Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gender Equality and Women’s empowerment

Informal Consultations on United Nations System – wide Coherence:
Gender Equality and Women’s empowerment
Statement made by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the U.N

Mrs. Deputy Secretary General,

Distinguished co-chairs,
I would like to thank you for organizing this important second round of consultations on the Gender aspects of Coherence and I would also like to express my gratitude to the Deputy Secretary General for having submitted the comprehensive “Note on the United Nations System Support to Member States on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment”.
Distinguished co-chairs,
An important precondition for the success of Afghanistan’s development goals is the reversal of women’s historical disadvantage in Afghan society. The Government’s vision is a peaceful and progressive nation where women and men enjoy security, equal rights, and opportunities in all spheres of life. The Government is committed to fulfilling its obligation to women’s development as embodied in the Constitution, the MDGs, the Afghanistan Compact, and international treaties.
The Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) that has been recently launched during the International Conference in support of Afghanistan which was held in Paris on June 12, provides a framework for mainstreaming gender interventions across sectors so as to address women’s position in the society, their socio-economic condition, and access to development opportunities. The Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as the lead agency for women’s advancement, takes on the role of coordinating and monitoring the outcomes of Government interventions.
Distinguished co-chairs,
We share a common commitment to strengthen our collective efforts to achieve gender equality and promote and ensure the rights of girls and women. The implementation of this strategy is a shared responsibility among Afghan government entities at the national and sub-national levels. Its effective implementation requires the continuing assistance of the international community including the United Nations Agencies operating in Afghanistan.

Distinguished co-chairs,
Afghanistan is not among the pilot countries of System -wide Coherence but represents an interesting case of multiple UN agencies and donor countries, present on the ground

to assist the government reaching its development objectives related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
We are grateful to the donor community and the whole United Nations system, specially UNAMA, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, and UNIFEM for its continuous support of gender equality and women empowerment’s efforts in Afghanistan, however much needs to be improved to ensure that UN’s assistance in the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment reaches its full potential.
Currently about 19 UN agencies are operating in Afghanistan carrying out different mandates. While few development agencies have explicit gender related mandates, number of other agencies that are implicitly deal with the mainstreaming of gender dimension into their specific programmes. This makes the division of labor not always assembled into one coherent mechanism which can produce effective results on a long term basis.
It is undeniable that the UN development agencies carry a unique set of expertise in all fields which have been reflected in their activities in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, it has to be ensured that relevant UN agencies carry a complementary mandate and identify actions to align their work in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment results. This will certainly contribute to tackle the issue of duplications, increase cost-effectiveness and improve the quality and level of assistance provided by the UN.
Moreover effective delivery on gender equality and the empowerment of women in Afghanistan requires a strong coordination under the leadership of the Afghan Government and through an integrated UN effort with clear identification of results that the agencies would achieve individually and collectively. This will strengthen the effectiveness, accountability and responsibility for actual implementation on the ground and will ensure that programs carried out adequately focused on the gender benchmarks of Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

Distinguished co-chairs,
We would like to take this opportunity to request from the UN agencies operating in Afghanistan to intensify their efforts to coordinate a policy and programmatic framework for:

an integrated gender approach to United Nations policies and programmes in Afghanistan

effective information sharing and monitoring of all UN programmes addressing gender issues

and increased cost-effectiveness, through a reduction of overlapping and duplication
Thank you for your attention.

UNICEF adopts country program for Afghanistan

Statement made by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the occasion of the UNICEF Executive Board Meeting
dedicated to the adoption of the UNICEF Country Programme for Afghanistan

Mr. President,

I want to begin by expressing Afghanistan’s sincere condolences to China and Myanmar on the terrible natural disasters that affected both countries and resulted in death of thousands of people including children.

Mr. President,

Since the beginning of the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan in 2002, the Government of Afghanistan and UNICEF have succeeded to develop a strong partnership aimed to uphold the rights of Afghan children and women. Today, I would like to express my gratitude to UNICEF for its continuous support and constructive activities in Afghanistan in the field of health, education and gender equality, water and environmental sanitation programme as well as child protection.

Mr. President,

I would like to thank Mr. Toole for his very comprehensive presentation of the country programme for Afghanistan. Afghanistan welcomes the proposed one year extension of the Country Programme aimed to align programmes cycles supported by the United Nations with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy Framework. This positive initiative will accelerate the implementation of our common vision which is to create in Afghanistan an environment where the rights of children and women to development, protection and participation are realized.

We are thankful to UNICEF for the allocation of $30, 168,000 from regular resources and $60, 884, 000 in other sources to the country programme for Afghanistan for the year 2009 and we are looking forward to have an increase in the budget allocated for the child protection as the protection of children against violence, exploitation and abuse is a high priority in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan is firmly committed to improving the situation of children and women and has achieved remarkable progress in this area as highlighted in the country programme. We are seeing more children going to school as well as an improvement of maternal

health care services, and there are projects around the country to tackle the huge rates of female illiteracy. We’ve been effective in reducing child and maternal mortality rates and polio has significantly declined thanks to the cooperation of UNICEF.
Nevertheless we have a long way to go and formidable challenges remain in all areas. Insecurity caused by the resurgence of terrorist activities by the Taliban and Al-Qaida- especially in the southern and eastern parts of the country – remains the major obstacle in
improving the lives of Afghan children and women. The terrorists continue to burn schools, hospitals, and threaten teachers and children from attending school. Children remain the prime victim of this intimidation campaign as it affects school attendance and girl’s enrollment in particular.

