Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations UNICEF Executive Board United Nations New York

5 June 2014

Thank you, Mr. President.

At the outset, let me congratulate Mr. Anthony Lake on his second term as UNICEF Executive Director and commend his leadership and in particular his commitment to the world’s children. His recent visit to my country and his commitment ‘to stay’ demonstrated his dedication to Afghanistan and its children. Let me also express deep thanks to the Regional Director, Karin Hulshof. She is a good friend of Afghanistan. I would also like to take the opportunity to applaud UNICEF staff around the world for their tireless efforts in improving the lives of vulnerable and marginalized children, particularly those staff working in countries like Afghanistan under difficult operating environments. It was just a few months ago that two UNICEF staff lost their lives in the explosion in Kabul as a result of senseless extremist acts. I pay tribute to those individuals who sacrificed their lives for the lives of others.

Mr. President, I would also like to acknowledge UNICEF’s swift provision of support to Afghan families and children affected by the recent tragic landslide in Badakhshan province, which resulted in 2500 deaths and displaced over 1000. UNICEF staff, together with other UN agencies and international organizations, visited Badakhshan and provided emergency support to those affected. My government is deeply appreciative of UNICEF’s support including the delivery of over 500,000 liters of clean water to displaced families, vaccination of some 2,700 children and women against preventable diseases, and the provision of emergency nutrition services and psychosocial support for children affected by this traumatic incident.

In addition to UNICEF’s emergency support we are grateful for its continued long-term efforts in development projects in Afghanistan. With the assistance of UNICEF and our international partners, Afghanistan has made major strides in past years in terms of improving basic social services for children especially in reducing maternal and under-5 mortality rates and education.

To this end, we welcome the successes of UNICEF’s 2010-2014 Country Program, which was aligned to Afghanistan’s national goals as defined in the National Priority Programs (NPPs), the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). The program’s successes include increased access to basic quality education with the construction of new schools and UNICEF-supported enrollment of over 560,000 out-of school children; increased access to healthcare including immunization, newborn care, and malnutrition interventions; and UNICEF’s support in strengthening inter-and intra- Ministerial coordination to improve safe water supply, sanitation, hygiene and the promotion of sustainable services.

Unfortunately, malnutrition rates remain extremely high especially in 10-12 provinces out of the 34, exceeding emergency thresholds. Therefore, we ask UNICEF to scale up nutrition efforts both in treating acute malnutrition and preventing chronic malnutrition in the next programme.

Meanwhile, progress in social sectors has not benefited everyone equally. Child and maternal death rates and stunting rates among children in Afghanistan remain among the highest in the world. The children in Afghanistan continue to have limited access to the services that protect their rights to survival, development, protection and participation. Poverty and social inequality are among Afghanistan’s biggest challenges, with significant differences between urban and rural, among provinces, among districts in a province, and between males and females. Many segments of the population are beyond the reach of public health facilities. Afghan women have a much lower level of access than men to health services, education, and political and economic opportunity.

In Afghanistan today, over 50 percent of births take place outside health facilities, and 47 percent of pregnant women lack access to pre-natal care services. 70 percent of children aged 12 to 23 months are not fully immunized. Water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections are the biggest killers of children under five. Child malnutrition is pervasive, with nearly 54 percent of children moderately or severely stunted. Around 40 percent of the population is not using improved water sources. Despite recent advances, nationwide only an estimated 31 percent of the population aged 15 years and above is literate.

Children in Afghanistan continue to suffer from polio despite recent progress in eradication efforts, with 4 reported cases this year. However, with the help of UNICEF, WHO and other partners, we hope to keep the country polio free for the remaining months of the year and look forward to continued support of not only UNICEF and WHO but also the global community to eradicate polio completely in the world.

Tragically, armed conflict continues to have a profound effect on children in Afghanistan. Children are used in suicide attacks and in the manufacturing and planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They are often victims of attacks, caught in crossfire or injured or killed by IEDs. In 2013, 1,756 children were killed or maimed as a result of armed conflict and many see their families destroyed and their lives uprooted as a result of violence.

Understanding the challenges that the country faces, and recognizing the distance we still have to go before children’s rights are fully realized in Afghanistan, my government is grateful for the continuing support of UNICEF and for the 2015-2019 Country Program. We applaud its overall goal to address inequality so that all children, adolescents and women have access to services and its focus on the most-deprived areas of Afghanistan.

In addition, we welcome the coordination of the Country Program to the goals defined in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). UNICEF’s decision to align its priorities closely with government priorities and its emphasis on capacity development of national and subnational institutions will enable program delivery with manageable results, sustainability and greater ownership of projects by local communities.

