Monday, April 21, 2014

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Third Committee debate on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Guiterez, for his comprehensive report this year.

This is a very important issue for my country, Afghanistan.  The refugee experience is one we know intimately; it has been a central part of the history of my country since conflict started decades ago.  Years of violence, brutality, and wars have forced over ten million Afghan men, women and children from their villages and towns to neighboring countries and to countries across the globe.  Today, nearly five million Afghans live in Iran and Pakistan.  Hundreds of thousands of others live in various other countries throughout the world.  Afghanistan still has more nationals living outside its borders as refugees than any other country.

Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan, along with our international partners, UNHCR in particular, remains diligently involved in wide-reaching programs to facilitate the return of refugees.  To this end, Afghanistan’s experience constitutes the largest repatriation movement in modern history, with 6 million refugees returning to the country since 2002. Voluntary repatriation programs have assisted the return of 4.6 million of these returnees. For refugees without land, a special Presidential decree provides refugees with plots of land for which to build shelters.  In 61 sites and 29 provinces throughout the country, 115,000 families have been selected as beneficiaries the program.

Support offered by the international community, has been essential for refugees to return and reintegrate back into the country in a way that is voluntary, safe, sustainable and dignified. We welcome the outcome of the International conference in Geneva in May 2012, which brought the Governments of the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, UNHCR and donors together to endorse a Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees.  The strategy pursues voluntary repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries, and facilitates the improvement of livelihoods of those returning to Afghanistan. To this end, we underscore the importance of fulfillment of obligations under international refugee law with respect to protection of refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite these successes, ensuring the provision of necessary services for Afghans returning from abroad remains a great challenge for the government of Afghanistan.   Many returned refugees are facing reintegration difficulties including lack of land, shelter, safe drinking water, and basic services such as health care and education.   Addressing the needs of returnees on such a massive scale requires on the one hand long-term social and economic development programs, and on the other hand capacity building programs through the National Development Strategy and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR).  Both depend heavily on international donor support.

In addition, a challenging security environment hinders refugees from returning to Afghanistan, and often prevents those who have returned from resettlement.  It is tragic that some return to their homeland seeking a prosperous future only to be faced with despair.  We are certain that the improvement of security and stability in Afghanistan will provide the refugees with more incentives to return, and our long-term efforts towards peace, security, and stability will further enable the sustainable return of refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to take this opportunity to express the government of Afghanistan’s heartfelt appreciation and sincere gratitude to governments that continue to host Afghan refugees, the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Iran in particular.  During the past decades they have shouldered an enormous burden, which we in Afghanistan see as a demonstration of their solidarity to their Afghan neighbours.  We welcome the decision of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to extend its welcome to Afghan refugees for another year.

Also, I would like to offer special thanks and appreciation to UNHCR for its tireless work for Afghan refugees.  As the High Commissioner’s report points out, the agency facilitated the repatriation of 98,600 Afghans back to the country in 2012, and has been deeply involved in other projects for Afghanistan’s most vulnerable refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion, we thank once again the international community and UNHCR in particular for its continued and sustained support to ensure the voluntary, safe, and sustainable return, rehabilitation and reintegration of refugees in Afghanistan.

I thank you.

Opening Remarks H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Chair –Designate of the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States to consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (BMS 5) First Informal consultations


Distinguished delegates,

I’d like to offer a warm welcome to all of you in my capacity as Chair-designate to this first informal consultation on the preparations for the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States to consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects, also known as “BMS5”, to be held in New York from 16 to 20 June 2014.

I would like to thank you for the trust you have bestowed upon me earlier this year, by endorsing my nomination as Chair-designate for BMS5. I look forward to taking on this role and to working with all of you as we move forward.

Please be assured that I will work closely with Member States to ensure the success of BMS5. Moreover, I am committed to an inclusive and fully transparent process from beginning to end, leading into the meeting next year.

The Programme of Action remains an important instrument at our disposal to tackle the complex issue of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which continues to wreck havoc in many regions and impede socio-economic development.

The Biennial Meetings of States, which are aimed at considering the national, regional and global implementation of the Programme of Action, are an important opportunity to take stock of our efforts, and identify how to improve our collective approach in the fight against the illicit trade in and uncontrolled proliferation of these weapons. Next year’s BMS5 is significant in this regard, and offers us the chance to move forward with the goals of the PoA especially in light of last year’s successful Review Conference.

Today, I look forward to hearing your input on the possible agenda, outcome, and other substantive and organizational aspects of BMS5.  I am committed to fully hearing your views and concerns throughout our consultations.

As indicated in my letter to you of 10 October, BMS5 will include a separate segment on the International Tracing Instrument, also known as “the ITI”. This is in line with past practice and with the mandate of the ITI, which was adopted by consensus in 2005. It is my intention, also in accordance with past practice, to appoint a moderator for the ITI segment of BMS5.

In regards to our working methods for BMS5: I intend to use the same working methods which were successfully used during previous Programme of Action meetings. This includes an early circulation of a ‘zero-draft’ outcome document, leaving ample possibility for open, transparent consultations in the lead-up to the meeting itself.

Furthermore, as in the past, I would suggest that the BMS5, due to time constraints, have again no general debate nor a high-level segment, but moves directly into the thematic debate.  I hope this will allow us to make effective progress on substantive issues so that we ensure a successful outcome of June’s meeting.

In regards to our discussions today on the BMS5 agenda, Member States will recall that I put forward some very initial proposals, based on what States agreed to in the last Review Conference, including:

  1. Stockpile management;
  2. Marking, record-keeping and tracing: the International Tracing Instrument;
  3. International cooperation and assistance;
  4. Other issues.