Mr. President,

The global food crisis has also affected the lives of our population and especially our children. We welcome the Executive Director’s attention on this issue and we encourage UNICEF to address the looming food price crisis through strengthening emergency preparedness particularly school feeding.
Mr. President,
In order to translate our political will into coherent actions at a country level, we need from our development partners to coordinate their efforts and create a synergy aiming to improve the impact of aid in the country. I would particularly like to emphasize on the need for the UN development entities operating in Afghanistan to consolidate their activities in order to support our efforts to reach the Millennium Developments Goals and other Internationally Agreed Development Goals.

Thank you for your attention.

United Nation’s Security Council on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations at the Security Council on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict

Mr. President,

Let me begin by expressing my delegation’s gratitude to you for organizing today’s open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict. Last week’s debate on post-conflict stabilization was very productive and we believe that today’s topic is inextricably linked to stabilization and peace building.

The protection of civilians is a very important issue to Afghanistan as the Taliban and al-Qaeda continue their heinous acts to disrupt the efforts of the government and international forces for establishing a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.
In our endeavor towards developing a democratic state, it is essential that all citizens feel their human rights are secure and everyone is treated with dignity and respect. The most basic human right is the right to live in security but too often people in Afghanistan are deprived of this fundamental right by terrorists.
Indiscriminate and brutal terrorist attacks are carried out in Afghanistan particularly, in the southern part of the country as terrorists use fear-tactics to undermine people’s trust in their government and the international community. Whether in the form of roadside bombings, suicide attacks, or various other heartless killings – the acts of violence committed against civilians by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are premeditated. They are designed to weaken the determination of the international community to support Afghanistan and the trust the government is trying to build with our citizens.

Mr. President,
The enemies of Afghanistan intentionally seize opportunities to use civilians in combat in order to complicate the response of international and national security forces. The insurgents attack remote villages populated by peaceful farmers and laborers. They take shelter in or around homes and buildings, using them to attack security forces, in an attempt to force combat in civilian areas. Local residents are inevitably caught in the middle. The Afghan government and international forces spare no effort to avoid civilian casualties, while terrorists use civilians as human shields. The suicide attacks are the clear manifestation of deliberate killing of innocent people. In fact, they thrive on a casual disregard for the sanctity of human life and the enmity widespread violence breeds.

Although it is very difficult to avoid collateral damage, an integral part of military planning is to avoid harming civilians. The number of civilian casualties is lower than often reported. Also, we are not certain about the accuracy of casualty estimates presented by international organizations as they are mainly based on reports that in many cases latter proved to be exaggerated. In fact we face an enemy without a uniform or identity badge, indistinguishable from local people. As a result, a dead Talib may be perceived as a civilian death if he is an Afghan.

Mr. President,
Despite the complexity of the issue, the protection of civilians is of the highest priority for our government. Our forces act with the utmost precaution during combat in civilian areas. Furthermore, international and Afghan forces have recently implemented new methods including the use of smaller bombs and revised the use of other weaponries. A new mechanism of coordination between ISAF and our security forces has been established in the eastern and southern zones, which allows us to carefully plan operations and avoid collateral damage.

Mr. President,
Thanks to these methods and mechanisms, my delegation is happy to report that the number of civilian casualties and airstrikes during counter-terrorist operations has decreased considerably since 2007. However, the government of Afghanistan is deeply concerned with any loss of civilian life, and urges the international community to exercise utmost caution during combat operations.

Mr. President,
Although we have come a long way -much more needs to be done both in Afghanistan and beyond. Unfortunately, where there is armed conflict, there will be casualties – it is a sad and painful truth. In order to enjoy the popular support of the people, any use of force by the government requires an elaborate moral justification. Insurgents and terrorists take advantage of this necessity with acts of violence that erect a barrier of fear and mistrust between the people and their government. Nonetheless, the most important question in front of us is how to minimize civilian casualties in armed conflict. The international community and the government of Afghanistan have a common understanding that it is imperative to enhance coordination between national governments and international organizations in a view to protect civilians.

Mr. President,
We are in a battle to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan. Terrorists are ruthless and irresponsible by nature: they intentionally exploit our sense of fairness. However, our humanity is not a weakness. In fact, it is the very foundation of our society. Hence it is crucial that we act upon what we have learned here today to secure the lives of civilians and engage local communities who are at the front lines of the struggle. After all, the diplomatic efforts here, and the counter-terrorist operations on the ground have a common goal: to protect the peoples of our nations without whom there would be nothing to fight for.

Thank you Mr. President.