hope that Afghanistan’s experience sheds light on the importance, as well the challenges, of providing access to effective legal aid in countries emerging from conflict; in many ways Afghanistan’s situation is not unique. Most conflict and post-conflict countries face acute challenges in expanding access to legal aid. Yet the citizens of these countries are often the most vulnerable, impoverished, marginalized and therefore the most in need of legal aid. Moreover, the restoration of public trust in justice, the reinstatement of the rule of law and enhanced access to legal aid will allow these countries to rebuild their nations and find lasting stability and peace.

 

To this end, it is crucial that governments prioritize enhancing legal aid and access to justice. The sustained support of the international community and organizations like the International Legal Foundation are essential to these efforts. I call on members of the International Community to recognize the challenges I have outlined, and to support countries like mine to promote legal aid.

 

Thank you.