Monday, August 3, 2015

The Situation in Afghanistan

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN

At the General Assembly debate on

Agenda Item 17: The Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thirty years ago, in December of 1979, Soviet forces entered Afghanistan. Since then, Afghanistan has been a perpetual victim of war, violence and conflict. Constant upheaval has torn the country from a peaceful, progressive path and thrust it into the global spotlight. The General Assembly has repeatedly gathered to reiterate its solidarity with the Afghan people.

However, while we debated here, the floodgates of hell opened in Afghanistan. What was once a stable, modernizing country, a role model for other states in the region, became a name without a state, a vast wasteland of shattered lives. A hundred years of social, political and economic progress were destroyed. And what is worse, two million people were killed. Ten million more fled for their own safety.

This is the true tragedy of my country and my people.

And now, Mr. President,

Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, eight years after we all believed that the long national nightmare of the Afghan people had at last come to an end, violence still threatens the lives of Afghans in many parts of the country.

Mr. President,

The resolution before us today reflects an awareness of our common responsibility to address the situation in Afghanistan, and reaffirms the strong determination of the membership towards this end.  For this support, the government and people of Afghanistan are deeply grateful.

In this regard, I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for convening this meeting, and thank all of you for your presence here today and for so widely and strongly supporting the resolution now before us.  Allow me to also express my sincerest thanks to the German Mission, and in particular to Ambassador Martin Ney and Counsellor Daniel Krull and his able team, for their substantial efforts and able facilitation of this resolution.

Mr. President,

The last eight years have been difficult, but the situation in Afghanistan has fundamentally improved. Eight years ago, we were debating how to build what did not exist: a government, an army and police force, and a functioning economic and social life. Today we are debating how to improve what we have built: how to have a good, effective government, a well-trained army and police, and a productive economy. Today Afghanistan’s flag flies proudly across the country. This is a substantial accomplishment.

Unfortunately, our progress has not been sufficient. We allowed three crucial opportunities to slip through our fingers.

First, we missed the chance to wipe out the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorists. After their initial defeat, we permitted them to rearm and regroup in sanctuaries outside of Afghanistan. As a result, they returned to threaten us in 2006 and the security situation has deteriorated markedly.

Second, we missed the chance to properly resource and reinforce our efforts. Afghanistan has been starved for resources, starved for attention, and starved for troops. Our responses have been reactive, ex-post-facto, and fragmented.

Third, we missed the chance to rapidly empower and enable Afghans to shoulder the responsibility for their own destiny.  The government and civil society lacked capacity, experience and resources.

Thankfully, within the last two years the Government of Afghanistan and the international community have, together, begun to craft a common approach.  We are beginning to offer the necessary resources to combat a resurgent Taliban.  We have strengthened the UN’s important mandate for coordination.  We have begun to build capacity to address weak governance and fragile institutions. We have built a strengthened partnership with the elected government in Islamabad and we are working together towards real cooperation in the fight against our common enemy. And finally, with the holding of the second Presidential elections in our history, Afghans were again able to have a say in their future.

Mr. President,

The elections mark the beginning of a new chapter in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the elections were held in difficult circumstances. In many regions, voters risked their lives to participate. Despite this, however, millions voted, and millions more participated in the debates surrounding the campaigns.

Elections are not perfect anywhere. They are even less perfect in an emerging democracy threatened by conflict. The Afghan people worked tirelessly, not on the sidelines but as leaders of our institutions. Complaints and irregularities were uncovered and addressed in a meticulously fair and systematic way. The elections were as free as possible, as fair as possible, and as transparent as possible.

Most importantly, the people of Afghanistan showed respect for the rule of law. All of Afghanistan patiently and peacefully awaited a legal, Constitutional outcome and now are prepared to accept that outcome. This has been a peaceful transition.

Mr. President,

The re-election of President Karzai has ended a period of uncertainty and an extended pause in our reconstruction and stabilization efforts. The President-Elect, in his first address, emphasized that we need to seize this unique moment.

Over the next five years, the new Government of Afghanistan will create and maintain two Compacts: one with the Afghan people, and one with the international community. Together, these pacts will help forge strong, constructive partnerships and will lead Afghanistan to sustainable progress.

The principal Compact with the Afghan people will be based on a continuing commitment to ensuring the physical and economic security of Afghans, providing good governance and rule of law, and encouraging economic development. To achieve these three aims, President-Elect Hamid Karzai has identified four areas of focus: first, national participation; second, reconciliation; third, Afghanization; and fourth, tackling corruption.

Central to this Compact is the need for Afghans to take control of their destinies. In an ongoing effort to build capacity and clean the stain of corruption, Afghans should increasingly bear the responsibility for governance, rule of law, and the protection of human rights. In training the army and police, Afghans can take a greater role in ensuring security, law enforcement and leading counter-narcotics efforts. And the Government represents all Afghans. The government serves all Afghans. We are committed to greater national participation in the political and reconstruction processes. In addition, we will continue to welcome any Afghan who is willing to join the peace process and respect the Afghan Constitution. In undertaking these commitments, the new Government of Afghanistan will work actively and constructively with both the region and the international community.

Mr. President,

In building a prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, security is the core of all our efforts. Security is not only an end in itself; it is also an important prerequisite to progress in other areas. Insecurity is a barrier to good governance or sustainable development, and is the single biggest threat to human rights. Insecurity prevents Afghans from putting aside their guns to concentrate on rebuilding their lives, and it breeds corruption, fear, hopelessness and despair. We will never earn the trust of Afghans while they are subjected to constant terror. We must first help them feel secure.

