Thursday, November 27, 2014

Questions related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian issues

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN
On Agenda Item 41: Questions related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian issues
Mr. Chairman,

On behalf of the government of Afghanistan, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for his comprehensive Report and briefing this morning. I would also like to thank the High Commissioner for his commitment and dedication to the plight of world refugees and, in particular, the refugees, returnees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan still holds the unfortunate record of being the leading country of origin of refugees worldwide, and eighty percent of these refugees have been in exile from Afghanistan for more than twenty years. Fortunately, this trend is beginning to change. These lost citizens of Afghanistan have at last begun to find their way back to their country. Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, more than 5 million Afghans have returned to Afghanistan, with over one-quarter of a million returned just in the past year.

I would like to express our gratitude particularly to the peoples and governments of the brotherly countries of the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan for hosting and assisting the over 2.7 million Afghan refugees that have come to settle in their countries. We also extend our gratitude to all other host countries, as well as the UNHCR and other relevant international organizations for their continued support. Without their assistance, our efforts to encourage repatriation would be severely limited. At the same time, Afghan refugees seeking refugee status or asylum in other countries, particularly the developed world, deserve our attention as well. Refugees, whether they achieve official status or not, often face a hopeless and uncertain future, occasionally losing their lives in the pursuit of safety. They deserve our efforts to ensure they do not fall through the cracks, and are treated with dignity and respect, in line with international law and humanitarian norms.

Mr. Chairman,

Facilitating the return of more than three million refugees and other wandering Afghans is a top priority for the Government of Afghanistan. However, despite the success of Afghanistan’s voluntary repatriation program – the largest of UNHCR for the last seven years – as well as the desires of the country, Afghanistan does not presently have the necessary resources to provide for the needs of these returnees. Repatriation alone does not equal success.

Repatriation has also been affected by the twin threats of terrorism and insecurity – as proven by the number of IDPs that continues to rise in provinces with the highest levels of insecurity, particularly along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. In addition, humanitarian organizations still have limited access to the most insecure parts of Afghanistan. Also, widespread poverty and a challenging humanitarian situation have been further exacerbated by a rise in food prices and by continued attacks on international and non-governmental aid organizations providing assistance to Afghans.

Mr. Chairman,

The Afghan government is committed to continue its work to implement our strategy on refugees, returnees, and IDPs as outlined in our National Development Strategy (ANDS). The primary purpose of these policies and programs is to increase our absorption capacity in order to manage and assist sustainable reintegration. To further facilitate reintegration, we are working to improve the capacity of relevant Ministries to deal with repatriation, to reform in particular the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, to foster greater inter-Ministerial cooperation, and to mobilize additional resources with support from our international partners.
Successful reintegration requires that conditions exist to establish an adequate quality of life for returning refugees. In this regard, in November 2008 we hosted an international conference on the return and reintegration of refugees in Kabul where we discussed the need for greater efforts to guarantee basic necessities for returnees. Without sustained financial assistance by the international community, Afghanistan will find it difficult to implement our strategy for refugees.
We continue to work closely with the governments of Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran along with UNHCR to achieve our shared objectives. In July of this year, representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the UNHCR met in Kabul for a 17th trilateral meeting, where all parties reaffirmed their commitment to the voluntary, gradual, safe, and dignified repatriation of all Afghan refugees and agreed to strengthen and expand the ANDS in the context of reintegration. Furthermore, Pakistan has made a commitment to extend its program that provides Afghan refugees in Pakistan with P.O.R. cards until 2012, for which we are grateful.

Finally Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan would like to emphasize that it fully supports the UNHCR’s noble mandate of promoting humanity and of finding a comprehensive solution to the protracted situation of refugees throughout the world. Yet, in order to make progress in achieving these goals, there are many obstacles we need to overcome. The challenges facing Afghan refugees, returnees, and IDPs are the outcome of three decades of conflict. Accordingly, we recognize that our efforts require resources and the sustained commitment of our international partners. Nevertheless, we are confident that our joint efforts with the international community will effectively bring about the return of Afghan refugees.

