Sunday, November 29, 2015

Statement by H.E. Mahmoud Saikal Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the Fourth Committee Agenda item 51 (Assistance in Mine Action)

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

Let me join other delegations in congratulating you on your assumption of Chairmanship of the forth committee of the 70th session of the UNGA and your bureau members for their well-deserved elections. We look forward to working closely with you and assure you of our full support and cooperation throughout the deliberations of issues concerned to this committee.

Afghanistan has been struggling with the problem of landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and their devastating consequences for more than three decades. Abandoned landmines and explosive ordnances, vestiges of the prolonged conflict in the country, continue to pose a great threat by jeopardizing the security and development of Afghanistan and its people. Although significant progress has been achieved in demining activities, Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

Mr. Chairman,

Approximately, half a million Afghan civilians live within five hundred meters of landmine contaminated areas. An average of 33 civilians have been injured or killed each month so far in 2015. 1,612 communities remain affected in 258 districts across the country. Over 107 square kilometres of minefields impede upon national infrastructure projects, such as, highway and road networks, airports, transmission lines, new settlements etc., delaying implementation until clearance. The country remains littered with hazardous explosive devices in multiple areas, including those where conflict has long ceased. Innocent civilians, including a large proportion of women and children, bear the highest risk of being killed or injured by these mines. Not only it is detrimental to stability and post-conflict development, landmines and other explosive remnants of war impede significant socio-economic development, required for basic sustenance in a war torn economy. More than eighty percent of the landmine and ERW contaminated areas obstruct agricultural and grazing spaces, thereby posing a tremendous challenge in a country where livelihoods of majority of people are concentrated around agriculture and livestock.  Mines and ERWs obstruct access to basic services, facilities and infrastructure and create severe challenges to use land for schools, crops, and other productive activities.

The presence of Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs is another imperative threat to civilian life. Indiscriminate use of IEDs is a common tactic amongst the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Last year alone, approximately three thousand civilians were victims of injuries caused by IEDs in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan has cleared nearly 78.5 percent of known “legacy” contamination – the mines and ERWs which resulted from the pre-2001 conflict. The remaining 21.5 percent includes 4,363 identifiable mine and battlefield hazards covering a total area of 557.6 square kilometres.  In December of 2012, Afghanistan submitted a request to the States Parties of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty to extend the deadline. All antipersonnel mines would be removed from Afghan territory in ten years.  As part of the extension request, Afghanistan submitted a ten-year work plan that will eliminate mines by 2023 if, and only if further mining stops.

I would like to turn now to the resolution on assistance in mine action which was facilitated by Poland. As a mine affected country, we highly appreciate the resolution on Assistance in Mine action and its role in reaffirming the normative framework for the humanitarian mine action activities carried out by the UN system. We are pleased the resolution continues to support the work of United Nations Mine Action Service and takes note of the elaboration and adoption of UN mine action strategy for the years 2013-2018.

Afghanistan fully supports the work and appreciates the enormous contribution of the UN and civil society in progressing mine action. We look forward to continuing to work with Member States, UN agencies, implementing partners, civil society and other donors to achieve our collective goal of a mine free world. I would also like to express my government’s sincere appreciation for the victim assistance project generously funded by USAID in Afghanistan.  This is a thirty million dollar project that will be implemented over the next three years with the aim to provide assistance to the victims of mines, ERWs and IEDs.

Continued support of the international community and sustained financial support are required to help Afghanistan meet the 2023 deadline and provide the Afghans a secure and stable, mine-free future.

Thank you.

Statement by H.E. Mahmuod Saikal  Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the General Debate of the First Committee 70th Session

Madame Chairperson,

Allow me to congratulate you on your election as Chairman of this session. My delegation is fully committed to the successful fulfillment of the work of the Committee, and assures you of our full support and cooperation.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan aligns itself fully with the statement delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, I would like to draw attention to a few specific points in my national capacity.