However, our aim is not to kill every Taliban fighter. We have to use political and military strategies together, in order to expand the reach of the government, train the Afghan army and police, isolate the Taliban from the people, earn the trust of the people, and encourage the engagement of Afghan civilians in the peace and reconciliation process.

The sole strength of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their terrorist allies is in their brutality. Afghanistan needs a military and civilian strategy that centers on the security of the Afghan people, and offers them real protection from the threats of the Taliban and the unintended consequences of counterterrorist operations. NATO’s new strategy is a promising and responsible step in this direction.

However, Mr. President,

The Government’s tremendous objectives will not be achieved in one day. We will achieve nothing through premature deadlines. We will achieve nothing without the consistent political, military and financial support of the international community. Most importantly, we will achieve nothing without mutual understanding built on trust and cooperation.

Recent public debate about Afghanistan has strained this understanding. Afghanistan both respects and understands the legitimate concerns of the international community. We ask the world to respect and understand the views and concerns of Afghans. All stakeholders deserve sincere, credible partners. We need a partnership built on real solidarity.

For this reason, the Government of Afghanistan will focus on building and renewing a second Compact: one with the international community.

This Compact should rest on the strong foundation of our shared commitment to pursue security, development and good governance in Afghanistan and the region. Together, we should seek rational, well-resourced common strategies with realistic timelines. In this regard, we welcome the call for an international conference to refresh and renew our partnership and build a solid foundation for our future work together. The recent attack on the dedicated UN workers in Kabul shows that our partnership is under attack from the outside; we must strengthen it from the inside.

Mr. President,

The key to the future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people. They are the masters of their destiny. The Taliban do not represent Afghans. Their power is the power of destruction. Their strength lies only in brutality. Let us make a strong relationship between the Afghan people and the international community the bedrock of our strategies. Let us use today’s resolution on Afghanistan to demand more from both ourselves and from our partners. Alone, we will fail, but together we can, and will, succeed.

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities

Statement of Delegation of Afghanistan
on UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities
Delivered on behalf of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Madam President,

At the outset let me congratulate you, for your election as the President of the UN Pledging Conference for Development.

Let me take this opportunity to express my delegations heartfelt gratitude for the dedicated work and sacrifice of the six UN personnel who lost their life in the appalling attack in Kabul on October 28th, and my sincerest condolences to the families and other staff members affected.

Madam President,
We are extremely grateful for the support of the UN agencies present here today. The UNDP, UN Capital Development Fund, United Nations Development Fund for Women, UN Volunteers, the UN Fund for South-South Cooperation all provide essential assistance to further the aspirations of developing countries, least developing countries and post-conflict nations. We further recognize the role of monetary assistance and the no less important roles of technical assistance and capacity building in achieving development objectives.

The UN organizations here today are critical to the fulfillment of the MDGs and establishing equitable and peaceful societies in which people of all races, genders, and religions can achieve their full potential. The partnerships that have been forged between Afghanistan and UNDP, UNIFEM, and UNCDF are vital to our country as we re-build and provide a solid foundation for democracy, sustainable development, and equality.

We appreciate the UNDP’s efforts in Afghanistan for more than 40 years, particularly its pivotal role after 2002 in capacity building of Afghanistan institutions, and its role in poverty eradication and the development of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS).

UN Volunteers, which honorably aims to promote volunteerism in achieving peace and development, often work in very challenging and uncertain environments such as Afghanistan. Two of the UN workers killed in the appalling attack on the UN in Kabul were UN Volunteers, striving to promote reconstruction efforts.

Madam President,
The importance of women’s rights in Afghanistan cannot be understated. The government of Afghanistan recognizes that the successful socio-economic development and reconstruction of Afghanistan requires the complete and equal participation of Afghan women in all socio-economic activities. Yet, efforts towards the empowerment and advancement of women in Afghanistan face enormous challenges, and we offer our greatest appreciation to the work that UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) conducts locally in Afghanistan.

We are increasingly seeing the fruits of regional and south-south cooperation amongst developing countries. The UN Fund for South-South Development has played an important role in this regard, and we applaud their efforts.

In recent months there has been much speculation on the effect the global economic and financial crisis will have on development assistance. The crisis poses challenges for all countries, but post-conflict countries, least developed countries and land-locked least developed countries face particular challenges. Afghanistan as a post-conflict, least developed, and land-locked country has been hit severely by this crisis and will find it difficult to implement its National Development Strategy and achieve its MDGs without intensified international support. It has been shown that discontinued or decreased aid flows often hamper development efforts just as they are starting to show fruitful progress.

Madam President,

Further, the recent attack on UN personnel in Kabul highlight the need for increased financial resources for security and aid workers in Afghanistan. We are encouraged by the support of the Secretary General, the Security Council, and the international community. Let us work together to protect UN personnel as they perform critical peace keeping and development efforts.

It is important that the international community and UN agencies work in a coherent and consolidated way. From our experiences, we have found that collective coordinated efforts by funders are more effective than isolated, patched together attempts. This is why it is so essential that UN agencies are working collaboratively on different facets of development. Each agency is essential to our country’s reconstruction efforts, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Madam President,
We hope these financial pledges can strengthen the partnership between the UN system and the Afghan government. The UN agencies here today play a critical role in establishing the groundwork for a peaceful and equitable world, and we thank them for the tangible results that they have produced in our country. We urge donor nations to consider their vital position as they make their pledges.

Madam President,

Afghanistan is among the largest recipients of UN assistance; therefore, as a token of appreciation for the dedicated work of UN in my country, I would like to make the following symbolic pledge:
UNDP: $ 100
UNICEF: $ 100
UNFPA: $ 100
UNIFEM: $ 100
OCHS: $ 100
UNV: $ 100

Thank you

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.