Thursday, May 28, 2015

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

STATEMENT

BY

H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin

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

at the Third Committee

Of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

On agenda item 61

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

2 November 2010

NEW YORK

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, please allow me to thank Mr. Antonio Gutrress, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for his comprehensive report under agenda item 61 and his insightful briefing this morning.

I further wish to take this opportunity to express my delegation’s gratitude to the High Commissioner and dedicated staff of UNHCR for their commitment and tireless efforts to the plight of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), in particular their special attention to the refugees and IDPs of Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan has suffered from the consequences of over thirty years of conflict.  During the 1980s and 1990s, millions of Afghan people tried to escape the calamity of war by leaving their relatives and belongings behind and seeking refuge in neighbouring states, particularly Pakistan and Iran.  Regrettably, due to reoccurring instability and violence, one of the greatest numbers of refugee countries of origin in the world is Afghanistan.  In this regard, the challenge of refugees and IDPs is not an issue we have encountered recently but much rather one that has affected the Afghan people for decades.

More than 5.5 million Afghans have found their ways back to their homeland since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, which constitutes one of the largest and most successful voluntary repatriation programs in recent decades. However, this number translates into a population increase of 20 percent within the past eight years, an adjustment with which any country would struggle, let alone a state that has found itself in turmoil and instability for the past three decades. Returnee settlements’ main concerns are often very basic: infrastructure, water, and shelter, as well as the lack of possibilities to support livelihoods.  The majority of Afghan refugees have been living in exile since the late 1980s, and in many cases have spent their entire lives outside of their homeland.  This fateful reality further complicates any reintegration process.  Thus far, the overwhelming majority of refugees have returned from the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Iran.  Nevertheless, 2.7 million registered Afghan refugees still remain in both countries.

Mr. Chairman,

The Afghan government places among its top priorities the voluntary, gradual, and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees.  My government is particularly aware of the importance of providing stability within our borders and leading a functioning reintegration process in order to provide refugees and IDPs with incentive to return as well as to keep them from entering this vicious cycle again.  During this year alone, the number of refugees who have returned to Afghanistan already exceeds 100,000. Guiding a sustainable repatriation which prioritizes reintegration will continue to be the focus of our discussions with the Governments of Iran and Pakistan during our respective Tripartite Commission meetings in cooperation with the UNHCR. We will carry on utilizing these reunions as opportunities to exchange best practices and advance our collaboration. The Pakistani government and the government of Afghanistan have been working vigorously throughout and renewed commitments earlier this year.  Furthermore, the recent recommencement of Tripartite consultations with the Government of Iran signifies a tremendous step in the right direction on both ends.  Last month, we had fruitful discussions about how to improve reintegration prospects in the future.

Much progress has been made over the past nine years; still, much remains to be accomplished. Relative to previous years, recently repatriation has stalled substantially.  This is undoubtedly, intrinsically linked to the twin threats of terrorism and insecurity as well as the growing challenges of the humanitarian situation. The number of IDPs remains high, particularly for displaced people coming from provinces that have seen the highest levels of unrest and terrorist activity.

Regrettably, this year we have yet again witnessed deterioration of security in parts of Afghanistan. Over the last twelve months, the circumstances contributed to a rise in internal displacement of over 100,000 persons, mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Throughout these trying times, the international humanitarian agencies have been indispensable and both our government and people are tremendously appreciative for the assistance in the emergency response in dealing with these situations.

The successful homecoming of our people abroad remains a main concern of the Afghan government. In order to facilitate this immense voluntary repatriation, we intend to sustain efforts to fully implement our comprehensive sector strategy concerning refugees, returnees and IDPs, as outlined in the 7th Pillar of our National Development Strategy. Increasing our absorption capacity in order to better be able to administer and assist sustainable reintegration will be crucial and must therefore be a centre piece to our efforts. In that regard, we will endeavour to improve capacity in relevant Ministries dealing with repatriation, foster greater inter-Ministerial coordination, and mobilize additional resources with support from our international partners.

Afghan refugees, returnees and IDPs are faced with numerous challenges due to poverty and, undoubtedly, decades of conflict. In recognizing the intricacy of this essential undertaking at hand, we are conscious that a positive outcome will entail patience, resources, and above all, the unrelenting commitment of our international partners. Nevertheless, we are confident in the outcome of our joint efforts.

Mr. Chairman,

Let me conclude by expressing the appreciation of the Afghan government and its people to the brotherly peoples and governments of the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Iran for hosting Afghan refugees over the past three decades. Furthermore, we are wholehearted in extending our sincere gratitude to UNHCR and all other relevant international organizations for lending a hand during these trying times. Certainly, if it were not for their generous support for this grand scale voluntary repatriation in Afghanistan, our advancements would not have been attainable.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.