UNICEF’s support is crucial as Afghanistan embarks upon its Transformation Decade, especially as Afghanistan continues to be one of the youngest countries in the world in terms of the population age, with 55% of the population under age 18. Moreover, in the next CPD cycle, Afghanistan will be going through significant transitions particularly in the political, economic, and security spheres. Rapid urbanization is likely to continue, which will further strain already-overstretched infrastructure, housing, and public services. In this context, UNICEF will be essential to the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts to improve the situation of children and women in the country.

Thank you.

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Stetement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations  Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Thank you Madame President.  I thank you for your able leadership of the Council this month.  Thanks also to our friend Special Representative Jan Kubiš for his statement, and for his skillful leadership of UNAMA in Afghanistan.  We convey our gratitude to Australia and Ambassador Quinlan for committed work as the penholder on Afghanistan, and for the spirit of cooperation shown during the course of negotiations for the UNAMA resolution.  I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome the recent Secretary General’s report on the Situation in Afghanistan.

Madame President,

On 28th March 2002, in the wake of the Bonn Conference, this Council voted for the establishment of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), a political mission to lead international civilian coordination efforts and to support Afghanistan in building a democratic, stable, and peaceful country (SC/RES/1401).  Since then, its comprehensive focus on security, economy, governance and development challenges has been essential to my government’s work to lay the foundations for sustainable development and peace in the country, and the UNAMA mandate has been renewed regularly with the full support of the government of Afghanistan.

 Throughout the last decade, UNAMA has remained at the center of international engagement in support of Afghanistan, an engagement characterized by the involvement of more than 70 countries and dozens of international organizations known as the donor community.  The international community’s collective efforts have spanned all dimensions, and our achievements, attained through shared efforts, have been exceptional.  The country is more unified; millions of boys and girls are in school; more Afghans have access to healthcare than ever before; and all Afghans enjoy their fundamental human rights as guaranteed by our constitution.

 Madame President,

 We reached the final stage of transition this year, as the country began to stand on its own feet and take charge of its own destiny. Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) assumed full security responsibility nationwide, showing evermore capability and professionalism as international forces draw down.  The government began to renew its international partnerships while asserting greater Afghan ownership and leadership over the country’s future. And now, after 12 years of unprecedented international cooperation and engagement, the Afghan people are less than a few weeks away from the pinnacle of transition: Presidential and Provincial elections.

Madame President,

 On 5th April, Afghans will cast their votes to choose the future leader of the country and their provincial representatives.  This is an historic event; it marks the first peaceful transition of power through a democratic process. Moreover, a legitimate political transition is essential to our efforts to secure a brighter and more peaceful future.  After decades of war, Afghans have worked intently to build a new foundation for progress in Afghanistan. Elections represent the hope that this work will continue, and provide an opportunity for its advancement throughout the Transformation Decade.

 Madame President,

 Election preparations have been long underway with the help of the international community and the United Nations.  It is crucial that elections are legitimate, credible, and transparent, as expected by all.  To this end, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) is in the lead in administering, adjudicating, and managing the polls, overseeing logistical and technical preparation with the support of our international partners.   The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) is well positioned to prevent fraud and misconduct. Furthermore, the Ministry of the Interior has intensified efforts to ensure security on Election Day, preparing 400,000 Afghan security forces to protect the 7,168 polling stations on April 5th, with plans to deploy 13,000 female polling station searchers and provide security to the 308 female Provincial Council candidates.  The numbers of international and national observers are in the thousands.

 Participation of Afghans in the lead up to the elections has been monumental. All segments of society are deeply involved in elections, many of them for the first time, keenly participating to ensure they get a say over the country’s future.  Importantly, women are involved in the elections as candidates, campaigners, electoral workers and voters. Today, of the 3.4 million new voters registered for the April elections, 35 percent are women. Additionally, Presidential candidates have had historic media exposure, particularly through a number of televised debates, allowing candidates the opportunity to present their programs to the electorate and enhancing countrywide involvement in the political process.  This sets a new precedent for our young democracy.

 Madame President,

 With all Afghans focused keenly on the elections, we are not losing sight of the challenges that we face this year that are crucial to the preservation of the gains of the last decade, and to a successful departure towards the Transformation Decade.  To address these challenges, serious focus is needed on the following three main areas:

 First, Afghanistan’s continuing cooperation with the international community. This is essential to successful transition this year, to the Transformation Decade ahead, and to long-term peace, security and development in the country. The Afghan people, as demonstrated by the Consultative Loya Jirga of November 2013, believe in the importance of continuing strategic relations with the United States, NATO, and the wider international community.  To this end, we are certain that the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States will be signed soon.