Thank you for your time Mr. Chairman.

Assistance in Mine Action

Statement by, Mr. M. Wali Naeemi, Minister Counsellor
Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations
On Agenda item 28: Assistance in Mine Action
Delivered before the 4th Committee

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, my delegation would like to commend you and your team for the excellent manner in which you have led the Fourth Committee during this 64th session of the General Assembly.

My delegation would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive evaluation of the current international presence, status, and threat of land mines, as well as progress towards their eradication. Land mines and the use of IEDs have systematically contributed to an environment of international insecurity, and have dramatically hindered U.N. peacekeeping operations. They present an undeniable threat to the world community, and especially to certain post-conflict nations such as Afghanistan. All member-states must continue to support the United Nations and its bodies engaged in the crucial effort to eliminate these dangers.

Afghanistan is pleased to co-sponsor this draft resolution, and warmly thanks the delegation of Sweden for all of their work on this document. We further welcome Colombia’s initiative to host the second conference review on the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World is an excellent step towards the eradication of mines and IEDs from developing nations, and to once and for all end the suffering and casualties caused by mines.
Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,

March 2009 marked the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, of which Afghanistan is a strong supporter. Work in accordance with this Convention has successfully destroyed over 41 million stockpiled mines, and Afghanistan alone has already cleared over 323,000 land mines. However, there is still much work to be done before citizens around the world will be truly protected from this threat. In particular, humanitarian and development assistance to mine-affected countries should also prioritize victim assistance, ranging from physical rehabilitation to psychological support and social and economic reintegration. Currently, there are more than 100,000 survivors of landmine accidents, and most of these people are seriously disabled.

Mr. Chairman,

Today’s situation in Afghanistan is dire. Afghanistan has been battling the problem of land mines for more than three decades. However, despite concerted international efforts, and the introduction of new technologies, casualties in Afghanistan from mines and IEDs have not substantively decreased in the last years. These devices remain a serious and pervasive threat to the lives of Afghans, as well as to the nation’s stability and development.

Since 1979, it has been estimated that over 640,000 mines have been laid in Afghanistan; and that as recently as 2008, 4,924 hazardous mine areas remained in the country. These areas comprise an estimated 720 kilometers of land, threatening over 2,220 communities and 4 million Afghans. Further, 75% of these impacted communities are found in 12 of the country’s 34 provinces. Many Afghan farmers have also lost their farms and so their livelihoods, as 75.6% of this mine territory is used for agriculture. Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world, and there are still over 700 kilometers of land contaminated by an estimated 56 different types of land mines.

Afghanistan continues to experience daily reminders of the mines’ lethality: from January to July 2008, in a mere six months, 1445 victims of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) were reported, and 50% of these were children. 2.7% of Afghanistan’s population has been labeled as “severely disabled” and 9% of these disabilities have been attributed to landmines.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan is now doing more for land mine eradication than at any other time in our history. The United Nations Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan, in conjunction with the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan, employs 8,000 individuals, and has successfully cleared over 12,000 hazard areas throughout Afghanistan to date, with more than 126 million square meters of land – which is more than 17% of Afghanistan’s minefields – cleared between January and November of 2006 alone. The government of Afghanistan will continue this effort over the coming years, and is doing everything in its power to ensure that the over 4.3 million Afghan refugees that have returned to Afghanistan, as well as the large number of IDPs returning to their villages, do not come home to minefields. However, without the continuing technical and financial support of the international community, Afghanistan will not be able to emancipate itself from the threat of landmines.

