Sunday, November 23, 2014

“Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin,  Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN

Delivered by: Mr. Mohammad Erfani Ayoob, Minister Counselor, Charge d’ affairs, a.i.
At the Security Council debate under agenda item

“Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

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Mr. President,

I would like to begin by congratulating you for your assumption to the Presidency of this Council, and thanking you for holding this meeting today, which is highly important for my delegation . I would also like to thank Under Secretary-General Mr. John Holmes for his typically concise and insightful presentation . And finally, I would thank His Excellency the Secretary-General for a thoughtful and comprehensive report and its annex on constraints on humanitarian access . The United Nations has brought serious attention to the plight of suffering civilians caught in the crossfire and established a comprehensive framework in the Security Council to deal with protection of civilians during the arm conflict . However , with the recent trend towards asymmetric conflicts , and the tendency of non-state actors to use civilians as human shields or worse , this work is even more essential.

Mr. President,

The Government of Afghanistan with the assistance of our friends in the International Community, making a good progress to provide Afghans the opportunity for a better life, while the enemies of Afghanistan are continuing to bring more suffering to the civilians of this war stricken nation. As numerous UN reports have detailed , the Taliban and their local and international allies show an increasingly blatant disregard for human life in Afghanistan .They rely increasingly on the use of improvised explosive devices detonated in high-density civilian areas, which cause indiscriminate damage and loss of life , and affect predominantly women and children. The Taliban have stepped up their use of assassinations, school attacks, kidnappings, and threats targeted against those accused of “cooperating” with the government or the international community . They continue to use civilians as human shields, milking accidental tragedy for their propaganda.

Mr. President,

The Taliban have two simple aims ; first, they want to terrify our citizens and convince them they are helpless and cannot trust the international community or their government to protect them; and secondly, they seek to divide the Afghans and the international community, weakening us both. We cannot and shall not let them succeed in either of these goals.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately , in the course of our fight against terrorism, some time civilians have become victims, however unintentionally, of our actions as well . Every civilian death hurts our cause. Each death undermines the faith of the people in their government, and weakens our most valuable asset in the rebuilding of Afghanistan : the Afghans themselves . The Afghan people rightly expect that efforts to fight terrorism would be part of a larger counterterrorism effort rather than vice versa. Their security , should be central. The best hope for the Afghan people is the continuing support of the international community, and Afghans are more aware of this than anyone . We all understand the necessity of defeating the brutally violent and dark minded elements who wage war on peace, stability and prosperity in our region and in the world. Our allies have sent their sons and daughters to fight on foreign land, and Afghanistan is profoundly grateful for this . Without the assistance of international community and their military presence, our people would not have escaped the repression and brutality of the Taliban era and would not, now, have a better future in sight.

Mr. President

The safety of each person and the prevention of death of innocent civilians are critically important for us , and the Government of Afghanistan has raised this issue so repeatedly with our friends and allies. Afghans should be made to feel that their security ,safety and integrity are the centerpiece of our fight .We welcome the recent reviews on this issue, and applaud decisions by the US and NATO to improve rules of engagement in populated areas, minimize the use of air bombardment, and make human security a priority in our strategy . In addition to this Mr. President , it is fundamentally important that the international community should focus and do more on the professional training and better equipping of our growing Afghan National Army and Police forces, so that the Government of Afghanistan should take more and eventually all responsibility for the protection of its citizens. The main goal of Afghan Government and our allies to fight terrorism is to bring a better future for Afghan people . Therefore , while fighting their enemies, we must take every measure to protect them and make sure that they do not become victims of that conflict , and have the opportunity to build their lives in safety and dignity .
Thank you, Mr. President.

UNICEF Draft Country Programme for Afghanistan

Statement of H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Executive Board meeting of UNICEF
On the UNICEF Draft Country Programme for Afghanistan

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Mr. President,

At the outset allow me to congratulate you on the leadership you have shown in the work of the Executive Board. I also wish to express my appreciation to Ms. Anne Venneman for her comprehensive presentation on Monday of progress and achievements set against the medium-term strategic plan. Finally I would like to thank Mr. Toole for his presentation of the new Afghanistan Draft Country Programme.