As history has repeatedly shown, political decisions incur the worst ramifications when made unilaterally, without consultations or consideration of the needs of all actors involved. It is for this reason Afghanistan wishes to reiterate its commitment to multilateral diplomacy as a crucial principle for advancing the global disarmament agenda. Only with all sides demonstrating political will we can achieve the goal of arms control, reduction, disarmament and total elimination of all types of Weapons of Mass Destruction, including nuclear weapons. In this context, we welcome the successful conclusions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and P5+1, which will benefit security and stability in our wider region. Going forward, it will be imperative that the concerned parties fulfill commitments to implement the agreement. Only through strong collective political will we can reach our collective desired goal of a nuclear-free world.

Madame Chairperson,

Afghanistan strongly and consistently supports all initiatives in the sphere of nuclear disarmament. As such Afghanistan is party to Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, among many other treaties calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction.

We are of the firm belief that full utilization of these existing international mechanisms is the only guarantee to the security of our world, and doing so requires their universal adherence. Afghanistan is not alone in urging all states to fulfill their international responsibilities in signing, ratifying, and actively supporting all efforts to promote the goals of all multilateral treaties relating to disarmament and non-proliferation.

The failure to agree on an outcome document at the 2015 NPT Review Conference represents an increasingly grave need for more effective action and leadership on the part of NPT member states. The division exists on a number of urgent issues which have, in our opinion, otherwise clear-cut solutions, is a worrisome reality and should serve as a wake-up call for the international community to renew its commitments and turn words into action.

In the same manner, we would like to express our strong disappointment at the failure to convene a conference on the establishment of the Middle East as a zone free of Nuclear Weapons and all Weapons of Mass Destruction. As the political turmoil in the Middle East threatens to spill over into its neighbouring regions, Afghanistan wishes to highlight the need for immediate action to be taken by the international community to prevent looming humanitarian and political catastrophe and overcome diplomatic stalemates.

Afghanistan is extremely disturbed at the humanitarian threat posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, and the possibility of their use, intentionally or accidentally. It is for this reason that we welcome the outcome of the third and final Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which recognizes that total elimination of all nuclear weapons is the only definite safeguard against a nuclear explosion. Despite this collective understanding, there has been inadequate progress by Nuclear Weapons States in fulfilling their commitments to eliminate their nuclear stockpiles, and we echo the calls for these states to abolish their dangerous nuclear doctrines, which include the practice of refurbishing or modernizing existing nuclear stockpiles and related facilities, and using the global existence of nuclear-weapons as an excuse for maintaining or proliferating one’s own stockpiles.

Madame Chairperson,

Enduring conflict has facilitated one of the most destructive developments in Afghanistan. The mass illicit trafficking of arms, mainly small and light weapons, facilitating their easy access and ample abundance in procurement along the Durand Line has enabled the terrorists and extremists to cause the Afghan people tremendous suffering for decades and must be put to an end. We embrace the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons but believe that it must be accompanied with a deeper understanding of the complex realities on the ground, closer follow up of its implementation, and integration with the mandate of the Arms Trade Treaty.

We are also grateful for the recommendations made by the 2015 Open-ended Meeting of Governmental Experts, and their thoughtful insights on developments and emerging needs for the Programme of Action, including new considerations that need to be reviewed in light of evolving modern technologies and the importance of marking weapons for tracing purposes.

Subsequent brutal wars over the past few decades have left Afghanistan heavily mined, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of our civilians. We remain one of the most heavily mined countries in the world; despite the fact over 80 percent of minefields have been cleared thanks to international efforts. For the year of 2014, an average of 38 civilians were killed or injured each month, and nearly 1 million Afghans still live within 500 meters of landmines. The continued existence of minefields also poses a threat to the development process in Afghanistan, as they delay the construction of national infrastructure projects until clearance.

