Saturday, December 20, 2014

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul at the General Debate of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly


Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary General,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I join previous speakers, Mr. President, in congratulating you on your election as the President of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I am confident that under your able stewardship our deliberations will be fruitful.

Statement

Mr. President,

Sixty-five years ago, the creation of the United Nations heralded hope for global peace, security, and respect for human dignity. And today the UN remains the most effective universal body in preserving the principles upon which it was founded. As one of its earliest member-states, Afghanistan fully and consistently subscribes to the centrality of the United Nations, and to the principles of multilateralism that guarantee a democratic international order, in which we all have an equal voice and participation in decisions impacting our world.

Mr. President,

Today, more than ever before, our world demands a commitment to working together so that we may overcome the multifaceted challenges and threats to our survival and well-being. The United Nations is pivotal to our ability to translate our common sense of purpose and determined political will to replace desperation with hope, poverty with prosperity, injustice with justice and violence with peace.

Last week, the High-Level Plenary on the MDG’s adopted the Outcome Document and Action Plan for the full realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Fifteen year’s ago when the MDGs were adopted, we recognized that comprehensive and collective effort was essential for the attainment of the goals. Last week’s Summit again underscored the need for enhanced international cooperation and coordination in order to achieve human development and well-being.

Afghanistan remains fully committed to meeting its MDG targets. We have made some progress, but the scourge of international terrorism, insecurity, and threats to the rule of law and governance remain enormous challenges to promoting human development in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

On the of the eve of the 9th anniversary of the declaration of the Global War on Terror in October 2001, the international community’s promise to the people of Afghanistan of a life free from the fear of the threat and exploitation of international terrorism remains unfulfilled. Afghans continue to suffer from horrific acts of terrorist violence on a daily basis.

On many occasions from this podium, the Afghan delegation has drawn the attention of the global community to the reality that terrorism and the ideologies of extremism and radicalism are spawned beyond the borders of Afghanistan.

In spite of the combined efforts of our military allies, terrorists continue to infiltrate our borders with the intent to inflict harm on our people and soldiers of partner countries.  As long as certain state and non-state actors provide Al Qaeda, and its affiliated individuals and entities with sanctuary, arms and financing, they will remain formidable and murderous adversaries.

H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, addresses the UN

Terrorism in our region is a growing threat to world peace and security. The audacity and geographic scope of extremist and terrorist groups harbored in our region continues to expand.  If our international partners and allies wish to win the global war on terrorism, they must look beyond villages in Afghanistan, and engage in a strategy that will effectively and decisively dismantle organizations and networks that continue – with immunity- to support terrorist and radical militants.  Terrorism remains a global challenge which can be defeated only through a concerted international effort.

In this context, Mr. President, Afghanistan is committed to expanding counter-terrorism cooperation with the Government of Pakistan and with other countries in our region.

Mr. President,

The people of Afghanistan have known too much violence and too much despair.  We have seen too many of our youth lose their lives as a result of war and conflict. The Afghan people crave peace, stability, and security.

Though our fight against those who menace the life and well-being of our people will continue unabated, we recognize that the success of our efforts for development and prosperity depends largely on our ability to achieve sustainable peace in our country.

With this objective in mind, the Afghan Government convened a “Consultative Peace Jirga” in May of this year.  The Jirga fulfilled President Karzai’s promise to consult and engage all Afghans in peace-building initiatives. The Jirga, which assembled tribal leaders, representatives of provincial councils, parliamentarians, businesses, civil society, and had over 20% female participation, helped to jump-start a representative peace and reconciliation process that will be pursued in conformity with our Constitution and human rights commitments.

The Consultative Peace Jirga agreed on a framework to encourage the rank and file of the Taliban to end violence and to join a reconciliation and reintegration process.  It defined the conditions for a peace dialogue with Taliban leaders, and endorsed the establishment of a Peace Commission to oversee the reintegration of armed opposition fighters, who renounce violence, resume civilian life, accept our constitution, and embrace our democracy.

Mr. President,

Over the past eight years, we and our international partners have realized substantial achievements, but also have made mistakes.  Many challenges and obstacles remain in ensuring sustainable security for the people of Afghanistan, and to meet their aspirations for a better life and future.

At the London and Kabul Conferences, held earlier this year, the international community not only reaffirmed its commitment to safeguard Afghanistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and stability, but also recognized the critical importance of Afghan ownership and leadership to consolidate our joint achievements, and to engage the greater confidence of the Afghan people.

By building on the mutual commitments made at the milestone conferences of London and Kabul to transition security and development responsibilities to the Afghans, and by pursing comprehensive economic development, security, governance, and our inclusive reconciliation strategies, we are convinced that we will successfully combat the efforts of extremists and terrorists to regain hold of Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

For our part, the Government of Afghanistan is steadfast in its commitment to pursuing the reform agenda that President Karzai outlined in his inaugural speech.  We are committed to reinforcing our social compact with the people of Afghanistan by strengthening our judiciary, combating corruption, revitalizing our economy, and promoting good governance at all levels of government.

