Tuesday, October 6, 2015

“What’s New in the Field of Humanitarian De-mining?”

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

“What’s New in the Field of Humanitarian De-mining?”


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,


At the outset, I’d like to thank the United Nations Mine Action Service for their organization of today’s event and we are pleased to co-chair this event with the Permanent Mission of Poland.  I am pleased to be here on this panel today with my distinguished colleagues, H.E. Boguslaw Winid, H.E. Maria Emma Mejia Velez, eeand Director Agnes Marcaillou.    I am grateful for their commitment to eliminating mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW).  The elimination of thousands of mines in my country has only been possible with the support of donor countries such as those that my fellow panelists represent, as well as the commendable work of the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan (MAPA) and its 50 national and international entities including NGOs, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan, and the Government’s Department of Mine Clearance.


My country was mined heavily during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, as well as in the subsequent civil wars of the 1990s, and still today by the Taliban and other illegal armed groups.  Mines have been used strategically to protect supply routes, airfields, frontlines, and military posts.  They have been used to terrify communities and innocent civilians. After three decades of conflict in Afghanistan, tragically, over one million people have lost their lives or have been disabled as a result of landmines.  Afghanistan is today the most landmine and ERW impacted country in the world. Approximately half a million Afghan civilians live within 500 meters of landmine contaminated areas. Since the commencement of MAPA, 80 percent of mine contamination has been addressed. However, 4,266 minefields and battlefields in thousands of villages still need to be cleared.


The consequence of landmine and ERW contamination extends beyond the humanitarian space and impedes progress in economics and agriculture as well. Mines and ERWs obstruct access to basic services, facilities and infrastructure.  They render land impossible to use for schools, crops, and other productive activities. The country is still littered with hazardous explosive devices, meaning that even in areas where conflict has ceased, civilians risk death or injury from landmines, ERWs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


In December of 2012, Afghanistan submitted a request to the States Parties of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty to extend the deadline by which all antipersonnel mines would be removed from Afghan territory, by ten years.  As part of the extension request, Afghanistan submitted a 10 year work plan which will bring mine free status to the country by 2023.


The presence of Improvised Explosive Devices is another big threat to the lives of civilians. Indiscriminate use of IEDs is a common tactic among the Taliban and other terrorist groups. In 2014 alone, approximately 3,000 civilians were victims of injuries caused by IEDs in Afghanistan.


As we approach the year 2023, together with our partners, Afghanistan is confident we will see a mine free nation. This will be a monumental achievement for our country, a result of the hard work and dedication of the thousands of Afghan de-miners who risk their lives on a daily basis to ensure security for their fellow citizens. This past Saturday, 12 de-miners working for HALO trust, a partner of MAPA, were kidnapped from Logar province. On Monday, all but six were safely freed. We must continue working to ensure the safety and security for these brave men and women.


As we strive for the day when Afghanistan is completely mine free, the continuing support of the international community along with UNMAS, will ensure de-mining activities are conducted safely, efficiently, and effectively. With the end of the transition period and the beginning of the transformation decade, defined by national ownership and leadership, we are entering into a new phase of partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, including the UN. Now, the Government of Afghanistan is engaged in a comprehensive reexamination of the role and activities of all UN entities in our country aimed at strengthening our collaboration and partnerships with the UN. This process will allow the government of Afghanistan to assume its central coordination role in development and humanitarian activities, including de-mining.  We look forward to continuing our close work with UNMAS and other organizations involved in mine clearance. For the success of our de-mining efforts, we call on the international community to continue financial assistance. We also, appreciate the support of member states for the General Assembly Resolution on Assistance in Mine Action, of which we are a co-sponsor. Together, we all seek the noble objective of an Afghanistan free of mines and explosive remnants of war, where our people will live without fear of these senseless weapons.


Thank you.


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.