Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

On the report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan

At the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Working Group,

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening today’s meeting to discuss the report of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan. I would also like to thank the Department of Children and Armed Conflict as well as the Working Group as a whole, for its efforts to report cases of violations of children’s rights and to monitor the implementation of Resolution 1612 in countries affected by conflict.

Before sharing some of my delegation’s comments on this report, I would also like to reiterate my government’s wholehearted commitment to implementing Resolution 1612. Thirty years of war in Afghanistan have devastated the lives of our children, especially girls, and deprived a whole generation of basic education. With the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan at 67% for men and 87% for women, the future of the nation really does depend on protecting and educating our children.

Mr. Chairman,

We have achieved substantial progress since 2001. We have established juvenile legislative frameworks and judicial institutions and ratified most of the international human rights treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. We have committed ourselves to implementing the Millennium Development Goals through our National Development Strategy (ANDS). Moreover, dramatic progress has been realized on the ground. For example:

-          Almost 7 million children, 35% of them girls, have returned to school;

-          More than one hundred thousand children were recently vaccinated against polio in southern Afghanistan;

-          The Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) now reaches 81% of the population, up from 9% in 2003. This package includes maternal and new born health, child health and immunization, public nutrition, and communicable disease control;

-          Our National Strategy on Children at Risk, which lays out specific activities to prevent violence and exploitation of children, was launched in May 2006;

-          We established a special task force to protect children in bordering provinces from traffickers. As a result, since 2002, 317 children have been rescued from traffickers.

Nevertheless, today the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts to protect the rights of its children and provide them with a bright and promising future are seriously threatened by critical security challenges in some parts of the country that jeopardize the gains made in the past seven years and undermine our collective efforts.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation had several meetings with the Department of Children and Armed Conflict prior to the issuance of this report and we had hoped that the Department would take our concerns into consideration. We are deeply disappointed with the report as it stands before you. For the sake of brevity, I will touch on three of our most pressing concerns. First, the report demonstrates a questionable understanding of the political and socioeconomic realities in Afghanistan and the region, breaks with accepted UN analysis of the situation and thereby misidentifies both the causes and the solutions to the grave abuses of children’s rights which are of substantial concern to us all. Second, the conclusions described in this report seem to be based on sparse, largely anecdotal accounts from unknown, and thereby unverifiable, sources. And finally, the language and tone of the report suggest a shift in focus from the Taliban to the Government of Afghanistan which is wholly unjustified.

Mr. Chairman,

The report misrepresents the historical and socio-economic context of Afghanistan. Terrorism constitutes a major threat and drastically affects the daily lives of our people, particularly children. Terrorists are recruiting, training, and exploiting children as combatants and suicide bombers. They rely more and more on asymmetrical attacks against civilians, and on using civilians as human shields. They attack international workers and create an environment where humanitarian aid cannot reach those who most desperately need it. Vulnerable girl students are a main target of intimidation. A few days after this report was completed, a brutal acid attack on fifteen young girls on their way to school blinded some and permanently scarred others.

This report detracts from the seriousness of the threat. It is the Taliban and other terrorists groups that remain the main violator of human rights, including children’s rights, in Afghanistan. It is our duty to concentrate our common efforts in finding ways and means to protect Afghan children from the atrocities perpetrated by the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. For a successful implementation of 1612 in Afghanistan, it is essential to recognize and address the overriding socio-economic and political challenges facing the country and the region. This report fails to identify or substantively address issues of security, governance, and development, and largely ignores the regional scope of many of the problems described. The conflict is not some sort of civil war between pro-government and anti-government forces. Afghanistan’s government, people, and the international community are in a fight with terrorist groups threatening the entire region and the world from sanctuaries outside of Afghanistan. In this the reports breaks from previous Secretary General’s reports on Afghanistan and on Children in Armed Conflict.