As demonstrated by the recently held parliamentary elections, the government and people of Afghanistan are steadfast in advancing our democracy.

With the support and collaboration of our international partners and allies, we are committed to enhancing the capacity and ability of the Afghan Security Forces to assume greater responsibility for the protection and security of our country.

In this context, I wish to acknowledge the enhanced effort of our military allies to protect our civilian populations from the detrimental effects of military operations against the terrorists and militants.

Mr. President,

The people of Afghanistan embrace the challenge of building a better future. However, insidious dangers of extremism and terrorism and their ever-increasing link with narcotics pose a serious threat to the security and stability of our country and region.  Along side our fight against terrorism we are committed to working closely with our neighbors and other international partners to win the war on narcotics.

To complement our efforts towards eliminating poppy production, we wish to see greater action to counter smuggling of precursors into our country and to reduce demand and consumption of drugs in other countries.

Recent climate-induced disasters experienced in our region, such as the catastrophic floods in Pakistan pose severe challenges not only for local populations and national governments, but may carry ramifications on the economies of regional countries, and global security. We see increased urgency for effective regional collaboration for disaster mitigation and response.

Mr. President,

At different international, regional and sub-regional gatherings, we have emphasized the importance of a stable, moderate, and democratic Afghanistan for economic development of our region and global security. By the virtue of its location at the heart of four important geo-strategic regions (Central Asia, South Asia, China and the Middle-East), Afghanistan could play an important role in facilitating increased trade and transit in the region, and unleashing the enormous potential in our region. We will work to further gains in increased trade and transit with regional countries. The recent conclusion of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Trade and Transit Agreement (APPTA), and signing of the Heads of Agreement for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project are milestones for increased regional cooperation. Additionally, we have concluded the feasibility study for the CASA 1000 project for transfer of electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  These initiatives will contribute greatly to peace, security and stability in our region.

Afghanistan stands ready to intensify cooperation with all its neighbors on the economic, political and criminal issues.

Mr. President,

I have spoken of the desire and right of the people of Afghanistan for peace and stability. We are, however, acutely aware that for over half a century our brothers and sisters in Palestine have been denied their right to an independent state, living in peaceful co-existence with its neighbors. We are encouraged by the resumption of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, which hold the hope for securing sustainable peace in the Middle East.

Mr. President,

To conclude, I thank the member states of this august assembly for their solidarity and support for the liberty and well-being of the people of Afghanistan.

The Afghan people will never forget the generosity and great sacrifice of the United States, NATO partners, and other international partners, whose men and women have bravely stood with us to defend our common security, and ensure peace and stability for Afghanistan.

I thank His Excellency, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his efforts to revitalize the sense of partnership, cooperation and confidence between Afghanistan and the international community.

I also thank the dedicated and committed staff of the United Nations and its specialized agencies for helping the Afghan people to build a peaceful, secure and prosperous future.

Thank You Mr. President.

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Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul at the Annual Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the NAM Coordinating Bureau

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the

Annual Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the NAM Coordinating Bureau


Mr. Chairman,

It indeed a great pleasure to join you and other NAM member-states in today’s annual meeting of the Coordinating Bureau.  Before I begin, I want to express our appreciation to the brotherly government of Egypt for its excellent chairmanship of NAM. We also thank the Republic of Cuba for years of able leadership of NAM in previous years.

Over four decades ago, the NAM was founded on a set of noble ideals and principles: ensuring respect of fundamental human rights; upholding the objectives of the UN Charter; promoting peaceful co-existence among states; advancing respect of justice and international obligation. And over these years our movement has passed all kinds of tests and achieved great progress in the preservation of international peace and security.

Afghanistan remains a proud and committed member of this movement. NAM member-states comprise the vast majority of the international community, spanning across various continents, cultures and religions. The principles and ideals of our movement remain as relevant as ever before; and today’s gathering offers another opportunity to enhance cooperation for realizing the goals of our movement.

Mr. Chairman,

Our movement continues to be an effective voice for addressing the defining challenges of the 21st century; defeating terrorism and extremism, promoting social and economic development, reducing poverty, protecting the global environment; addressing discrimination, finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts and encouraging disarmament.

Mr. Chairman,

Forefront among the challenges facing mankind is the vicious phenomenon of international terrorism. This global threat which recognizes no specific nationality, boundary, culture or religion, has taken the lives of innocent men, women and children around the world. This is evident with the attacks in my own country Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan, India, the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Uganda and elsewhere. Defeating terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, will not be possible without a concerted international effort; and we as members of the NAM should do all that we can as part of international efforts to defeat this menace jointly and effectively.