The use of anti-personnel landmines in Afghanistan is used freely to the benefit of brutal terrorists who have no regard for the children they maim, the lives they destroy, or the country they devastate. It is for this reason that the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service in Afghanistan, which transferred full responsibility for mine action entirely to the Afghan government in 2012, is critical. While Afghanistan’s Mine Action Programme has produced excellent results, funding cuts threaten the goal we set in line with the Ottawa Treaty for fully ridding Afghanistan of mines by 2023, if further conflict and furnishing mines are prevented. However, we thank the generous donations made from Member states to UNMAS, aid that is invaluable to achieving our goals, but still far from what is needed. We look forward to the successful completion of the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. We are committed to the full realization of the goals adopted at the Third Review Conference of the Convention in Maputo.

And finally Madame Chairperson, Afghanistan is gravely concerned about the continued existence of Improvised Explosive Devices – IEDs around the globe. IEDs are responsible for thousands of civilian casualties every year; they have become the primary weapon for non-state armed groups across many conflicts. Their impact on the security and stability of states are profound, as they do not only damage the political, social, and economic development of a country, but also prevent the ability of necessary humanitarian aid to reach afflicted areas. Due to the lack of a comprehensive, systematic approach to countering the use of IEDs, which is relatively simple in its manufacturing, acquirement, and transfer, we call for an international mechanism to be established which seeks to eradicate the creation and proliferation of IEDs. Therefore, my delegation is tabling a resolution at this committee during the current session. The resolution, inter alia, includes the consistent collection of data, awareness raising, regulation of components, and international technical assistance and cooperation, and victim assistance. In this regard we held our first informal consultations with the member states and my delegation seeks further your full cooperation and support, so the resolution could be adopted by consensus.

Madame Chairperson,

In conclusion, I would like to state that this year; we share a special responsibility to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic attack on Nagasaki and Hiroshima that killed many lives and hopes across generations. Remembering this catastrophe brings an ample occasion to remind ourselves of the dire humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In this context, my delegation has supported the initiative of Austria on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons during this year’s NPT Review Conference.

My delegation sadly notes that, despite the many positive developments in the work of international diplomacy for the disarmament of nuclear weapons, we still face threats to human security and sustainability of a scale similar to what the generation before us have faced. The global and regional climate of terrorism has made the call for nuclear disarmament as well as that of the weapons, including small and light arms the more urgent.

I thank you for your kind attention.

Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

Check against delivery

Statement by H.E. Mahmoud Saikal

Designated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Sixth Committee Meeting on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism (4th meeting)

Agenda item 108

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Let me join other delegations in congratulating you on your assumption of Chairmanship of the sixth committee of the 70th session of the UNGA and your bureau members for their well-deserved elections. We look forward to working closely with you and assure you of our full support and cooperation throughout the deliberations of issues concerned to this committee.

My delegation aligns itself with the statements delivered on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.

I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the people and Government of Turkey for the barbaric terrorist attack in Ankara at a peace rally. Afghanistan has faced terrorism and extremism for a very long time, and we stand beside Turkey in this critical hour.

Mr. Chairman,

H.E. Mahmoud Saikal Designated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

H.E. Mahmoud Saikal
Designated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

Violent extremism and conflict not only threaten the collective security of all member states but also pose a serious challenge to our fundamental values of equality, tolerance, justice, and human dignity. With the continued persistence of destructive conflicts around the world, the international community now witnesses the emergence of increasingly violent forms of extremism that disproportionately affects civilians, especially women and children. These threats are neither constrained by international borders nor limited to any single ideology; these groups misrepresent and abuse religious edicts to achieve their objectives. We are faced with international terrorism that is far more violent, organized, well positioned (in some cases, even within state structures), well financed and often transcending international boundaries. The rise in conflicts worldwide, especially in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa is especially troublesome because civilian populations continue to pay the price in the form of dislocation and collapse of government services, particularly education, healthcare and economic development. According to a 2014 UNHCR report, worldwide displacement is at its highest at 59.5 million as conflict and persecution force more people than at any other time to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere. The unprecedented movement of refugees across parts of Asia, the Middle East and Europe is a testament to this unfolding catastrophe.