Agriculture Development and Food Security

Statement delivered by, Mr. Enayet Madani, Counsellor
At the 2nd Committee Debate on Agriculture Development and Food Security:

Mr. Chairperson,

I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for convening this meeting, and align myself with the statement delivered by distinguished representatives of Yemen on behalf of the G77 and China, Nepal on behalf of LDCs and China on behalf of Asia Group. My delegation expresses its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his Report on Agriculture Development and Food Security which will certainly play an important role for our deliberations.

Mr. Chairperson,

We agree and welcome the recent reforms made to the Committee on World Food Security within the Food and Agriculture Organization, which renewed their commitment towards coordination of food security on the international scale, as well as formalize the involvement of an expert panel towards this cause. We recognize the leadership and efforts of those who have kept food security challenges of developing countries on top of the global agenda, and will continue to work with them in improving food security in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairperson,

Prior to the conflicts that disrupted the way of life in the country, Afghanistan had a healthy and self-sufficient agricultural economy, which produced both food as well as economic crops. Current agricultural productivity, however, is not as optimistic given the vast damage done to the physical infrastructure as well as higher dependence on rain-fed agriculture.  As such, millions of Afghans are either starving or threatened with starvation on a daily basis, depending on food assistance for survival. Henceforth, it is critical for us to rapidly revive our agricultural sector through restructuring and investment, while also paying attention to issues of long-term environmental sustainability.

Although crop productivity has improved in the last year from ample and well-distributed rainfall, the droughts of 2008, 2009 still reminds us of our vulnerability. Besides supporting the livelihood of the large rural population (which is 80% of the total population), agriculture also constitutes 53% of our national economy and hence is of vital importance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. As much as we appreciate international humanitarian assistance in tiding us through our recovery period, we also seek partnerships in building improved and accessible irrigation systems, technology and better agricultural practices.

Mr. Chairperson,

The large fluctuations in crop productivity over the past years highlight the key challenges we face as we tackle the issue of food security. Increased water scarcity coupled with rainfall variability, both possibly augmented by climate change; exemplify the weakness of rural agriculture in Afghanistan. The lack of irrigation infrastructure and low water security correlates strongly with rural poverty, and hence serves as key hurdles in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

37% of our population is in the borderline of food security, and 59% of our children below the age of five, suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The proportion of the population below minimum energy consumption (of 2100 calories) has increased, and seasonality-driven poverty and food shortage have been drawn to our attention. Volatility in global food prices also present significant challenges to the situation.

Mr. Chairperson,

The points of leverage for effective agricultural and rural development lie in small farmer households, and the role of women in food provision and preparation is central to pursuing food security targets. Partnerships forged between the government, communities and the private sector, in directing efforts and investments can facilitate the development process and make rural agricultural communities more robust and resilient.

In the restoration of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, we are taking these key initiatives under the Afghanistan National Development Strategies with the two broad goals of poverty reduction and livelihoods security:

Firstly, through better water and national resource development, we seek to improve both quantity and quality in our agricultural sector while reducing stress imposed on the natural systems.

Secondly, by identifying gaps in the current agricultural system dealing with inputs and outputs, we aim for comprehensiveness in agricultural production and market development.

Thirdly, taking heed of the close links between rural access and poverty alleviation, our expansion of road and communication networks will empower the rural poor.

Fourthly, local institutions will be strengthened with the establishment of Community Development Councils and civil service expansion.

Mr. Chairperson,

The revival of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector represents an opportunity for Afghanistan to achieve strong growth and food self-sufficiency, and also represents great possibilities for international cooperation and friendship. As we take these steps, we will need stronger partnerships with the UN agencies to facilitate greater investment in physical infrastructure, knowledge sharing as well as technology transfer. These investments and assistance can also be improved through responsive targeting to the needs and priorities of Afghanistan, thereby fast-tracking MDGs.

The targets of poverty alleviation, hunger reduction and stabilizing food security are all tightly interconnected with women’s rights, rural development and economic growth. Our efforts are in building resilience along with growth, and adapt agricultural practices and regimes to developing environmental and economic situations. We ask the World Food Programme, USDA, FAO and other funders to continue their assistance to us, and for the international community to work together on achieving global food security.

Before closing I take this opportunity to thank the UN system; in particular, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization and other all other partners for their continued support to the people of Afghanistan.

I thank you

Security Council debate on Women and Peace and Security

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

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

At the Security Council debate on Women and Peace and Security

New York

Mr. President,

Thank you for convening this important and historic debate on “women, peace and security.”  On behalf of my delegation, I commend you on your able leadership of the Council this month.  We welcome not only the Secretary General’s extensive report, but the Security Council’s first “Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace, and Security.”

On the tenth anniversary of Resolution 1325, it is important to take a step back to gain a more global perspective and to celebrate how far we have come as well as recognize areas for improvement in terms of the participation and protection of women in situations of conflict. There have been ten years of overwhelmingly strong consensus around this resolution.  During this time, my country has emerged from decades of suffering to major progress for women.  We now work in solidarity with the international community to eliminate the deeply rooted tragedy of the disproportionate effects of conflict on women and highlight the crucial role of women’s leadership in the peace process.

