Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Debate of the Security Council On Children in Armed Conflict

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
To the United Nations
At the Open Debate of the Security Council
On Children in Armed Conflict
April 29, 2009
Delivered by : Mr. Mohammad Erfani Ayoob,
Minister Counselor , Charge d’Affaires,ai

HE Amb. Zahir Tanin, PR of Afghanistan to the UN is in Havana to lead the Afghan delegation to the NAM Ministerial meeting. On his behalf and on behalf of the delegation of Afghanistan I have the honor to participate and deliver this statement on the subject under consideration by SC which is highly important for my country.
Madam President,

Please accept our congratulations, Madam President, for your assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council for this month. We thank you for convening today’s important debate to discuss the report of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict and for your chairing of the Working Group of the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict. Your Excellency’s presence here today reflects the level of the commitment and effectiveness of your delegation on this issue.
We would also like to thank Mrs. Radikha Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary General, for her insightful briefing this morning, commend the Department of Children and Armed Conflict for its continuing efforts to protect children affected by armed conflict and welcome the recent establishment of the monitoring and reporting mechanism.

My delegation welcomes this report of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict. In November 2008, the Secretary General’s country-specific report on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan provided us with an initial opportunity to carry out fruitful discussion with our partners in the Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on ways and means to better implement Resolution 1612 in the challenging environment of Afghanistan. We are looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the Working Group’s conclusions on Afghanistan when they are finalized next month.

Madam President,

For this debate to continue effectively, we must recognize two facts: that one, the chief threat to children in Afghanistan is terrorism, and that two, to overcome this threat, the international community and the Government of Afghanistan must work together.

First, terrorism drastically affects the daily lives of our people, particularly children. The deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan is the product of the surge of terrorist activities carried out by Al Qaida, Taliban and other associated armed groups. It is the Taliban and other terrorists groups that are and remain the main violator of human rights, including children’s rights, in Afghanistan, and these violations will continue as long as the security situation does not improve.

Terrorists have increased attacks in our territory, using barbaric methods imported from outside Afghanistan including the use of car bombs, suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices. These attacks deliberately target densely populated areas where children are the prime victims. Terrorists are recruiting, training, and exploiting children as combatants and sending them to operate as suicide bombers. The intensification of the Taliban intimidation campaign, accomplished through burnings of schools and clinics, attacking of female teachers and school-children, has created an atmosphere of terror which prevents our children from accessing basic government services. The recent acid attack on a group of schoolgirls was a horrific demonstration of the particular vulnerability of girls.

Madam President,

Our debate must concentrate our common efforts in defeating terrorism, and in finding ways and means to protect Afghan children and end the atrocities perpetrated by the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups. The Government of Afghanistan welcomes the suggestions of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, including proposals to exert pressure on the Taliban and other armed groups to stop recruiting children. However, these measures will be counterproductive if they offer recognition or legitimization to terrorist groups.

Madam President,

The reported cases of alleged recruitment, detention and sexual violence by individuals in the Afghan government or National Army and Police are disturbing, but isolated cases. For its part, the Government of Afghanistan is deeply committed to fully implementing Resolution 1612 and protecting the rights of children through all possible means and mechanisms.

Afghanistan has developed domestic laws relating to children, established juvenile judicial institutions and ratified most of the international human rights treaties including, in 2002, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. Our penal code prohibits sexual violence against children, and prohibits the recruitment of persons below 18 in our national police and 22 in our national army.

According to our juvenile code the legal age of criminal responsibility for a child is 12 to 18 years of age and they can be prosecuted and sentenced only by a juvenile court and can be confined only in a juvenile detention center. The Afghan national legislation, particularly a recent law on combating terrorist offenses, strictly prohibits the detention of children in adult prisons even if the child is accused of terrorism or threats to national security.

We recognize the importance of governance and rule of law to improve and better implement all these legal provisions. We are making necessary efforts on this direction and all of these efforts need sustained international involvement.

