Friday, October 31, 2014

Debate on Item 53 (Eradication of Poverty) in the Second Committee

Statement by Mr. Mohammad Wali NaeemiCounselor, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Debate on Item 53 (Eradication of Poverty) in the Second Committee

Madam Chair,

Thank you for giving me the floor on a very important agenda item: poverty eradication.

Madam Chair,

My delegation associates itself with the statement made by the representative of Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the G77 and China, and the statement delivered by the Bangladesh on behalf of the Least Developed Countries.

Let me express my gratitude to the Secretary General for the inclusive and comprehensive reports of the United Nations’ accomplishments and further activities on eradication of poverty and hunger at the global level. Afghanistan offers its support and commitment on the beginning of the second United Nations Decade for the eradication of poverty, 2008-2017.

We strongly believe that with the political will, commitment and rigorous action of the world community, poverty will be eradicated pervasively at the global, regional and national level, by the end of the second decade.

The panel discussion held on the Second United Nations Decade for Poverty Eradication recently at the UN, will substantially contribute to the discussion in the second committee on this very important agenda item.

Madam Chair,

The Second Decade has a clear focus; special attention is given to countries in unusual situations and needs, particularly Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries. This decade should be modeled as a promoter of fairness in development in a highly globalized world. Poverty is a critical problem and raises global concern, thus eradication of poverty should be addressed from a committed, comprehensive and strong position.

The current economic crisis we face adds to the challenge of poverty and increases the potential inability of countries to meet the MDGs. Apart from the current crisis, other elements are contributing to the deterioration of poverty such as:

1. Fragile security, weak infrastructure, inaccessibility to advance technology and energy.

2. The decline in relative terms in agriculture.

3. Increase in oil prices and uncertainty in the exchange rate,

4. Growing energy demands,

5. Factors that limit international financial assistance and cooperation on capacity-building, and the rural development sector.

Given the importance of all factors above, agricultural development is crucial in responding to the food crisis and crucial in controlling poverty globally. Agriculture is the backbone of a developing country’s economy.  Therefore, critical steps must be taken in all areas mentioned, including the agriculture sector at the global, regional and national level to help with the eradication of extreme poverty.

These steps are essential for countries with special needs in particular post-conflict countries. Most countries in special situations like Afghanistan are experiencing numerous challenges such as insecurity, sharp rises in food prices and high commodities prices. The continuation of this food crisis will force millions of people to starvation and spark widespread instability. Consequently, global efforts are needed to address the current crisis in such countries standing at the edge of absolute poverty. We have the hope that the international community in the upcoming decade will seriously consider the critical situation of some countries and create an inclusive policy to address these critical conditions.

Madam Chair,

Eradication of poverty in the world is a collective responsibility based on the understanding that poverty is a threat to peace, security, and prosperity everywhere. The root causes of increasing poverty at the global level are well known. What is absent, is the political will and concrete action on the commitments made by world leaders.

I thank you.

Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 60: Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children

Statement by Ms. Mariamme Nadjaf First Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 60: Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, I would like to commend the Secretary General for his comprehensive report under agenda item 60, Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children. I also wish to thank Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary General for her insightful briefing yesterday and for her visit to Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government of Afghanistan is still making efforts to rebuild its country, devastated by 30 years of war which dramatically affected the lives of our children, particularly girls. The major victims of the war in Afghanistan are our children; years of conflict in our country have destroyed basic necessities of life such as adequate shelter, water and food, access to schools and healthcare, and have disrupted family relationships. It has also created social stigma and post traumatic distress.

Afghanistan is strongly committed to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. We seek to accomplish this noble goal by providing them with healthy lives and a good education, by combating violence, exploitation and abuse and by ensuring that those who commit crimes against children are prosecuted. As a country which has suffered from decades of armed-conflict, we remain committed to addressing the plight of our children by implementing our Millennium Development Goals and a World Fit for Children Action Plan, through the Afghanistan Compact and National Development Strategy (ANDS).

Mr. Chairman,

Since the fall of the Taliban, despite facing many challenges, the Government of Afghanistan has made substantial progress in promoting and safeguarding the rights of children. Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols in 2002, and included dispositions in domestic law aimed to protect the rights of children. Improving the lives of children and providing them with a better and brighter future stands high among our policy objectives. The establishment of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) based on the Security Council resolution 1612, following the visit Mrs. Coomaraswamy in Afghanistan in July 2008 and was supported by President Karzai. This initiative will further contribute to implementing our National Strategy on Children at Risk, which lays out specific activities to prevent violence and exploitation of children.

Mr. Chairman,

In the area of education, close to 6 million children have returned to schools – 35% of them are girls. However a great number of children, particularly those living in rural areas, continue to face difficulty in accessing schools. To date, approximately 1.2 million primary school age girls remain at home, due to a variety of factors including a lack of security and dire socio-economic conditions.