Mr. President,

The Afghan people have suffered immensely for more than 30 years under foreign invasions, civil wars and Taliban rule. In the 1990s Afghan women were the targets of brutality and widespread violence, including gender based violence and oppression. The Taliban completely removed women from all aspects of public life, depriving them of such fundamental rights as education, and participation in both the economic and political sectors.  The enemies to women’s rights remain strong in their efforts. They misrepresent Afghan traditions, using their own interpretations of Islam to justify their actions.

Mr. President,

Since 2001 Afghanistan has made considerable progress in the advancement of women. The government of Afghanistan has committed its energy and resources to strengthening the rights of women, improving their roles in all aspects of political, social, cultural and economic life as shown through our National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA). The voices of Afghan women have been increasingly amplified by our growing, vibrant civil society and the active presence of women in media.

Key areas of success for the improvement of the lives of women have been in the spheres of political participation, education, and health. As we finalize results for our second parliamentary election, we recall that last month, millions of Afghans went to the polls to make their voices heard.  In these recent elections, 406 out of 2,556 candidates were women.  This compares with 328 women candidates from 2005, and ensures that women will at least fill all 68 seats, or 25%, allocated for women and will likely win additional seats.  Women will fill at least a quarter of the Afghan parliament, nearing our MDG goal of 30%, and make up 18% of government employees. There are now over 1,000 women in Afghan National Security Forces. We plan to increase the number of women in the Afghan National Police to over 5,000 in the next five years.  The presence of women in these crucial positions has made a significant impact.  We are proud of their resilience and bravery in protecting our population.

Remarkable progress has been made in terms of the numbers of women and girls in all levels of education, and the increased literacy ratio of girls to boys. Around 37% of the 7 million students in Afghanistan are female. Today, Afghan boys and girls have equal access to education.  We must continue our efforts to teach girls to read, and to provide more accessible schooling for women and girls particularly in rural areas.  Furthermore, by providing basic health services to nearly 90% of our population, health care in Afghanistan has improved tremendously for both men and women alike.  This sector also provides employment opportunities for women, as over 20% of doctors and half of health care workers in Afghanistan are women.

Mr. President,

The Commitment of the government of Afghanistan and support of the international community have been the crucial factors for the achievements of women in the last decade. During the London and Kabul Conferences, in January and July of this year, we reaffirmed our commitment to protecting the rights of women.  As the country is moving towards seeking a new political framework for peace and reconciliation, it is vital to make sure that these achievements are sustained and the rights of women are protected in the future.

While we consider the Peace Talks to be an important part of our shared stabilization efforts, the human rights and women’s rights enshrined in our constitution are non-negotiable.  I can assure today that in every single peace talk, and in every single step of the reconciliation process, women’s rights will remain a priority.  We see our reconciliation process as the way to end violence for all Afghan people, including women. The representation of women in the Afghan Peace Jirga in June 2010, and the inclusion of ten women representatives in the newly established High Peace Council are important steps in guaranteeing the active involvement of women in the peace process and in facilitating reconciliation talks with those who are willing to renounce violence.

Mr. President,

At the ten year mark, as we reflect on the successes and challenges of Resolution 1325, we welcome the Secretary General’s report of 28 September 2010, which mentions clear, revised indicators for measuring the success of 1325.  We now have an extremely useful set of tools which must be implemented in order to gauge our impact in this area going forward. We must revisit the original goals and objectives of 1325 in order to strengthen the monitoring process, address potential gaps, and learn from one another’s best practices.

We are appreciative of the crucial role of the international community and thank UNAMA for their support of all national efforts toward improving the situation of women in Afghanistan. We extend our gratitude to UNIFEM for engaging women’s groups in supporting authorities to improve investigation of sexual violence, thus strengthening community capacity for the prevention of such horrendous acts.  We are committed to further working with UNIFEM toward completing our CEDAW report in the near future.  We also appreciate the roles of all UN bodies, such as UNICEF, UNDP, and UNFPA, for their efforts toward improving the lives of women in Afghanistan.  We have high expectations for the work of UN Women and support the development of a strong relationship with this institution going forward.

Mr. President,

Resolution 1325 is not about rescuing women.  It is not only about helping women who are struggling to overcome conflict, but about recognizing the unique role of women as peacemakers, and creating opportunities for women to excel in leadership roles.  What better place in the world to demonstrate the importance of this issue than Afghanistan. Afghan women are not damsels in distress.  They have been victimized, but are not helpless victims.  They have their own ideas about the needs of women in their country, and must be listened to and supported on their paths to self-empowerment.  Honoring Resolution 1325, and subsequent resolutions 1820, 1888, and 1889, is not only a commitment of the Afghan government, but it is a necessity.  While women are generally the first to be affected by conflict, let us all look forward to witnessing women as those who are the first beneficiaries of peace.

Thank you.