Mr. Chairman,

This report, as the first country-specific report on Afghanistan, should provide a factual, comprehensive point of comparison for future reports. It does not. The credibility of the information contained in this report is dubious for many reasons, of which I will mention a few:

1.                  This report seems to base many of its broad conclusions on one or two anecdotes, or less. For example, paragraph 61 asserts that the “overall ability” of child protection officers at schools “has been questioned”, but offers nothing to support that claim.

2.                  This report, in relying on anecdotal evidence, fails to provide any sort of holistic or objective view of trends over the course of the year reported, and no comparison of the severity of various problems. Instead, it showcases a variety of individual examples chosen seemingly at random.

3.                  The sources used in the report are not identified, and it is unclear how far the accuracy of these sources was verified.

4.                  This report contains factual inaccuracies that have now been widely repeated in the media. For example, in paragraph 22 the report mentions the demobilization program for child solders. However, the programme took place from 2004-2006, not before 2003 as the report states, and since then the government has set up local committees to monitor and assist with reintegration into society.

Moreover, isolated cases cannot constitute a solid basis for identifying the Government of Afghanistan as a violator of children’s rights. With regards to alleged recruiting of children, alleged detention of children in contravention of the law, and alleged sexual violence committed against children, the Government of Afghanistan has very clear laws which are in line with international law. Incidents in contravention of the law by individuals in the national forces or anywhere else are therefore condemnable but not indicative of systematic violations of children’s rights.

Regarding the practice of baccha baazi or “boy play”, we commend the report’s denunciation of this abominable practice, and we welcome the recommendation contained in this report to study ways and means of combating it with the support of civil society and religious leaders. However, my delegation would like to underline that any form of pedophilia or pederasty is certainly not cultural, nor particular to Afghanistan, and it is unhelpful to identify the problem as specifically an Afghan one.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman,

We were disturbed by the apparent shift in focus of the report from the Taliban to the Government of Afghanistan. My government welcomed the visit of Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. H.E. President Karzai subsequently endorsed the establishment of the monitoring and reporting mechanism. The expectation of my Government in this regard was to work in a spirit of cooperation with the Department of Children and Armed Conflict, to improve our government’s capacity, legislation, and development strategies, and address issues of security and poverty. It was with great bewilderment that we found that this report has chosen instead to unconstructively target the Government of Afghanistan. Are we penalizing the Government of Afghanistan for its commitment and good will? It is imperative that this discussion be refocused immediately if we want this working group to deliver productive outcomes that will improve the lives of children in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

To correct the problems we have identified, we will distribute a list of political and technical recommendations next week. Today I will highlight a few. We recommend that the Secretary General:

1.      Request the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting to work in close consultation with the Government of Afghanistan, and in line with the restrictions contained in 1612, when preparing a plan within three months to extend the monitoring and reporting mechanism to all areas of Afghanistan.

2.      Request relevant United Nations agencies, including UNDP and UNICEF, within their respective mandates and under the leadership of the Government of Afghanistan, to address broader socio-economic, governance and security issues which will also contribute to the welfare of children affected by armed conflict.

3.      Refocus the discussion, in his next report, on the Taliban as the main violator of children rights in Afghanistan, as originally mandated through inclusion of the Taliban in Annex I of the Secretary General’s last report on Children and Armed Conflict.

Finally, we recommend that the members of the Working Group address a message to the Taliban through a public statement of the Chairman of the Working Group, condemning the use and recruitment of children for terrorist activities and calling for the end of attacks on schools and hospitals, and condemning in particular the use of barbaric tactics to repress and intimidate girls.

Mr. Chairman,

The report before us today fails to advance our goals. It distorts the situation in Afghanistan, it relies on information of questionable credibility, and it takes an unwarranted and accusatory tone towards the Government of Afghanistan. We urge the council to refocus our debate on the true enemy and adopt our recommendations in a spirit of cooperation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Debate on the ACABQ Budget Report, including UNAMA

Statement by Mr. Wahidullah AminSecond Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Fifth Committee debate on the ACABQ Budget Report, including UNAMA

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, since my delegation is taking the floor for the first time during a formal meeting, let me congratulate you Mr. Chairman and the members of the bureau on your election. I would also like to thank Ms Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for introducing the report of the ACABQ on United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan, after twenty-five years of war and conflict imposed from outside the country, and six years of the Taliban regime, faced heavily damaged physical infrastructure, and a significant loss of human life. Afghanistan was hijacked by Al Qaida, who used Afghan territory to organize and lead their global terrorist acts and supported the Taliban in installing a regime of fear that brutally repressed the population. With the assistance of the UN and the international community, great progress has been made since 2001.