Of course, these are only very tentative, preliminary proposals.  I will work hard to listen to you so that the final agenda is fully representative of all your ideas and interests, and to this end, I look forward to your comments today.  It would be my intention to reach an informal agreement on an agenda for BMS5 by December.

I would also like to remind you of the importance of the timely submission of your national reports on the implementation of the PoA and the ITI.  The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs circulated a Note Verbale on 20 September, calling on Member States to submit their national reports before 31 December this year. UNODA can assist you with obtaining a password to log into the online reporting page in order to submit your report.

Also, you will recall that in the 2012 Review Conference outcome, States requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on “implications of recent technological developments in small arms for marking, record-keeping and tracing”, which will be considered at BMS5. States agreed that they would provide information on this in their national reports. In this regard, I would encourage you to make use of your national reports to submit this information, since I envisage that this Secretary-General’s report will be considered at BMS5 under the ITI section. In this regard, I ask the Secretariat to ensure that the Secretary-General’s report is issued in a timely manner so that we can all study it well in advance of our meeting next year.

Regarding the next steps of the BMS5 process, I intend to hold at least four rounds of open, informal consultations with Member States, in New York and possibly in Geneva, before the start of BMS5.

I would like now to open the floor for comments.

I give the floor to the delegate from…




[Member States take the floor…]


Are there any other issues Member States may wish to bring up?


Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the General Debate of the First Committee

Mr. Chairman,

To begin, I congratulate you on your election as Chairman of the First Committee. We wish you and the members of the Bureau every success leading the work of our Committee, and assure you of our full support and cooperation.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan associates itself with the statement delivered on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). I wish to make the following observations in my national capacity:

Afghanistan reiterates its full commitment to multilateral diplomacy, an important principle for advancing disarmament, international security, and nonproliferation. We believe the global goal on arms control, arms reduction, and the full eradication of weapons of mass destruction will only be realized with strong, collective political will.

Since 2001, we witnessed a number of developments that provide the foundation for effective arms-control, arms reduction, and non-proliferation. Twelve years ago, the General Assembly adopted the UN Program of Action on small arms and light weapons (POA). In 2005, the GA adopted the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), an important development to the curtailment of illegal weapons munitions. And most recently, the GA adopted the Arms-Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate international trade in conventional arms.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan welcomes the outcome of the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament on the 26th September. That landmark event was an affirmation of the international community’s collective desire to achieve a world free of any type of nuclear weapons.

Afghanistan supports, unequivocally, all initiatives in the sphere of nuclear disarmament.  Consistent with a core pillar of our foreign policy, we are fully committed to realizing a nuclear weapons free zone in Asia, and other parts of the world. In this regard, we are party to several treaties and conventions dealing with nuclear weapons and non-proliferation. These include the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). And we are in the process of strengthening our non-proliferation and disarmament legal framework.

Mr. Chairman,

Since the fall of the Taliban regime, the government of Afghanistan initiated several measures at the national level to combat the production and trafficking of substances that may be used to make chemical and biological weapons, based on our international commitments.  In 2010 President Karzai issued a decree which prohibited the import, export and transport of ammonium nitrate.  It is important that Afghanistan is supported at the regional and international level for its efforts in this regard.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan fully supports the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects.  The adoption of the outcome document at the conclusion of the 2nd Review Conference last year presents an effective framework for concrete action to implement the Program of Action.

Looking forward, more work remains, particularly in the area of illegal arms tracing.  Greater cooperation and collaboration is necessary. Many states lack sufficient capacity to exert effective control of illicit arms within their borders.  Speaking from our experience, we can attest that terrorists’ access to illegal small arms and light weapons has fueled the cycle of violence in Afghanistan and our region.

Having experienced close to three decades of armed conflict, Afghanistan has been one of the main victims of small arms and light weapons. During this period, millions of illegal arms and light weapons were imported or trafficked into our territory.  Such weapons are responsible for killing and injuring hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

Mr. Chairman,

Over the past twelve years, Afghanistan registered important progress in the area of disarmament. We implemented our security sector reform (SSR), which focused on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants (DDR), and the disbandment of illegal armed groups (DIAG). Through this initiative, we collected thousands of small arms and light weapons, and millions of munitions, which were deposited with the security institutions of our country.

Mr. Chairman,

No state has been as affected by the use of landmines as Afghanistan during the past three-decades. Over a million people lost their lives or were disabled as a result of landmines, and this widespread destruction and loss of life continues today. Moreover, at present, armed militant groups still use mines to threaten stability, safety, and development in Afghanistan. In 2012 and the first six months of 2013, approximately 3000 people were killed or injured by landmines. The continued use of these weapons by the Taliban is very serious and concerning, and threatens the development and prosperity in the lives of Afghans.

We are working to achieve our Mine Action Program, and have made important progress in this regard.  We are striving to become mine-free by 2023.  That said, we face financial constraints in implementing our Mine Action Program. The government of Afghanistan appeals to the international community to pledge financial assistance to help us achieve our goal of a mine free Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

During the last 5 years, the IEDs used by the Taliban and other armed anti-government groups have posed a major threat to the security and stability of our country.  They have caused an overwhelming loss of life of ordinary civilians, as well as Afghan and international security forces. Much of the precursors, substances and materials used for these bombs are trafficked into Afghanistan. This must be stopped, and we call on our international and regional partners to support us in this regard.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan is fully committed to the eradication of cluster munitions, and ratified the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions in September of 2011. With the destruction of 546 different munitions in 2012, Afghanistan is pleased to have destroyed all weaponry of this kind within its military stockpile. We are fully committed to the provisions of the convention on cluster munitions.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.