In conclusion, Madam President, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the international community for the military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan that are assisting us in ensuring security and enabling the implementation of rule of law, good governance and human rights, including children rights. We are grateful for their sacrifices in our common endeavor to preserve peace and security, their efforts to build the capacity of the Afghan people, and their recent efforts to address, with us, the issue of civilian casualties. We must continue to move together to stop terrorism’s menace to civilians and children.

Madam President,

Afghanistan has made substantial progress in ensuring the rights of children through legal frameworks and other mechanisms. However, terrorism continues to threaten our goals. It is our hope that, with the continuing help and focus of the international community and the ongoing determination of the Afghan government, we can improve the implementation of Resolution 1612 and protect our children, as the hope for our future, to the best of our ability.

I thank you.

President Obama’s New Strategy – what’s new, will it work?

Keynote Speech by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
to the United Nations
On President Obama’s New Strategy – what’s new, will it work?
Princeton University

Ambassador Vendrell ,
Professor Danspeckgruber,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honor to be here today to share my thoughts with you.

President Obama once wrote of himself, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” The new US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is something of a blank screen as well. It contains components for success, and addresses the concerns of a wide variety of interests. However, it is open to interpretation, and the Administration’s level of commitment and resolve has yet to be tested. Today, I will offer an Afghan understanding of the strategy, as spelled out in policy documents and in President Obama’s own statement on March 27. I will also highlight some of the concerns that exist, and where its priorities should lie. Finally, I will outline a few areas where America cannot afford to minimize objectives.

How can we describe this new strategy?

While individual components of the American strategy are not entirely new, the strategy does combine them in a coherent, focused and fresh way. It puts increased attention on attainable short- and medium-term objectives, on a regional approach and on recognition of the centrality of the threat in Pakistan. Perhaps most importantly, it provides a clean break with the Bush years by giving President Obama ownership of the Afghan strategy, and marks a fresh beginning with a reinvigorated commitment, reflected in the troop increases and civilian surge.

The new American strategy was created to address the confluence of two factors: first, the increasingly precarious situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and second, the need to deal with possible domestic and international fatigue towards the continuing engagement, break with Bush’s policies and put new attention on a “forgotten war.”

Despite a generally welcoming reaction from Afghanistan, there is some ongoing concern among Afghans that the American plan aims to limit objectives, distance itself from important state-building goals and create space for an early exit strategy. The strategy is driven by a sense of urgency, since the new US Administration faces fatigue in some quarters both at home and abroad, and there are defeatists world-wide who seek to paint the fight in Afghanistan as hopeless or unnecessary.

However, President Obama himself laid out the central security interest that every country has in guaranteeing a stable, moderate and better-functioning Afghanistan. It must be apparent to the Obama Administration that any immediate efforts must be accompanied by sustained commitment; one without the other will only provide short-term disappointment leading to long-term failure.

The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands an urgent but long-term response. In Afghanistan, despite major achievements in the course of the last seven years, a sustainable situation is not yet on the horizon. The Taliban have taken advantage of international inattention to mount more frequent violent attacks on the international community and on Afghan civilians. Although there is not yet any serious danger of their returning to power, their role in disrupting stabilization efforts remains serious.

In Pakistan, the Taliban’s violent militarism is spreading out from sanctuaries along the border and beginning to penetrate to the heart of a once peaceful society. In addition, some in Pakistan are in denial about the severity of the threat. This threat is two-fold; first, we risk the spread of extremism and the choking of freedom in the region. Second, we risk these violent armed groups gaining increasing influence over a nuclear-armed state. It is important that Pakistan and the international community find a way to address the threat posed by the Taliban to the Pakistani state and the region.

The core objective of the new strategy is one that President Obama states clearly: “to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.” As the Obama Administration has acknowledged, success is significantly more complicated than just finding and capturing bin Laden. Al-Qaeda has had years to develop broad cooperative networks and stronghold in the region, and the effects of violence and extremism are now threats in their own right. To address all of this, the Obama Administration has taken a promising comprehensive view of the problem.