UNICEF has shown an admirable dedication to its work in Afghanistan. UNICEF has long been a primary partner of the Government of Afghanistan in ensuring progress of all MDGs relating to children, especially important to our country because 68% of the Afghan population is under 25. We continue to value our partnership with UNICEF as we fight together to provide Afghan children with better lives.
Mr. President,
The Government of Afghanistan welcomes the new draft country programme. We believe that it outlines an effective framework for partnership between the Government of Afghanistan and UNICEF in terms of aligning policies and funding with the priorities identified in our National Development Strategy. Its budgeting is well-balanced and correctly identifies priority areas. We particularly value UNICEF’s focus on integrated early childhood development, girls’ education, child education in general, and emergency preparedness and response.
Mr. President,
Our priorities are tested by recent challenges: a deterioration of the security situation, the humanitarian and food crises, and increasing poverty. The Taliban disproportionately harms the most vulnerable, particularly women and children. The insecurity they cause also impedes the achievements of MDGs 2 and 3, and obstructs access to basic services such as safe water, healthcare and education. Mother and child mortality in Afghanistan remain among the highest in the world.
With respect to education, as of September 2008, around 640 schools around the country are closed, including 58% of the schools in Kandahar province, and all of the girls’ schools in parts of Farah province. In the 10 months between May 2007 and June 2008, 161 teachers and students were killed, 57 through suicide bomb attacks, and 112 schools were burned. In the winter of 2008, security deteriorated even further, and in January 2009 there was a 75% increase in the number of incidents compared to a year earlier. Deliberate attacks against female students and teachers are typically particularly barbaric, including the acid attacks last fall, and the recently alleged attacks by poison gas.
Despite these challenges, Afghans still believe that education provides the best hope for a different future. From 2002 to today we have seen an increase in the number of children in school from 1.78mil in 2002 to 6.14mil in 2008, of which 2.19mil are girls. Still, only half of school-age children are enrolled in school, and there is great disparity in enrollment between urban and rural children. Thus we commend UNICEF’s approach in focusing on community-based schools that increase access to education. We also encourage the donor community to continue building schools and, particularly, training teachers, in support of the Afghanistan National Education Plan. Since only 15.5% of women in Afghanistan are literate, it is particularly essential to train female teachers, and to raise an awareness and advocacy program for local community and religious leaders to stress the importance of educating women.
Mr. President,
In addition to education, we must strengthen the state of Afghanistan to protect our children from the Taliban, who have been identified as a group that recruits children for practices such as suicide attacks. Cooperation between UNICEF and the monitoring and reporting mechanism for children and armed conflict could ensure wider access to information regarding child recruitment. Our government is also currently preparing its first progress report on the Convention on the Rights of Children. Child labor is a particularly difficult issue in Afghanistan, where poverty and social pressure can push children to leave school into exploitive work. Our Parliament is currently discussing the ratification of Convention 182 on elimination of the most serious forms of child labor. In addition, we are revising the juvenile code. UNICEF can provide valuable assistance to our Government in all this work.
Finally, Mr. President,
The situation in Afghanistan and the region is more and more precarious. Violence in our region threatens to push more refugees into our country. UNICEF will be crucial to providing these people with urgently needed assistance. To coherently adapt to the changes of the situation, we will need coordination between the members of the UN family, the donor community, and the government of Afghanistan as we work towards improving the lives of children in Afghanistan.
I thank you.

UNFPA Draft Country Programme for Afghanistan, 2010-2013

Statement of H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Executive Board Meeting of UNDP/UNFPA
On the UNFPA Draft Country Programme for Afghanistan, 2010-2013
1 June, 2009
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Mr. President,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the board on the UNFPA Draft Country Programme for Afghanistan. I would like to thank Mrs. Horibe for her very comprehensive presentation of the country programme and the information she provided us ahead of this meeting, at the UNFPA briefing organized last week regarding Afghanistan Draft Country Programme.
Since 2002, the Government of Afghanistan and UNFPA have developed a strong partnership in the area of health, gender, and population and development. Today I would like to seize this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Country Office of UNFPA for the effectiveness of its activities and the valuable support it has provided to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.
Mr. President,
Afghanistan remains committed more than ever to achieving the MDGs through the implementation of its national priorities as identified in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. Improving the lives of the next generations of Afghans is the most viable path towards the stabilization of Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, seven years after the beginning of the reconstruction efforts, the situation remains precarious and challenging. The recent human development indicators are an alarming call for intensified and coherent actions from our development partners.
Allow me to share some of the most dramatic indicators with you :

  • The life expectancy in Afghanistan is 42.9 years,
  • Under 5 mortality rate is 191 per 1000 births
  • Adult literacy is 28 %
  • Maternal mortality rate is down from 1,600 to 800 per 100,000 births, but still among the highest in the world.
  • And poverty has increased since 2001, with the level of people living under 1$ a day moving from 33 to 42%

Moreover, the deterioration of the security situation in certain parts of Afghanistan, especially in the south and south east, have impacted on the gains made in the past years in the area of health and gender and are impeding the successful achievement of MDGs in Afghanistan.
Mr. President,
The UNFPA Country Programme for Afghanistan contains comprehensive and focused programmes, priorities and adequate financial allocation for its operational activities. The key areas of action identified by the country programme are not only relevant to the challenges facing Afghanistan in achieving MDGs 3, 4 and 5 but are also in line with the national priorities identified in our National Development Strategy.
We would like to particularly express our appreciation for the adoption of a human rights-based, gender sensitive and culturally sensitive approach undertaken while formulating the programme. This we firmly believe will increase the success of implementing the programme at a sub-national level.
In this regard we would also like to stress the importance of the approach that UNFPA has taken to provide programming at a sub-national level while carrying out its development activities in Afghanistan, and we recognize the accuracy of the criteria developed by UNFPA while targeting provinces for their programmes.
Mr. President,
We would like to stress on the importance of the population and housing census project rescheduled from 2008. It is a very important tool to provide us with reliable data that would ultimately enable us to better monitor the progress towards the achievement of our development goals. The lack of data is an obstacle to the quality of policy, programming, budgeting and monitoring of projects. We therefore encourage UNFPA to continue to strengthen its cooperation with the Central Statistics office.
In addition, the high level of maternal mortality continues to pose a serious challenge to our country. Every 30 minutes a women dies in Afghanistan from pregnancy related complications. The lack of access to health facilities in the rural areas due to the resurgence of Taliban activities and the lack of female health personnel, especially midwives, remain the principle obstacles for the improvement of maternal health in Afghanistan. We would like to encourage UNFPA to continue its activities in strengthening strategies to reduce maternal and new-born mortality in close partnership with the Ministry of Public Health.
Mr. President,
We would like to finally stress the importance of coherence at the country level between all UN development agencies and other development partners operating in Afghanistan. The coordination and consolidation of international efforts would certainly contribute to improving the impact of aid in Afghanistan.
I thank you for your attention and look forward the support from the donor community for this Country Programme.