The Afghan Government has, as its primary goal, the creation of a stable constitutional, democratic state with effective institutions that can help our people rebuild their lives and their country after decades of war. This cannot be accomplished without the help and support of the international community. UNAMA plays an integral coordinating role by streamlining the efforts of the international community and supporting the ownership of the Afghan Government. National ownership of the reconstruction process is necessary to ensure the stability and sustainability of the results. UNAMA has done an admirable job thus far, and we look forward to working with them further as their new mandate is enacted.

UNAMA has grown since its creation precisely because it serves such an essential coordinating and advising role. The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Kai Eide, has become a trusted presence in this process, and we are grateful to him for his efforts. In order to effectively discharge its responsibilities, UNAMA needs increased staff and support, and more specialized expertise. It is in this regard that we fully support the proposed increased budget for UNAMA in the coming year.

Mr. Chairman,

The next elections, scheduled to be held in 2009 and 2010, will be the first to be administered by Afghan authorities since the 1970s. UNAMA is providing essential assistance for the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission in the voter registration process. Successful elections in 2009 and 2010 will reaffirm the legitimacy of the Afghan Government, and will form a necessary step towards creating a prosperous and peaceful society for all Afghans.

As the Afghan Government puts all of its energy towards the Afghan National Development Strategy, we look forward to the increased coordinating capacity of UNAMA to help ensure the success of the ANDS.

Mr. Chairman,

The harshest winter in 30 years, combined with lack of capacity of the Afghan government, has aggravated the existing humanitarian challenges in the country. Poverty and lack of access to food, medical care and education remain major obstacles to equitable and sustainable development. There has been significant progress in some areas, but Afghanistan still faces the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and 42 percent of the country still lives in extreme poverty.

In addition, with almost 2000 NGO’s, 20 international organizations, and 41 troop contributing countries all trying to work together in Afghanistan, it is essential that someone coordinate all of these efforts, to ensure the ownership of the Afghan people and its elected government, and the growth of national capacity. UNAMA has proven itself capable of a larger role in the stabilization process, and we will support them in the coming year.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Security Council debate On Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Security Council debate

On Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts

Mr. President,

Let me begin by congratulating you for assuming the presidency of the Security Council for the month of December, and thanking you for initiating this important debate today. Thank you also for your open paper on “Global Security and International Terrorism” that identified with clarity the goals of our debate.

Mr. President,

We are gathered here today to address a great common threat: terrorism.

Our focus on this issue has wavered at times, particularly as the worldwide financial crisis drew our attention. But the tragedy that took place two weeks ago in Mumbai is a dark reminder that terrorism is still alive and still threatening the security and peace of all nations.

I stand with my government and my people in firmly condemning the atrocities that occurred in Mumbai almost two weeks ago. Afghanistan extends greatest sympathies to and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in India, because we feel and understand their suffering. A few hours after the first attack in Mumbai, there was a terrorist attack in Kabul, killing and injuring tens of civilians.

And it is even more sobering to understand that Mumbai is only one example. For terrorists, the theatre of destruction is ever widening: Mumbai, Kabul, Islamabad, New York, London Madrid.

In Afghanistan, the scars and the burns of terrorism stare us in the face every day.

In Afghanistan spectacular terrorism has become everyday terrorism. Terrorism undermines daily efforts on the part of our government to provide a sense of safety for families, to provide education for our children, to create conditions for free and fair elections for our citizens. Afghans, at all levels, bear the day-to-day burdens of terrorism. Because of our own experience, Afghanistan participates in this debate with great urgency.