There are two integral components of President Obama’s core goal of defeating al-Qaeda: we must secure Afghanistan and stabilize Pakistan. The new strategy is correct in recognizing that the two countries face a common threat that needs to be addressed jointly in both countries. However, the creation of an imaginary “Af-Pak” entity for the purposes of practicality should not lead to oversimplification. Each country has its own context and its own problems. The many challenges in the region require a multifaceted and complicated response, not only by the US and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan but also through a regional approach.

How can we secure Afghanistan?

Securing Afghanistan is a process that began in 2001, but has not yet succeeded in creating sustainable progress. Our reinvigorated efforts in Afghanistan need to be focused in three interconnected areas:

First, it is vital to halt and reverse the advances of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban cannot be allowed to regain control over the country; in addition to the reign of terror they imposed on Afghans, they also encouraged our territory to be used by al-Qaeda for the planning and execution of September 11th and other terrorist activities. Defeating the Taliban insurgency will require sustained and committed military involvement, but also political involvement through reconciliation and outreach to all Afghans, and economic development and job creation.

Second, strengthening the government, and rule of law, is essential, so that the Afghans can defend themselves and progress can be sustainable. Afghanistan is ready to take responsibility for its future. We need an improved framework where the government is empowered to fight corruption, dispense justice, provide basic services, and is held accountable to its citizens. Thus the elections planned for August will prove an important turning point; at stake are the legitimacy of national institutions and the strengthening of the democratic process.

And third, the Afghan people must be actively involved and invested in the stabilization process. Recent debates over civilian casualties and the growing perception among Afghans that their international allies are not truly committed to their security, now risk the alienation of the population. Winning the hearts and minds of people in Afghanistan would be the most important strategic asset for success.

Nevertheless, as Richard Holbrooke recently said, and I quote, “If Afghanistan had the best government on earth, a drug-free culture and no corruption; it would still be unstable if the situation in Pakistan remained as today. That is an undisputable fact.”

How can we stabilize Pakistan?

Although international military operations are concentrated in Afghanistan, the insurgency trains and regroups in Pakistan. Stabilizing Pakistan will thus require us to, first and foremost, eliminate these terrorist sanctuaries. This can be accomplished by a more coordinated military and non-military efforts by the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This requires the wholehearted cooperation of the Pakistani military, intelligence and civilian powers. The Obama strategy recognizes the critical threat posed to the Pakistani state and the region by militant elements. Pakistan must be helped to recognize this as well, and all Pakistani entities must be ready to fully dedicate themselves to the fight against these elements.

As the new US strategy indicates, in addition to these steps to be taken in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States will have to actively encourage the involvement of all stakeholders towards a coordinated international response. The security of Afghanistan and the stability of Pakistan depend on the two countries cooperating with each other and with the region to face a common threat. This cooperation will be impossible without the direct and pro-active role of the United States, NATO and all countries fighting terrorism in the region. In addition, the security of the wider region – including India, Iran, Central Asian states, China, Russia and other countries – is also tightly interwoven with the defeat of Al-Qaeda, the establishment of a secure Afghanistan and stable Pakistan, and the creation of a new basis for cooperation towards a collective security system.

A regional approach, such as that spelled out in the new US strategy, must change the negative and disruptive patterns of the region into positive and cooperative ones. It will then be possible for the United States to facilitate a longer-term exchange between Afghan neighbors to identify shared economic interests, to engage a new diplomatic push, and to implement confidence-building measures to address legitimate security concerns in the region.

Can the strategy succeed?