The current global scenario of rise of various non-state actors promoting extremism indicates that terrorist organizations are increasingly replacing traditional groups with more sophisticated forms of operations that include political structures, administrative units, social media propaganda, and new forms of technology-based coordination, in addition to access to funding and recruits. Despite ongoing efforts by the international community, increasing conflicts worldwide, especially in the Middle East, and growing indoctrination and radicalization of impressionable young men and women, as evident from the sustained flow of foreign terrorist fighters to conflicts in various countries, make it imperative to find political solutions to conflicts and ensure peace and stability for all citizens. There is a pressing need for all member states to cooperate closely to address the issues of terrorism, violent extremism, and indoctrination; further implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 would be beneficial to achieve this goal.

Mr. Chairman,

In 2015, following the withdrawal of tens of thousands of international troops and the establishment of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, Taliban and other terrorist groups accelerated their brutal campaign through the so called spring and summer offensives against the Afghan people. Subsequent to the belated announcement of the mysterious death of the fabricated leader of the Taliban, leadership struggles and factional infighting within the Taliban due to a lack of a leader intensified. In order to divert the focus and unify their ranks, the Taliban increased the number of violent, brazen attacks that have taken the lives of many civilians and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

Our security forces are at the forefront of the international war on terrorism; they have defended Afghanistan, the region and the world at large against various external terrorist elements and have fought with bravery in the face of tremendous hardships. Today they continue to fight thousands of international terrorists and groups such as Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the Islamic State or Daesh, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan among others. Despite heavy causalities during the recent offensives of these terrorist groups, our security forces have derailed and prevented many terrorist plots and succeeded in killing and capturing scores of enemy combatants, including significant number of foreign terrorist fighters. Generally, the terrorists have not managed to hold the ground they gain anywhere in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

We firmly believe that militancy and extremism will never serve the long-term interests of any country. It is unfortunate that these terrorists fighting in Afghanistan still receive support and guidance, as well as find sanctuaries outside our borders. The use of violent non-state actors and terrorists for proxy wars must come to an end. Rival states should not turn a third country into a battleground to advance their agenda. No doubt, states are naturally concerned about advancing their national and regional interests; but it must be noted that states have no right whatsoever to pursue their interests through violence and extremism. In the past 20 years, Afghanistan has been a victim of regional state orchestrated violence leading to insecurity and tremendous suffering for our people. Unless the mentality of using violence in pursuit of political objective changes, achieving peace in Afghanistan will be very difficult.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan strongly supports a comprehensive approach in addressing these threats. In our pursuit of lasting peace, our counter-terrorism and diplomatic efforts will continue unabated. The National Unity Government of Afghanistan continues to engage its neighbours to promote regional cooperation and provide a comprehensive approach in addressing the threat from terrorism. Regional organizations and processes play an important role in fulfilling our aims in this regard. The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process addresses this initiative. Strengthening border cooperation, inter-agency coordination and most importantly building confidence and trust among our neighbours, in particular with Pakistan, and other countries in the region is of utmost importance to our shared efforts in defeating terrorism.

Mr. Chairman,

A comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism and violent extremism needs to be long-term and multilateral in nature. This strategy must deal with poverty, marginalization, and economic inequality that provide the enabling conditions for recruitment and promote education and critical thinking. We look forward to the Action Plan which the Secretary General will be presenting to the General Assembly this year. I would also like to highlight the need to achieve the early conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention for Combating International Terrorism. Finally we welcome the Fifth Biennial Review Process of the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy which is to take place in June next year.

As a country that has long suffered from the menace of international terrorism and resulting violence, Afghanistan strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and remains firmly committed to continue the fight at the forefront of the global campaign against international terrorism.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.