Friday, October 31, 2014

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Campaign Launch: Children, Not Soldiers

 

Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for your participation at this event and for the leading role of the Ambassador of Luxembourg, Sylvie Lucas. I would like to thank our esteemed friends Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative to the Secretary General, Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Mr. Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for their statements, and for their collective work to prevent the suffering of children in armed conflict in countries like mine and around the world.  I am honored to speak at the launch of the Special Representative’s commendable campaign to end the recruitment and use of children by government security forces.

Children have suffered profoundly in Afghanistan as a result of over 30 years of violent conflict. War cast a shadow over their daily lives, cutting their childhoods short, subjecting them to violence, and leaving them without their families and loved ones.

 Yet, while children have experienced indescribable anguish throughout Afghanistan’s long conflict, the nature of today’s wars and the tactics of terrorist groups have made the past several years particularly brutal for children.

Excellencies,

War in Afghanistan left young boys and girls without support systems and forced them to become the main breadwinners for their families.  Motivated by poverty, children in my country often try to join the national and local police or the army, even lying about their age so that they can serve. This is not a result of a systematic attempt by the government to recruit children, but rather a result of children’s desperation to provide for their own and their family’s livelihoods.

 Understanding these awful circumstances, my government still affirms that child recruitment is unacceptable in all cases.  Preventing children from joining security forces in Afghanistan has thus become a focus for my government, as it has for the international community.

 To this end, the government of Afghanistan has taken strong measures to ensure that recruitment and use of children by our security forces ends completely, among them I can name:

 In 2006, the Ministry of the Interior set the age requirement for recruitment at 18-35 years, and has since issued identity cards to verify the ages of those enlisting.  Relatedly, the Ministry of Justice enacted a criminal law imposing a penalty of 5-10 years in prison for the falsification of identity cards.  In addition, since 2010 a series of strong Presidential and Ministerial decrees have been issued condemning the recruitment of children in both the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan National and Local Police.  Now both the Local and National Police have high-level focal points working to limit recruitment.  Also, Afghanistan created the first ever Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee to implement the 2011 Action Plan to halt child recruitment, signed with the UN.

 These successes, Excellencies, do not negate the tremendous challenges ahead of us.  We know that much progress is yet to be achieved.  While our government is working steadily to protect children, progress thus far has only been possible through the committed support of our international partners.  We need their technical expertise and funding- in addition to their advocacy- to prevent recruitment and to end this scourge.  We call on our international partners to continue their support so that this campaign is no longer applicable to our country.

Thank you.

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.