The strategy provides a solid basis for progress, but its success will depend on a number of factors. As a start, the United States and its allies must be willing to commit the resources, attention and time necessary to achieve sustainable progress. It will take time to build a strong, self-sufficient Afghan state, which is the strongest hope of defeating al-Qaeda. Many of the necessary measures in the coming years, such as the expansion of the Afghan National Army and Police, will be financially untenable without the assistance of the international community. In addition, the strategy must use the suggested benchmarks to measure progress both in the short and the longer term, and be flexible enough to adapt when targets are not reached. Thirdly, It is important that President Obama truly engage the governments and publics of NATO nations and of our region in order to coordinate the efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Most importantly, the United States must truly address and combat negative perceptions by demonstrating a sustained commitment to success in Afghanistan. Public opinion in the US, in Europe and in Afghanistan and the wider region will be key to the strategy’s success or failure. The Obama white paper alludes to the “diplomatic push” that will be necessary to create national, international and regional cooperation and to collectively address the security and development challenges in the region. This diplomatic push is a crucial part of the strategy.

We must all have a good understanding of the key role played by public perception in the success or failure of our joint work. The strategy for Afghanistan’s success must be sustainable, and this will require the trust and support of the Afghan people. Thus, the Obama administration and the international community at large must maintain and demonstrate an unambiguous commitment to Afghanistan, even in the face of some domestic and international pressures to seek a short-sighted exit. If the Taliban are given any indication that the resolve of the international community is weakening, they will assume they can out-wait the West as the Mujahidin out-lasted the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The Afghan people must be confident in the continuing support of the international community before they will be willing to trust us with their futures.

The international community and the United States already have a large commitment to Afghanistan through the Bonn process and Afghanistan and the region are becoming increasingly important on the world stage. It is the focus of the increasing global multilateralism, and it is the center of the international fight against terrorism. From Russia to India, from China to the doors of Europe, we are in the center of a region where the geopolitics of the future world are in play. In a global fight against terrorism centered in our region we will need the patience of the “Cold War” if we are determined to succeed. President Obama’s strategy opens the door for success; now we must see whether America and the international community will walk through it.

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

ztanin_20_03_2009.jpg Statement of 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 the Situation in Afghanistan

Allow me to congratulate you, Mr. President, on your assumption of the Presidency of this Council for the month of March, and thank you for holding this debate. I would also like to thank the Secretary General for his latest report on the situation in Afghanistan. In addition, I am grateful to my friend Mr. Kai Eide for his statement here today, and for his leadership of UNAMA’s work for Afghanistan.

Mr. President,
The Security Council is discussing Afghanistan at a defining moment. In two days, the people of Afghanistan will celebrate our New Year. So we begin today from a new perspective of hope.
The preparation for our Presidential and provincial elections provides the chance to strengthen legitimacy and national unity. The continuing and troubling insecurity in parts of the country threatens those objectives but also gives us a clear goal in the coming months. There has been a welcome increase in international focus on Afghanistan. Afghans are pleased to note the many recent strategic reviews and recommendations, including the upcoming conference in The Hague on 31 March. We hope this new spirit of engagement will help us proceed in a constructive, unified and coordinated way.

Mr. President,
The international community should join Afghanistan in this spirit.
In the last eight years, Afghanistan has made progress. We can continue to progress. Afghans are fully invested in a legitimate, inclusive democratic process, and we see this in the strong engagement in national debate surrounding the upcoming elections. Afghans want to ensure that their country’s future is a continuation of the peaceful modernization that began in the early 20th century.
Afghans are eager to work with the international community to eliminate the threat of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. The Taliban is not an organic part of Afghan society. It is a product of violence, cross-border madrassas and foreign indoctrination that disrupted our stable society. Today, a mere 4% of Afghans want to see the Taliban in power.
The international community should also be encouraged by the reminder that Afghans supported the US-led intervention in 2001. Afghans welcomed the defeat of the terrorists and extremists who had invaded and corrupted our homeland. As long as the international forces provide safety, security, and the promise of a democratic future, Afghans will continue to be staunch allies.

