Monday, December 22, 2014

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Third Committee: Agenda Item 61  

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to thank the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Guterres, for his comprehensive report and also the dedicated staff of UNHCR for their commitment and assistance to the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Mr. Chair,

 

Almost 40 years of war and crisis have forced millions of Afghans to seek safety and security away from their homes in unfamiliar slums, cities, and towns in and outside of the country. Generations of Afghans have been born and raised as refugees. Renewed conflict and security concerns have made this year particularly difficult for IDPs, refugees and returnees in Afghanistan. Currently, over three million Afghans are refugees or IDPs, making Afghan nationals one of the highest populations of displaced persons in the world. This year 124,000 persons were displaced, bringing the cumulative total of the internally displaced to over 700,000 persons.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

The government of Afghanistan is committed to securing long-term peace and stability in the country and recognizes that the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees and IDPs is central to this goal. President Ghani, the newly elected President of Afghanistan, has made this a central element of his reform agenda, and to this end he called upon Afghan refugees to return to Afghanistan to “rebuild the nation” in his inauguration address.

 

The government of Afghanistan is dedicated to pursuing sustainable solutions for the repatriation of Afghan refugees who remain in exile. The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations (MoRR) is the main government body responsible for rebuilding the lives of refugees and IDPs and providing them with reintegration support. Related programs include oversight of encashment centres to facilitate assistance, cash grants, basic health services, mine awareness training and briefings on how to enrol children in school and access legal aid.

 

In addition, Afghanistan’s national policy on IDPs, endorsed by the government in 2013, provides a framework for the rights of IDPs as well as emergency response. The policy acknowledges the central responsibility of the government to prevent conditions leading to displacement, minimise unavoidable displacement, and mitigate and resolve its adverse effects without delay. It also establishes the government of Afghanistan’s responsibility to provide emergency assistance, longer term support and effective protection of IDPs. The government commenced implementation of the policy in September of this year, with plans for further expansion in 2015.

 

It is important to note that Afghanistan has one of the largest numbers of returnees in the world. 5.8 million refugees have returned voluntarily to Afghanistan since 2002, increasing the population of my country by 25 percent. In the first seven months of 2014, over 10,000 Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan. My government is working closely with UNHCR to continue to promote repatriation through the government’s Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, which provides a framework to facilitate voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of returnees.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

I would like to draw attention to the tremendous challenges faced by displaced persons in Afghanistan and around the world: they often lack access to justice and basic services such as healthcare and education and are particularly vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, disease, discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation. Recognizing these vulnerabilities, I reiterate the obligations of host governments under international refugee law with respect to the protection of refugees, the principle of voluntary return and full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian relief agencies to provide protection and assistance. It is critical that the rights of refugees and IDPs in both their country of origin and asylum are safeguarded and protected and that they enjoy the same standards of treatment as other nationals or foreign nationals in any given country.

Mr. Chair,

 

We are certain that the improvement of the security situation in Afghanistan will reduce the numbers of refugees and IDPs and will enable and incentivise them to return to their homes. In the meantime, my government remains committed to facilitating the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return, rehabilitation and reintegration of displaced persons in Afghanistan, and we thank the UNHCR and the international community for its continued support in this regard.  I would like to take this opportunity to express my government’s deep appreciation to those governments that continue to host Afghan refugees, in particular Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran, acknowledging the huge burden they have so far shouldered in this regard.

 

Thank you.

 

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.