Monday, July 28, 2014

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.

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

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Thank you, Mr. President.  I would like to thank you for your leadership of the Council for the month of December.  I take this moment also to welcome the report of the Secretary General on the Situation in Afghanistan, and to thank our dear friend Special Representative Kubiš for his presence today, and his able leadership of UNAMA.

 

Mr. President,

 

Our gathering here in December – 12 years to the month since leaders of Afghanistan’s political parties signed the Bonn Agreement – is a lucid reminder of progress in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime.  December evokes the hopeful atmosphere of Bonn that winter of 2001, when unity was in sight, when an emergence from the shadow of violence and fanaticism seemed possible, and when the vision of an Afghanistan as a home for all, a home for tolerance and moderation, was taking shape.

 

Mr. President,

 

We have made significant progress since those days, and have seen many of our objectives come to fruition. Over 6 million Afghan refugees have returned to the country after being forced to live outside their homes for years due to war and conflict; our state is now based on a democratic constitution; millions of Afghans have access to education and healthcare; and the Afghan people enjoy more freedom and rights than they have for decades. Although we face challenges, and although we continue to engage those who seek to reverse our progress, we are advancing apace to stand independently, take command of our future, and realize a peaceful and secure Afghanistan.

 

This year, in particular, has been pivotal to the advancement of our goals and the solidification of our achievements.  2013 marks the culmination of Transition, paving the way for Afghanistan to embark on the Transformation decade. Since June of this year, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have assumed full security responsibility nationwide, proving themselves evermore capable of defending the country, and doing so with confidence and determination.

 

As 2013 comes to a close, Afghans look ahead to the Transformation Decade.  This milestone signifies Afghanistan’s progress towards sustainable peace, and also marks the start of a new phase of cooperation with the international community. In the past year, we renewed our international partnerships, signing a number of strategic partnership agreements with several countries, including the United States. In May of last year, President Karzai and President Obama signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement.  This was followed by 15 months of comprehensive negotiations on, and then the completion of, the text of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).  Last month in Kabul, 2500 Afghan representatives endorsed the BSA in a consultative Loya Jirga. The resolution adopted at the end of the Jirga reaffirmed that the agreement should ensure Afghanistan’s peace, security and development, and should be accompanied by visible steps taken on specific issues in the lead up to the signing of the agreement. These entail, as reiterated by the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, assurances for measures to end the military raids on Afghan homes, and the launching of negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.

 

We are certain that the BSA will be signed in a timely manner.  As a next step, Afghanistan is ready to begin formal negotiations on a Status of Forces Agreement for the post-2014 NATO presence in Afghanistan, which will continue our enduring security and defense partnership with NATO.

 

Mr. President,

 

We are preparing for our next milestone: Presidential and Provincial Council elections. The timely holding of transparent, free and fair elections is a reflection of strong national consensus about the future direction of Afghanistan and its status as a democratic, peaceful and prosperous nation. To this end, technical and logistical preparations are proceeding with momentum. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has announced the final list of eleven presidential candidates and their running mates. Over three million new voters have registered for elections, of which one third are women, and this number is expected to increase in the lead-up to elections. As we move towards the final stage of preparations, Afghan national security institutions have put a comprehensive strategy in place to ensure security on Election Day.

 

Mr. President,

 

Afghanistan’s peaceful future requires a political solution to the conflict. Reaching out to the armed opposition, building confidence, and engaging in peace talks remains central to our efforts towards peace and stability.  In spite of some setbacks, we are working to renew momentum in the peace process.  In this regard, the government has been continually involved at a regional level, launching a new phase of dialogue between Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s leadership through bilateral and trilateral meetings in London, Kabul and Islamabad.  We are fully committed to the success of reconciliation, and we are conscious that further progress relies not only on the dedicated efforts of all stakeholders but also on the opposition’s united voice for peace.

 

Alongside security and political transition, and in light of the withdrawal of international forces at the end of 2014, we are strengthening regional understanding and cooperation to ensure the success of Afghanistan’s Transition. In recent months, we have ramped up efforts to increase contact with neighbors and countries in the region. President Karzai engaged with regional leaders to enhance development and security cooperation, focusing on Transition and beyond, in New Delhi, Islamabad, Beijing, Dushanbe, and Tehran and at the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Bishkek. These leaders agree that they have a strategic stake in Afghanistan, and that peace and stability in the country is essential to the peace and stability in the region.  As we move forward, we will benefit from all forms of cooperation, particularly the Istanbul Process.

