Thursday, September 3, 2015

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Day of Vesak Celebrations

 

Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Let me offer my congratulations as we prepare to celebrate the Day of Vesak, the Day of the full moon. This joyous occasion, celebrated by millions on our continent and throughout the world, is a sacred day to commemorate the life, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

 

We come from different nations, speak various languages, and respect diverse customs yet, what unites us regardless of our differences is our past, our history and our tradition. Our millennia-old connection is one of a shared culture that extends from the Indian Ocean, to the valleys of the Hindu Kush, from Arab lands and to edge of Eastern Asia. Our commonalities serve as a channel of communication and connection that binds together the great historical regions of our continent.

 

The beauty and life we celebrate today recalls the major world religions. We are reminded that, these faiths have sought spiritual purity in the calm and contemplative majesty of the region. Afghanistan, in the very heart of Asia, has been a meeting place of many civilizations and great cultural traditions.

 

The Afghan city of Bamiyan, for more than 1500 years, coveted the greatest religious monuments of all mankind, Solsol and Shamama, two gigantic Buddha statues. These statues defined the historical city of Bamiyan, as the thriving center of religion, philosophy, and art. Located in the middle of the Silk Road, Bamiyan was the crossroads of cultural exchange between the East and West. Afghanistan’s history of mutual understanding of followers of other faiths allowed various cultures to coexist in harmony with great respect for one another.

 

Juxtaposing the city of Bamiyan’s historical glory, the Taliban, in 2001, tried to obliterate these revered statues with an absolute blindness for the importance of cultural heritage. Their act of destruction is a cultural crime, an act of fanaticism, bigotry, and hatred that shocked the consciousness of humanity. The Government of Afghanistan in collaboration with the international community, particularly UNESCO, is currently working to restore these symbols of shared priceless world history.

 

Today in an official ceremony, the city of Bamiyan assumed it’s historical role as the First South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s Cultural Capital of 2015. The ceremony welcomed high level members from Afghanistan and all over the world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs broadcasted that over the course of the next year, several SAARC states will organize various cultural events in Bamiyan including, seminars, exhibitions, and musical performances. This reinvigorates the idea of Bamiyan as the center of the Silk Road. It once again serves the realization of our desire to turn Afghanistan into the Asian roundabout where goods, ideas, and people can flow freely in all directions.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Today Hindu and Sikh minorities in Afghanistan, who have made incredible contributions to the prosperity and progress of our country, celebrate Day of Vesak, as we do here at the UN. Afghan Hindus and Sikhs, who suffered the consequences of decades of war, violence and extremism along with millions of other Afghans, are now working together with all parts of the nations to rebuild and strengthen our country. I am here today to congratulate, all those in our country and the rest of the world, on this jovial celebration.

 

Today in New York at the United Nations, we come together with our friends, and representatives of countries from all over the world, who are here to take part in these wonderful festivities. As we do so, I would like to highlight how much this celebration today demonstrates the spirit of collaboration that unites all of our countries, at the United Nations and in the world.

 

Thank you.

 

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations High Level General Assembly Thematic Debate in Support of the Process Towards the 2016 Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem

Thank you very much. It is a great honor to speak at this High-Level General Assembly Thematic Debate and to speak alongside such distinguished panelists.

 

It is difficult to overstate the threat of drugs in Afghanistan. Fueled by almost 40 years of instability, war, conflict and violence, the drug problem is only exacerbated today by the interrelated challenges of terrorism, armed activities, criminality, insecurity, corruption, and poverty. The scourge of illicit drugs in Afghanistan impoverishes thousands of farmers who become indebted to drug traffickers, moneylenders and criminals. It ruins lives and livelihoods of more than 1.5 million young men and women who become addicts and destroys the communities around them. Unless we eradicate the cultivation, production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs in our country, our hard-fought efforts for the consolidation of peace, security and development will be in vain.

 

In 2003, Afghanistan established its counter-narcotics strategy, which aimed to stop cultivation and production, disrupt the drug trade by targeting traffickers and their backers, strengthen rural livelihoods and reduce the demand for illicit drugs. It was embedded in the framework of our national development strategy and related to efforts to strengthen governance and rule of law. Afghanistan benefited in this endeavor from the strong support of the United States, the United Kingdom, UNODC and other international partners.

 

We have achieved major successes since the strategy was established 12 years ago. The Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the Ministry of Interior have established alternative livelihood programmes focusing on areas as diverse as cotton and saffron farming, handicrafts, land stabilization and watershed development. Law enforcement authorities are conducting ever-increasing numbers of operations with larger amounts of drugs seized and high-value targets arrested, prosecuted and convicted. The number of provinces engaged in drug production has declined dramatically.