We call on our international partners to support the implementation of our National Strategic Plan for Education, whose objectives include the development of community-based schools that are close to home.

Mr. Chairman,

In the area of health, the level of infant and maternal mortality has been reduced by 85,000 and 40,000 annually. Over 5 million children were immunized against polio. As a result of the distribution of the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), 81% of the population now receives health care, improved from only 9% in 2003. These services include assistance in the form of maternal and neonatal health, child health and immunization, public nutrition, and communicable disease control of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. However, recent estimates indicate that the rates of child and maternal mortality in Afghanistan remain among the highest in the world. Close to 600 children under the age of 5 die daily. More than 50 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications.

We count on the support of international partners to reverse this trend by continuing to help us enhance the capacity of our health centers throughout the country.

Finally Mr. Chairman,

Terrorism constitutes a major threat and drastically affects the daily lives of our people, particularly children. Children remain the prime victim of terrorism in Afghanistan. As part of their intimidation campaign, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have resorted to brutal acts and new tactics such as recruiting, training and exploiting children as combatants and sending them to operate as suicide bombers.

Barbaric Talibans are also attacking female teachers, girl students and burning schools. In the first nine months of 2008 a total of 199 school attacks have taken place resulting in 37 deaths and 33 injured.

We are deeply concerned about the large and rising number of children killed and injured by the Taliban and their attempts in reversing the gains made during the last seven years in promoting education and empowering women.

I would like to reiterate the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of children, girls as well as boys, but also take this opportunity to underline that we will only be able to ensure the protection and security of our children if we succeed in combating the physical threat posed by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. In addition, the extremist and discriminatory beliefs promoted by the Taliban pose an ideological threat to the youth in Afghanistan and the future of our nation.

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

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

At the Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

Allow me to begin by congratulating you on your assumption of the Presidency of this Council for this month of October. We wish you every success. We also extend our appreciation for the convening of today’s important debate and welcome the Secretary General’s report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security. We are also grateful for Mr. Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary General, for his insightful briefings this morning.

Mr. President,

Seven years ago this month, an unprecedented war was launched-a war not against a country, not against a state, but against the amorphous scourge of terrorism that was threatening to undermine security in all reaches of the world. This war was unavoidable, inevitable, and absolutely necessary.

Now, in 2008, despite hard work on the part of international coalition forces and Afghans alike, terrorism appears to be on the rise again.  The Taliban burn down schools, stamp out reconstruction, and butcher civilians. They attack roads and regions around Kabul, hampering international humanitarian relief. Ordinary people are increasingly their targets. Their belligerence against true progress and security in Afghanistan is continuous, boundless and cruel. To push back against this scourge, we must first understand the changes in the sources and the strategy of the threat since 2001.

The Government of Afghanistan, first, recognizes that the Taliban is a heterogeneous group, some members of which may be willing to participate in the peace process. Our government will keep the door open for these members.

Second, the Government of Afghanistan acknowledges the evolving strategy of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. While the world’s attention was focused within the borders of Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaeda intensified operations in the FATA border regions of Pakistan. They now hope to use the timing of the elections in the United States and Afghanistan to force a change in international commitment in Afghanistan.

Third, the Taliban are fighting a war of perception. They seek to instill uncertainty about prospects for peace in Afghanistan by launching attacks of a spectacular nature-attacks that the media and the news can easily seize and broadcast.

Mr. President,

We must also recognize that security is not confined to military security. Real security is established by improvement in the day-to-day lives of Afghans: measured by improvement in humanitarian efforts, in governance and rule of law, in counter-narcotics, in the upcoming elections, in a strong army and police, and in a strong and sustainable economy.

First, the humanitarian situation regarding the food shortage in Afghanistan needs immediate attention from the international community, especially as winter approaches. This crisis is the first topic discussed and pursued in every Afghanistan cabinet meeting this year. Our government hopes that the world heeds the UN’s call for increased international relief efforts.

Secondly, three days ago, our government took a crucial step toward improving governance and eliminating corruption: H.E. President Karzai announced the reshuffling of the cabinet, including the appointment of a new interior minister.  This key move accompanies the creation of High Office of Oversight for Anti-Corruption and special anti-corruption police and prosecutors. We are also strengthening local governance through new appointments, trainings of local administrators, and new incentives for accountability.

Third, counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan are seeing the beginning of a breakthrough. More than half of provinces are poppy-free. The few remaining centers of poppy cultivation are in the insecure areas of Afghanistan, where international and government efforts have been unable to put down real roots. The Government of Afghanistan applauds NATO ISAF forces’ recent decision to target opium factories for the first time.

Fourth, our government understands the tremendous importance of secure, transparent, timely and credible presidential elections in the summer of 2009. There is no alternative to elections in ensuring the legitimacy of the peace process in Afghanistan. To this end, we have drafted legislation on the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and held our first day of registration last week. However, our government also cautions that the elections require a process of sustained long-term efforts, and hopes that that we ensure that the political process acts as a unifying, rather than a divisive, force for Afghanistan.