 

 

Mr. President,

 

As we proceed steadily towards the Transformation decade, it is essential that the successes of the past twelve years be maintained.  Progress depends on preserving the rights of all Afghans, particularly women and girls, upholding the rule of law, and furthering economic transition.  Our continuing partnership with the international community is critical to success in these areas, as reflected in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF).  We are determined to meet our related commitments, and hope the international community will be similarly steadfast in its promises to Afghanistan.

 

Mr. President,

 

Speaking today at this December council, mindful of our recent and future milestones, and of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, I again recall the spirit of Bonn. We knew in that month of December, 12 years ago, that the challenges in front of us were great.  But we were also aware of the tremendous potential for change, for the establishment of a stable, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. So as we arrive at 2014, we ground our progress firmly in the constitutional foundations established 12 years ago, in the spirit of hope and optimism that was alive in Bonn, and with commitment to build upon and maintain the great achievements of the last decade.

 

I thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

Statement by ambassador Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations General Assembly Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Madam President,

We come together today to adopt this year’s General Assembly resolution on the Situation in Afghanistan. I thank all member states that participated in the spirit of cooperation, supporting the efforts of the Afghan government and expressing their solidarity with Afghan people, in their struggle to build a democratic, stable, and prosperous future. We also thank Ambassador Wittig our colleagues of the Permanent Mission of Germany for facilitating this resolution.

As we gather to take stock of the situation in Afghanistan, we are mindful of the monumental progress made to date.  From the ashes of war, over the past 12 years a new state was founded, on the basis of a democratic constitution, and the will of the Afghan people.  Afghanistan regained its historical place as a responsible member of the international community, and the country again became home to all Afghans, all ethnic groups, men and women. Millions of Afghan refugees who escaped wars, violence, and devastation returned home. The Afghan flag is now raised in far remote ends of the country, and around the world. Today, millions of Afghan boys and girls have access to education. 90% of people receive primary health care in hundreds of clinics and health centers countrywide. We made tremendous progress in reducing maternal and child mortality, and people live longer and with more certainty about their future. Our vibrant civil society and independent media are emblematic of an emerging democracy in the region. Big steps were taken to restore the rights of women, elevate their status, and strengthen their role in society.  Afghan people enjoy their democratic rights and freedoms, guaranteed by the Afghan constitution. In summary, Afghanistan’s progress has been huge, and, to a larger extent, unprecedented for a country that is still struggling to leave conflict and violence behind.

Madam President,

Following a decade of extraordinary engagement by the international community in reconstruction and stabilization efforts, Afghanistan is moving towards a new beginning, characterized and guided by the principles of national ownership, leadership and strengthened sovereignty:

Tomorrow, in Kabul, the Consultative Loya Jirgah will confer on the agreement that is at the core of strategic relations between Afghanistan and the United States. This is an important event, following the signing of the Enduring Strategic Partnership of 2nd of  May, last year, and 15 months of negotiations between the governments of Afghanistan and the United States. Representatives of the Afghan people will have their say on the pact, which will shape our future in a changing world.

In four months, Afghanistan will hold the next presidential and provincial council elections.  In a spirit of national unity, Afghans from all segments of the society will go to the polls to choose the new leadership of the country.  This marks the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power from one elected president to another.  All efforts are being made to ensure that the elections are transparent, credible, free and fair.  Inclusion of women as candidates, voters and active civil society members is essential to these efforts.  The Afghan people expect the outcome of elections to further solidify political stability and to strengthen the gains of the last decade.

At the end of next year, we will enter a new phase, when the international military forces will leave the country.  Afghan forces assumed full security responsibility this past June, and will be in charge of security and defense of the country, nationwide.  Beyond 2014, training, advising and assisting Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will remain imperative.  In this connection, we are in the process of determining together with our NATO partners, the structure of NATO’s post 2014 posture in the country.

Madam President,

As we look into the future, Afghanistan is focused on a number of immediate priorities, key to the success of transition and to achieving lasting peace and stability in the country.

Firstly, peace and reconciliation: The government of Afghanistan continues its efforts towards finding a political settlement, reconciliation, and securing durable peace. In the last year, many attempts have been made to re-start peace talks with the Taliban, through the vigilant efforts of the High Peace Council, as well as the framework of bilateral and trilateral initiatives. Despite some setbacks, we are confident that we will reach a political solution.  We continue our efforts for moving the process forward, and we are encouraged by the commitment and cooperation of our brotherly country Pakistan, which is vital to the advancement of the peace and reconciliation process.