 

Despite these achievements, last year Afghanistan saw an increase in the consumption and production of illicit drugs, concentrate mainly in four south-west provinces with high security challenges. The increase coincides with the completion of the transition process, the end of the international combat mission and the assumption of full responsibility of Afghan national security forces. As Afghanistan arrives at a new beginning, the Taliban and other armed opposition groups have renewed their brutal campaigns to disrupt the stability and security of the country. The nexus of terrorism and criminality, funded by the narcotics industry, has emboldened extremists to strengthen their violent campaigns. Now groups like ISIS are aiming to control the counter-narcotics market in order to gain a foothold in Afghanistan and to finance their borderless, brutal campaigns.

 

The government of Afghanistan has prioritized its counter-narcotics efforts as a crosscutting element of its reform agenda. From his first days in office, President Ashraf Ghani pledged to implement strict effective counter-narcotics measures that will increase the costs of operating in the sector, with a particular focus on poppy-eradication and financial tracking. In addition, the government of Afghanistan will complement enforcement with programs that provide licit alternatives for rural livelihoods. The President’s commitment to fighting corruption and strengthening rule of law are essential to these efforts.

 

Our counter narcotics efforts are not limited to addressing production, cultivation and trafficking inside Afghanistan. Regional and international cooperation are essential to the fight against narcotics, particularly at a time when narco-trafficking is more pernicious, sophisticated and widespread than ever before. To this end, the government of Afghanistan’s emphasis on regional cooperation and connectivity is paramount to Afghanistan’s, the region’s and the international community’s efforts to mitigate the interrelated challenges of terrorism, criminality, extremism and illicit drugs.

 

Finally, eliminating the threat of drugs requires genuine, comprehensive global and regional strategies to implement both drug-supply reduction, and crucially, drug-demand measures. We will only be successful if we focus on all three ends of the drug industry: production, trafficking and consumption. With the continued support of the international community on this issue, I firmly believe that we can continue to work constructively together to make tangible gains that make Afghanistan, the region and the world safer, more peaceful and more prosperous.

 

Thank you.

 

Security Council Debate on Women, Peace and Security

Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Security Council Debate on Women, Peace and Security

 

Thank you Madam President. I would like to thank Jordan for convening this important debate, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura and Ms. Hamsatu Allamin for their briefings this morning, and the Secretary-General for his recent report on conflict-related sexual violence.

 

Madam President,

 

Today we have heard in depth about the horrific prevalence of sexual violence in conflict all over the world. Ms. Allamin and others’ heart wrenching accounts have demonstrated the crippling effect of sexual violence on women’s ability to lead healthy and productive lives, on their psychological, emotional and physical well-being, and on their families and communities. It is alarming, as the Secretary-General noted in his report, that violence against women has become a systematic pattern in conflict zones, and to see the suffering of women everywhere multiplied by the unprecedented increase in violence and a new wave extremism around the world.

 

In Afghanistan, almost 40 years of war, terrorism and violent extremism created deep fissures in the very fabric of our society, shredded human relationships, restricted access to services and justice, and undermined the state’s capacity to protect its citizens. Women have been the biggest victims of the conflict, and their suffering has been compounded by a culture of discrimination against women. Today, the Taliban and other extremists continue to use sexual violence as a tool not only to pursue their destructive ends and their campaign of terror and fear but also to weaken communities, the rule of law and long-established traditional values.

 

Madam President,

 

We recognize the need to hold all perpetrators of violence against women to account no matter where they come from or with what group they are affiliated. A few weeks ago my country was appalled to see young men commit egregious violence against an innocent woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten and then burned in one of the most brutal and inhuman killings in our history. Farkhunda’s name has become a powerful symbol of the plight of the Afghan women, and her story has moved the whole society to demand an end to violence against women once and for all.

 

The national unity government of Afghanistan is committed to ensuring the elimination of violence against women by strengthening our justice system and reinforcing and implementing legal frameworks that guarantee human, religious and constitutional rights for all Afghan citizens. As President Ashraf Ghani, has said, “There is no point talking about how much we respect women’s honor if we let rape go unpunished or allow harassment in our streets.”

 

Afghanistan is party to global conventions to end violence against women and has launched a Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan. Since 2009, the government has worked to implement the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law, which criminalizes 22 types of violence against women and establishes specific punitive measures for perpetrators. The government of Afghanistan has also drafted national regulation on the prevention of sexual harassment and in November 2014 launched the first-ever gender-based violence treatment protocol for the health sector in Afghanistan.

 

These steps are important, but ultimately combating sexual violence in Afghanistan requires a paradigm shift in the way that our society treats women. In this regard, President Ghani has called for a mental and cultural revolution across Afghan society. This requires women to play an active role in the social, economic and political life of the country, as well as commitments to educate Afghan girls. Civil society, particularly Ulema and human rights and women’s rights activists, are central to efforts to raise awareness of women’s rights and to build a foundation of collective action against the evils of violence, terror and extremism.

 

Madam President,

 

This debate today compels us not only to bear witness to the societies that suffer from violence and conflict, and to the women who have survived the horrors of sexual violence, it compels us to work together, as an international community representing the conscience of the world to ensure that even when the flames of war are still burning, women and men and all citizens can live in dignity and peace.

 

Thank you.