Mr. Chairman,

Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to join the Secretary-General in expressing my appreciation for all those who have lost their lives or have been injured by mines or explosive war remnants. I extend my sympathies and sincerest condolences to their families.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects

Statement by, Mr. M. Wali Naeemi, Minister Counsellor
Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations
On Agenda item 33: comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects
Delivered before the 4th Committee

On Behalf of H. E. Zahir Tanin

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,
I have the honor of delivering the statement on behalf of Afghanistan during this comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations. We associate ourselves with the statements delivered by the distinguished representative of Morocco on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
At the outset my delegation would like to extend our thanks to you and to the members of the bureau and reiterate our ongoing support for your work.
My delegation particularly thanks Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Mr. Alan Le Roy and Under Sectary General for Field Support Ms. Susana Malacora for their compressive statements made on Oct 23rd on this item. We believe that in order to achieve our goals and targets, and to present effective responses to our present challenges, it is necessary in particular to enhance coordination and interaction between stakeholders.
We share the feeling in this room today that 2010 will be a crucial year for UN peacekeepers, particularly in fighting against terrorists, suicide bombers and other criminals. In addition, we reiterate the concerns raised by distinguished delegates during our debate about the importance of protecting civilians and ensuring safety and security for peacekeepers in the increasingly dangerous circumstances we send them into.

Mr. Chairman,
Afghanistan is part of a growing number of hybrid missions worldwide, with DPKO-supported UNAMA dealing with political conciliation and humanitarian efforts, and a parallel military force, ISAF, led by NATO and mandated by the Security Council, overseeing traditional peacekeeping functions and a wider stabilization and reconstruction mandate. The current forces, numbering more than 71,000, include troops from 43 nations, including the 26 NATO member states. The primary responsibility of ISAF, as mandated under chapter VIII of the UN Charter, is to enforce peace throughout the country. In parallel, UNAMA, directed by DPKO, has two primary responsibilities: development/humanitarian issues and political affairs. With a presence in much of the country, UNAMA has been instrumental in monitoring human rights issues, strengthening good governance and the rule of law, assisting local institutions, and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. Such a broad and all encompassing Mission could only be carried out with the assistance and consistent support of the United Nations, in particular DPKO. These unconventional peace operations in Afghanistan have allowed the international community more flexibility in responding to the interlinking challenges of security, governance, development, humanitarian issues, and counternarcotics.

Mr. Chairman,
Peacekeeping is not only vital for international stability but also for regional and national stability, particularly in post conflict countries such as Afghanistan, where peacekeeping can provide support and space for necessary reconstruction efforts. For almost three decades the UN has been promoting peace, stability, and amity in Central Asia. Today, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) the UN, in conjunction with ISAF forces, is actively engaged in stabilizing Afghanistan and fostering sustainable political and economic conditions. Though the situation on the ground presents substantial challenges, tremendous progress has been made by the government and National Security Forces with the support of ISAF and UNAMA. As a result of improved security and governance, 6 million children attended school last year, and studies show that women, who were once banned from public life, came back into the public sphere to play a vital role in rebuilding Afghanistan. In addition, civil and social infrastructure has expanded, and 85% of Afghans now have access to basic healthcare. There are crucial, tangible benefits to our common work, and I thank the United Nations for renewing and supporting UNAMA’s mandate and continuing to support Afghanistan’s journey towards peace and prosperity.
Afghanistan applauds the work the DPKO is doing through UNAMA and supports its continued success.

Mr. Chairman,
The government and the people of Afghanistan express their sincere appreciation to the people and governments of troop contributing countries and those who provide necessary resources and technical support to UNAMA and other UN bodies in Afghanistan. Afghanistan appreciates the role that DPKO and UNAMA play in Afghanistan and fully recognize the grave sacrifices it has suffered. The Government of Afghanistan will do everything in its power to protect those who come to our country to help in reconstruction efforts. In particular, we offer our sincere condolences to the coworkers and families of all those who lost their lives in the attacks in Kabul on Wednesday. We recognize the grave risk undertaken by both civilian and military personnel in difficult security situations, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is our duty here to ensure that their operations are organized and carried out in a way that supports their mandate while minimizing their risk.