Secondly, regional cooperation: Peace and security in Afghanistan is inextricable from the peace and prosperity of the region.  We are working together with all our neighbors through different forums and initiatives to enhance cooperation in a number of areas.  The Istanbul Process is central to our goal of realizing a secure, stable and prosperous region. We have come a long way in enhancing the process, strengthening the framework of cooperation through dialogue and by focusing on a concrete set of confidence building measures. The Senior Officials Meeting in New York in September was another important advance, and we look forward to working closely with our Chinese partners in preparation for the up-coming Fourth Ministerial Meeting in Tianjin. In recent months, the government of Afghanistan conducted a number of high-level consultations with the leadership of neighboring countries and countries in the region aimed at furthering cooperation and collaboration, for the region’s collective security and stability, particularly during the transition and beyond.

Thirdly, economic development:  Moving from a predominantly aid dependent to a non-aid dependent economy is at the core of our economic transition.  We are improving our economy, attracting national and international private sector investment and trade, and seeking to make the most of our rich and untapped natural resource supply, which will serve as the backbone of our economy in the future. It is important to emphasize, that Afghanistan’s social and economic development also requires greater coherence and efficiency in regards to the provision of international assistance, as well as greater transparency and accountability.  In this respect, we look forward to further progress in meeting mutual commitments set out in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF). For our part, we are vigorously pursuing inclusive and sustained growth with a focus on strengthening our infrastructure and a sound legal policy and institutional environment, essential to the realization of our self-sufficiency strategy and sustained economic growth. Additionally, we are making every effort to implement our national development strategy by way of our National Priority Programs (NPP’s), into which our MDG’s have been integrated.  We underscore the importance of alignment of assistance with National Priority Programs and the channeling of aid through our core budget.

Fourthly, good governance and strengthening the rule of law: this has been central to our efforts.  This year, new steps were taken towards improving governance at the national and subnational levels, administrative reform, and the fight against corruption. To this end, I should note that President Karzai’s Decree of July 2012 continues to be implemented in Government Ministries, organs, agencies and directorates. Our good-governance effort is grounded on a comprehensive approach, entailing various components. This includes a robust effort to improve security and overcome the problem of narcotic drugs.  The nexus between narcotic drugs, criminality and terrorism, poses a serious threat to the rule of law. To this end, we are seriously engaged in implementing our National Drug Control Strategy, including our prioritized implementation plan and benchmarks. Nevertheless, we underscore, once again, that a real solution to the problem of narcotic drugs relies on a holistic approach addressing all components: production, trafficking and consumption. In this connection, let me highlight, again, the importance of the principle of shared responsibility, in our joint efforts to defeat the scourge of drugs. We are thankful for, and emphasize, continued regional and international support in our continued fight against this menace.

Lastly, the Afghan government has been fully committed to its responsibilities to protect and promote the rights of all Afghan people, including those of women and girls.  All Afghans- the elderly, the youth, men and women, boys and girls- enjoy more rights and fundamental freedoms today than ever before, by virtue of our democratic constitution. We continue to take bold steps towards the advancement of women and their rights, and to empower them as proactive members of society, contributing to the building of a new Afghanistan. In assessing the plight of Afghan women, it’s imperative to not lose sight of the gains made thus far. We have come a long way, and continued support and commitment are essential to advancement of women’s rights in the country as we proceed into the transformation decade. We deem unacceptable any incident of violence or discrimination against women, and are pursuing all cases with serious attention. Let me note, this year has seen notable progress in the implementation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law. Investigations and prosecution of alleged crimes against women has increased significantly.  All perpetrators will be held accountable.

 

As a country that is committed to the principles of the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Afghanistan is fully aware of the importance of universal values, fundamental freedoms, and rights, as enshrined in our constitution. Afghanistan has, throughout history, been a diverse and tolerant society, respectful of the customs, traditions, and religious beliefs of all peoples, including those of other faiths. By the same token, we underscore awareness and respect for cultural norms, values and beliefs of Afghan society. Such will only serve to benefit our enduring partnership in the way forward.

 

Madam President,

 

The coming year for Afghanistan is crucial. We are embracing the challenges of the future with full confidence. Our commitment to building on the achievements of the past is as strong as ever.  We know that the journey we embarked on more than a decade ago remains incomplete, and that the way forward will not be void of challenges. But if anything, this resolution is a manifestation of the prospect for success, made possible by the enormous sacrifices made by the people of Afghanistan, who have, throughout history, demonstrated resilience, fortitude and courage in overcoming the most difficult of obstacles and achieving success. Our international partners were essential to these efforts, and I would like to take this opportunity to gratefully thank all our international friends and partners who stand with us in support and solidarity as we seek to complete the goal we set out to achieve in 2001!

 

 

I thank you!