And so Mr. President,

Today Afghanistan would like to call the world’s attention to the over-arching ideals terrorism is seeking to destroy: moderation, coexistence and peace.

For terror has an end goal: by murdering humans, it hopes to murder moderation. It hopes to provoke the leaders of the world to be careless with anger. It aspires to create rifts between countries and drive wedges between us. It plans to murder peace and incite us to war.

We cannot play out this script the terrorists have written for us, for that is how they win.

Today we can strike a great blow against terror by affirming our honest collaboration and cooperation. We can only fight terror by standing together, shoulder-to-shoulder.

Cooperation is our key. Cooperation is how we win.

Mr. President,

We should commend the recent steps forward we have taken together. The Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan are embarking on the first real steps towards cooperation against the common threat. We hope this new atmosphere will lead to the end of sanctuaries for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups and to more mutually beneficial relations between our two countries.

In addition, the recent joint strategy that Afghanistan and Pakistan forged in Turkey is a critical step forward. We should also commend and fully support the cooperative work between India and Pakistan to investigate the persecutors of the Mumbai attacks. The UN, and all of its member states, must recognize the necessity of international support for regional cooperation in the pursuit of peace and security and the fight against terrorism.

Mr. President,

When we speak of cooperation, we must be aware that a cooperative strategy will be strongest if it is consistent and comprehensive.

First, our inconsistent approach towards terrorism in the past has already strengthened terrorist groups around the world. We have to understand: these groups did not drop from the sky. The funding of terrorist groups served short-term, short-sighted policies to promote certain political agendas. However, we have seen these terrorist groups hit back, wreaking more destruction than any benefit we could have gained.

We must learn from the consequences of our past and be aware of our current actions. We must uniformly, consistently work towards the eradication of terrorist groups. There should be zero tolerance for terrorism, zero support for terrorism.

In Afghanistan, our recent initiative to pursue peace talks will also abide by this principle of consistency. We believe that it is necessary to act upon what we know-that there are many elements of terrorist groups who are ready to join the peace process. We must re-engage these elements in peace negotiations and bring them back to work with us constructively. Our peace strategy also aims to deprive terrorist groups of support among Afghan communities by increasing engagement with community members.

Second, a successful cooperation strategy should address terrorism comprehensively-from its root causes upward. Terrorism gains its converts from those who suffer from societal economic imbalances, social handicaps, wrenching poverty, and it hides behind popular political discontent. Terrorism tries to indoctrinate the young and innocent. We need to engage in preventive measures and policies that address the social and economic inequity upon which terrorist elements prey.  Our cooperative strategy against terrorism should not be only about decapitating individual terrorist groups; our strategy must also be about bringing security, development and good governance.

In Afghanistan, we are fighting against terrorism on a daily basis by building schools for our children, by ending the narcotics industry that feeds terrorism, by locating rural enterprises for our people to improve their livelihoods and by providing water and sanitation to our people. We are fighting corruption by renewing the leadership of our Ministries and local administrations. We are training our security forces so that our people can live without fear.

This consistent and comprehensive approach will improve our cooperation and fight terrorism effectively.

Mr. President,

We cannot wait for the next terrorist attack to renew our energies towards such a cooperative strategy. We cannot wait for another attack to join together. We have to be as committed to our cooperative measures after a hundred days of peace as we are after an attack as bloody as the ones in Mumbai.  Organizations such as this noble Council should further aid cooperation by calling for new sanctions against terrorist groups and those elements and entities who would sponsor and support terrorism.

Without this consistent and comprehensive commitment to cooperation, we will walk into the traps the terrorists have laid out for us. Reckless anger, further fighting and war are how terrorism wins.

At a time when the world is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, it is appropriate that we should reassert that all people, regardless of religion, ethnicity, nationality, class or gender, deserve a life free of fear, free of oppression, and free of war. Cooperation and unity is how we forge a world that will be just, peaceful, and strong against terror.

Cooperation is how we win.

Thank you Mr. President.