As in the case of Afghanistan, nine years since the beginning of international engagement, and despite enormous sacrifices by Afghans and our international partners, terrorism remains a threat to security in Afghanistan and our region. The enemies of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan continue to orchestrate attacks against our religious and tribal figures, members of government, security forces, teachers, school-children and international friends who have come to Afghanistan to help the plight of Afghans.

Defeating terrorism will not be possible without effective regional and international cooperation.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite the continuing security challenge, the overwhelming majority of Afghans are optimistic and confident in realizing a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.  Afghans have exhibited unprecedented patience and fortitude in the face of continuing challenges throughout their history, and will never succumb to the will of a few who want to jeopardize the progress made thus far.  This was evident in the sight of millions of Afghans traveling to the most remote parts of the country to cast their ballot, and partake in our second parliamentary elections.  The elections saw remarkable improvements in terms of transparency and accountability, signifying additional progress in consolidating the rule of law.

Mr. Chairman,

Three months ago, Afghanistan and our international partners gathered at the international Kabul Conference, which culminated in the adoption of the “Kabul Process,” marking the beginning of a new chapter in Afghanistan partnership with the international community.  The conference outcome builds on President Karzai’s national agenda for re-engaging the Afghan people in the effort to improve security; enhance development and consolidate the rule of law.  Consistent with the Kabul Communique, we will work towards increased Afghan security force capability, and assuming primary responsibility for all security operations throughout the country by 2014.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan has experienced unprecedented suffering and hardship for more than three-decades now.  Our people deserve the chance to live in peace, security and prosperity like other peoples around the world. As a measure to ensure long-term security, we are pursuing reconciliation and reintegration to bring back to normal life members of the armed opposition who are willing to give up violence, accept Afghanistan’s constitution and begin a new life as law-abiding citizens.  In this regard, we have begun implementing a number of the recommendations which were adopted at our national consultative peace-jirga. We also urge our international partners to contribute to our “peace and reconciliation trust-fund” to help expedite a successful reconciliation and reintegration process.

Mr. Chairman,

We as NAM members must increase our cooperation to address the many challenges we continue to face.  We must also make best use of our unique position and strength enabled by our diversity, to foster cooperation with the rest of the international community, developed and developing countries alike.

The continuing plight of the Palestinian people remains among the gravest injustices in the history of mankind. The international community must redouble its efforts in pursuit of just, comprehensive and peaceful-settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  We urge the early implementation of relevant resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly on the question of Palestine, and reiterate our call for the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to an independent state, living in peace and co-existence with its neighbors.

Mr. Chairman,

The 21st century sees us living in interdependent world, where many of the threats facing global prosperity affect us all.  These threats are trans-boundary nature and pose a threat to mankind as a whole, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, race, religion and culture.  And in today’s global village, we also share common goals:  enabling our peoples the chance to live in peace and security; and ensuring them with justice, and quality education and health care.

In that regard, to achieve our shared goals, we must strengthen cooperation; cooperation among diverse cultures, religions and communities. We welcome initiatives such as the special NAM Ministerial Meeting on Inter-faith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development, which convened in Manila in March of this year.  We also commend the continued work of the Alliance of Civilizations in bringing us closer together for our common good.

Mr. Chairman,

As one of the founding members of NAM, Afghanistan remains fully committed to the ideals and principles of our movement, which are as relevant as ever before.  And as we look ahead to overcome the challenges of the 21st century, we must fulfill our responsibility for increased cooperation in the interest of a more safe, secure and prosperous world.

I thank you.

Statement of Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan at the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ten years ago member states gathered in this distinguished assembly to take an unprecedented step: through the adoption the Millennium Declaration, we asserted our shared responsibility to humanity, and committed to making tangible progress in improving the lives of human beings around the world. In addition to being a moral imperative, this Declaration also recognized the crucial link between the wellbeing of individuals and the stability and health of societies and of states. Through the Millennium Development Goals, we committed to addressing some of the world’s most difficult and pressing development issues, including poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation, and the promotion of gender equality, education and health. Ten years later, these are still the main challenges facing our people and our countries.

Mr. President,

At the time of the Millennium Declaration’s adoption in 2000, Afghanistan was cut off, isolated from the international community by the abhorrent Taliban regime, which denied Afghan people even the most fundamental human rights and allowed terrorists to use Afghan soil to launch attacks around the world.  In 2001, with the overthrow of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan slowly began to rebuild its shattered political, economic and social structures, and to regain its rightful place in the community of nations.  Our country undertook a series of policies aimed at a comprehensive reconstruction and stabilization of the political and economic situation both nationally and regionally. These policies centered around the urgent need to bring the Afghan people out of grinding poverty and provide them with the basic human rights, opportunities and services that had been denied them for decades.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan has made enormous strides in the past decade, emerging from the ruins of war to build a more functioning government, a more prosperous economy, and a more healthy society.