But Mr. President,
Afghans are simultaneously driven by urgency to keep the dark days securely behind us. The devastation of the Taliban is a constant reminder of the effects of neglecting the destruction of war. The greatest blunder of our time is forgetting that the ruins of war breed angry, desperate and radicalized people.
The world has an obligation to act so that the Taliban and al-Qaeda do not return to power. This obligation is both moral and practical. Morally, the horrific abuse of civilians anywhere, particularly of children and women, is a threat to freedom everywhere. Practically, terrorism knows no border. Attacks by the same groups in New York, London, Mumbai, and Kabul show that the threat in Afghanistan is, indeed, a global threat. Global action is the answer to global threat.

Mr. President,
Afghans have seen the significance of our partnership with the international community. Our biggest accomplishments-our constitution, the elections, the improvements in the Afghan National Army, infrastructure, education, and health-are the projects that have received the strongest international commitment. International dedication bears fruit.
But we have only begun. In the areas where Afghans received less international attention-the Afghan National Police, governance, corruption, judiciary reform-we have not achieved all we should. After the Bonn Conference in 2001, the international community’s “light footprint” approach brought minimal engagement in Afghanistan. We have only recently re-focused so we cannot expect results immediately. It takes time to build a stable, prosperous, democratic society after more than 30 years of war. Progress is a process, completed only over time.
Thus we must stay the course. There is still important work to be done.

Mr. President,
This work should focus on the priority of a self-sustaining, functioning state that serves Afghans. For a functioning state is the strongest bulwark against terrorism. Only a democratic, stable Afghanistan stops terror and destruction. Democracy should be strengthened, not weakened.
In strengthening the Afghan state, we must have a comprehensive strategy. Today, I would like to highlight a few areas of focus.
First, we should ensure that there are free, fair, and transparent elections in August. This process should encourage a protective, inclusive debate that strengthens the legitimacy of the institutions we have already created through the Bonn process.
Second, Afghan ownership must continue to be the lynchpin of international efforts. We understand that the ultimate responsibility for our country lies in our own hands. We will do our own work.
Therefore economic development should continue to be implemented through the framework of the Afghan National Development Strategy and the Paris priorities. We must ensure that aid and expertise is available promptly and delivered effectively, efficiently and transparently. Every penny in Afghanistan should be delivered to Afghans.
We should also continue to build the Afghan army and police so that Afghans take a stronger role in the fight on terror. There should be greater Afghan oversight over joint operations with our international partners, and an increased focus on preventing civilian casualties.
We want to stress, too, that reconciliation can take place only under the leadership of the Afghan government. The Government of Afghanistan recognizes the importance of a political solution. We negotiate with those elements of the Taliban who are willing to be reconciled. But any talks must be held with full respect for the Constitution of Afghanistan, and must be conducted from a position of strength.
Third, Afghans appreciate the new regional focus on our challenges that protects the sovereignty of our state. We welcome the new trilateral US/Afghanistan/Pakistan process that started recently in Washington DC, and we look forward to a future of increased cooperation. Our neighbors will be the first to benefit from a stable Afghanistan: decreased refugees, decreased narcotics, increased trade.

Mr. President,
Today, Afghans hope this august council will continue its efforts, newly developed and re-focused, to help us regain our footing after decades of war. Afghans still look with great hope to the international community and fully approves the extension of UNAMA’s mandate in support of the Government of Afghanistan.
Despite the continued challenges of terrorism and violence, despite the critics, despite the resignation, despite the doubts– we know our better history. Afghanistan began its journey towards modernization in the 1900s. Our first constitution in 1924 made a modern education available for all. By the 1960s, we guaranteed equal rights for men and women. Afghans then survived and persevered through three decades of foreign intervention, a bloody civil war and the brutal rule of the Taliban. If we can do all of this, we can succeed in Afghanistan today. For Afghanistan has been, can be, and will be again, a peaceful, democratic crossroads in our region and a contributing member of the world community.
We start the New Year in this spirit of hope.

Thank you Mr. President.