Fifth, the Afghan National Army has accomplished significant improvements in control and command, and plans are in place to increase its numbers from 75,000 to 134,000 by 2010. The Afghan National Police has also increased its activity and is the focus of rank and pay reform.  Sixth, the Government of Afghanistan is strongly dedicated to improving the economic livelihood of every Afghan. We are building roads, schools and clinics in more than 2/3 of villages through the National Solidarity Program. As a testament to our efforts, the GDP has tripled since 2001.

In short, the Government of Afghanistan is making progress on many fronts. However, our goals are so ambitious as to need strong and sustained international support to be fully realized.

Mr. President,

The way forward in Afghanistan is to recognize that abandonment and failure are not options. We must stop engaging in the wrong debate of whether or not we will fail-we must instead focus on the right debate, on how we can succeed. This right debate acknowledges the absolute necessity for the following four items: a regional solution, sustained international commitment, appropriate strategies in this war of perceptions, and lastly, a consideration of all components important to a successful political solution to Afghanistan’s challenges.

First, it is now clear that the Taliban is a regional threat. Its base of operations is no longer in Afghanistan, but in the border regions of FATA. We have found in the new President of Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, a friend and trusted leader to address terrorism together. Our Foreign Minister, H.E. Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, will visit Pakistan on October 22nd to further this collaboration and discuss long-term strategic relations between two countries. However, the international community also has the responsibility to continue this momentum between the elected government of Pakistan and Afghanistan by boosting joint efforts to eradicate the threat of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Second, the Government of Afghanistan applauds the international community for its reinvigorated attention on Afghanistan. We commend Mr. Kai Eide’s leadership to coordinate the efforts of the international community. Only six months into his term, we are seeing positive results from the stronger collaboration between our government and the UN. In addition, the Bucharest summit and Paris conference produced a strong consensus that the international community will stay engaged in Afghanistan as long as is necessary, verifying international aid pledges that totaled more than $20 billion. In the seven years since international forces first entered Afghanistan, international attention has often flagged. But, this new relationship with the UN, the Bucharest consensus and the Paris momentum are all indications that international attention is refocused. Let us sustain this attention and not lose focus again.

The third important aspect of the way forward is a full consideration of how to wage a smarter war of perception. Three things need to be done:

1. We should be careful with what we say about Afghanistan. Media outlets move with astonishing speed in Afghanistan and word of mouth carries any pessimistic news quickly to the Afghan people. The Taliban have used some recent statements and reports as a powerful weapon to convince the Afghan people that the international community’s resolve is wavering. This is undeniably harmful for our operations and efforts forward in Afghanistan.

2. We must not underestimate our successes. The GDP of Afghanistan has tripled since 2001. In two-thirds of Afghanistan, there is no conflict and millions of Afghans work and live their lives peacefully. The international community must not under-report the many success stories in Afghanistan.

3. Our assessment and reports must be stronger in reporting destruction and brutality caused by the Taliban. We build a school in six months; they burn it down in six minutes. The Taliban are, in fact, responsible for the majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan this year.

The last aspect of the way forward is in regards to the Secretary General’s “political surge” in Afghanistan. Such political surge must consider all these components to be successful:

1. Reconciliation efforts must be better framed both inside and outside of Afghanistan. Currently, these reconciliation efforts are portrayed as an “alternative” to the efforts of the last seven years. In fact, reconciliation is but another tool in our arsenal to ensure progress is continued towards a stable Afghanistan. From members of the Ulama to tribal leaders, strong forces desire peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.  Thus, important steps have been taken in recent months to begin this reconciliation process.

2. A “political surge” includes not only reconciliation with interested parties, but also a strengthening of relationships with Afghan communities themselves. This outreach of the Government of Afghanistan will be extended to both communities under Taliban influence and those in secure, peaceful regions.

3. A political surge cannot afford to neglect the importance of military action. Afghanistan must be able to negotiate from a position of strength, which depends on the strong backing of international troops and the Afghan National Army.  An increase in international troops is an essential and necessary first step to counter terrorist activities.  However, these troops must also be willing to face enemies and conduct operations thoroughly. They should address responsibly the issue of civilian casualties that is a challenge to our goal of winning the Afghan people’s hearts and minds.

Mr. President,

We face at this time a critical opportunity to turn the tide against forces of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan will devote itself fully and completely to the quest for security and peace. In turn, we hope that this venerated council will continue to generate the right debate, a debate that acknowledges the importance of a regional solution as well as sustained international commitment; a debate that assembles, with urgency, appropriate strategies to fight effectively in this war of perceptions; and a debate that considers all of the components important to a successful “political surge.”

Thank you for your attention.