 Second, the fiscal stability and sustainable economic growth and development of Afghanistan. We welcome progress made towards fulfilling commitments set out in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF), which is essential to the country’s long-term stability and sustainability.  In addition to TMAF, the government continues to further the agreements reached at the London, Kabul, Bonn and Tokyo Conferences and the Lisbon and Chicago Summits that aim to enhance national leadership and ownership and Afghanistan’s economic self-sufficiency strategy.

 Third, regional cooperation.  As we move towards the end of transition this year, it is fundamental to Afghanistan’s stability that its neighbors and countries in the region play their role in contributing to peace and security in the country.  It is clear that the prosperity and security of all countries in the region are deeply interlinked and therefore my government continues to strengthen networks of regional cooperation through multilateral processes such as the Istanbul Process as well as bilateral efforts. Regional cooperation also is essential to peace and reconciliation, and related outreach to the Taliban and other groups that continue to fight against the government.

 Madame President,

 Throughout all this, protecting the rights of all Afghans remains a fundamental priority.  This includes ensuring the right of all Afghan people to good governance, justice, healthcare, education, and the right to live free from violence.  In this regard, Afghanistan is committed to preventing and mitigating the toll of violence on civilians, particularly women and children.  We condemn in the strongest terms continuing violence against the Afghan people, including women and children, by extremists.  With elections presenting an opportunity for all Afghans to come together in unity, the impetus for the armed opposition to reject their brutal tactics, contribute meaningfully to the country, and heed the call for peace, has never been stronger than it is today.

 Madame President,

 As we renew the mandate of UNAMA for another year, we are well aware of the continuing importance of the role of the United Nations as a whole in this crucial time for the country. We expect the international community to stand firmly for peace and security in Afghanistan, to further our work to ensure that the hard won achievements of the last decade are protected. After decades of war and instability, and 12 years of tremendous progress, it is crucial that momentum continues towards our goal of achieving a long-lasting, stable, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan.

 I thank you.

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Campaign Launch: Children, Not Soldiers

 

Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for your participation at this event and for the leading role of the Ambassador of Luxembourg, Sylvie Lucas. I would like to thank our esteemed friends Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative to the Secretary General, Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Mr. Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for their statements, and for their collective work to prevent the suffering of children in armed conflict in countries like mine and around the world.  I am honored to speak at the launch of the Special Representative’s commendable campaign to end the recruitment and use of children by government security forces.

Children have suffered profoundly in Afghanistan as a result of over 30 years of violent conflict. War cast a shadow over their daily lives, cutting their childhoods short, subjecting them to violence, and leaving them without their families and loved ones.

 Yet, while children have experienced indescribable anguish throughout Afghanistan’s long conflict, the nature of today’s wars and the tactics of terrorist groups have made the past several years particularly brutal for children.

Excellencies,

War in Afghanistan left young boys and girls without support systems and forced them to become the main breadwinners for their families.  Motivated by poverty, children in my country often try to join the national and local police or the army, even lying about their age so that they can serve. This is not a result of a systematic attempt by the government to recruit children, but rather a result of children’s desperation to provide for their own and their family’s livelihoods.

 Understanding these awful circumstances, my government still affirms that child recruitment is unacceptable in all cases.  Preventing children from joining security forces in Afghanistan has thus become a focus for my government, as it has for the international community.

 To this end, the government of Afghanistan has taken strong measures to ensure that recruitment and use of children by our security forces ends completely, among them I can name:

 In 2006, the Ministry of the Interior set the age requirement for recruitment at 18-35 years, and has since issued identity cards to verify the ages of those enlisting.  Relatedly, the Ministry of Justice enacted a criminal law imposing a penalty of 5-10 years in prison for the falsification of identity cards.  In addition, since 2010 a series of strong Presidential and Ministerial decrees have been issued condemning the recruitment of children in both the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan National and Local Police.  Now both the Local and National Police have high-level focal points working to limit recruitment.  Also, Afghanistan created the first ever Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee to implement the 2011 Action Plan to halt child recruitment, signed with the UN.

 These successes, Excellencies, do not negate the tremendous challenges ahead of us.  We know that much progress is yet to be achieved.  While our government is working steadily to protect children, progress thus far has only been possible through the committed support of our international partners.  We need their technical expertise and funding- in addition to their advocacy- to prevent recruitment and to end this scourge.  We call on our international partners to continue their support so that this campaign is no longer applicable to our country.

Thank you.