Just three days ago, Afghanistan held its second parliamentary election. Millions of Afghans from all walks of life braved a challenging security situation, and cast their votes to elect representatives of the National Assembly. The unprecedented number of women candidates, voters and elected representatives is a clear demonstration of how far Afghan women have come in regaining their proactive role in Afghan society.

H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, addresses the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Convened by the General Assembly, the Summit is aimed at spurring action towards achieving internationally agreed goals to reduce hunger, poverty and disease.

These elections reaffirmed the steadfast commitment of the Afghan people to democracy and self-determination. Our leadership will continue to focus on good governance and to introduce institutional reforms that will make us more responsive to the needs and concerns of the vibrant Afghan civil society and population.

Economically, 80% of Afghans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and so along with other agricultural reforms we have undertaken comprehensive efforts to rebuild and repair irrigation systems, and have constructed over 10,000km of roads.  These changes improved productivity in the agricultural and trade sectors, which boosted GDP growth in the country to achieve record highs at 22.5 percent this year (2009/2010).  The average income has quadrupled since 2001. Government revenue this year surpassed a billion dollars for the first time. The recent discovery of enormous mineral resources, combined with the potential trade and transit opportunities with our neighbors, provides a chance to bring the Afghan people out of poverty, and offers a sound basis for future prosperity.

Afghanistan’s health and education sectors have also developed significantly, thanks in large part to the assistance of our international partners, including this Organization. We have established hundreds of clinics and hospitals across the country, expanding basic health coverage from 9% of the population in 2003 to close to 90% this year. Our national immunization campaign is in full swing, reaching out to millions of children under the age of five to protect them against polio and other deadly diseases. We have made substantial improvements in reducing infant and under five mortality rates.  In addition, we have a 71% school enrollment rate of Afghan boys and girls. As part of our national agenda to promote primary, secondary and higher education, we have constructed close to 4,000 school buildings over the past nine years; and we are on track to build an additional 4,900 by end of 2013.

We are also building a complex social safety net, geared towards finding work for those willing and able, and supporting those who are unable to care for themselves.

Mr. President,

We must keep in mind the backdrop of severe fragility and conflict when assessing the success of Afghanistan in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Security is the bedrock for socio-economic development, and in Afghanistan the difficult security situation has challenged our ability to sustain progress. The enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan are still active, orchestrating well-planned attacks against schools, clinics, teachers, doctors, government employees and even young children, particularly school girls. Unfortunately, similar attacks continue against humanitarian aid organizations and their personnel, who are working under difficult conditions to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans.  In recognition of the crucial role of security in providing space for development, I would like to emphasize our addition of security on Afghanistan’s list of MDGs.  Improvements in security over the past year include substantial progress in clearing land mines and reducing poppy cultivation.

While we have made significant improvements, Afghanistan remains the lowest income country in the region, with 40% of its population unemployed and 36% living in poverty.  We still face a gender gap in literacy and education.  For such reasons more than ever we realize the importance of our international partners in supporting our country. Our budget for development is entirely financed by aid, and we hope to continue the transition toward streamlining aid more effectively through the government of Afghanistan with a view toward sustainability and capacity building. We have designed an extensive plan for MDG goals and targets over the next decade.

Mr. President,

His Excellency Dr. Zalmai Rassoul of Afghanistan addresses the General Assembly

While we know the path ahead is a difficult one, we are determined to forge on with a view toward reaching our commitments for MDGs.  Our number one priority as a government is to bring an end to conflict: the Afghan people are thirsty for peace. The Afghan National Army and Police are being trained and equipped to take responsibility for the Afghan people.  The Afghan government is simultaneously undertaking a broad political outreach initiative to offer a new beginning to former combatants and others willing to lay down arms and embrace a peaceful life.

In addition, in order to focus on the most pressing issues, the Afghan government has recently identified five key areas in the ANDS that will require intense attention.  These include agriculture development and rural rehabilitation; human resources development; economic and infrastructure development, governance and security.

Mr. President,

Our recent Kabul conference was a milestone in greater Afghan leadership, particularly security, governance and development. At the Kabul Conference, we presented our comprehensive development agenda, aimed at implementing tangible improvements in the lives of our citizens. Over the coming years, our government will push for a transition to greater Afghan responsibility and leadership in security, social and economic development, and governance.

Mr. President,
We are aware of the challenges we face. More than three billion people worldwide live on less than $2.50 a day, and far too many are denied access to food, shelter, water and other necessities of life. But Afghanistan is well aware, perhaps more than many, of exactly how much we can accomplish when working together. Our responsibility, as world leaders and as human beings, is to persevere in our quest to improve the lives of our fellows. I am convinced that, with commitment and focus, we will succeed.

I thank you.

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