Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 39: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 39: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, I would like to thank the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for his detailed report which contains useful information about the situation of the 1.4 million refugees and 52 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) remaining worldwide. My Delegation strongly supports UNHCR’s noble mandate and particularly commends its long engagement with Afghans for over a quarter of a century. In the current context, UNHCR is providing precious support to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation in protecting and supporting Afghan Refugees, Returnees and IDPs, and in creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return and reintegration of Afghan Refugees after decades of war in the country.

Mr. Chairman,

The three decades of devastating conflict in Afghanistan forced millions of Afghans to go into exile; leaving behind their families, property, and motherland to escape from the brutality of war. Since the fall of the atrocious regime of the Taliban in 2001, which also marked the beginning of the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, more than 5.4 million Afghans have returned to their homeland, mainly from Pakistan and Iran. This year alone, almost a quarter million Afghan refugees from Pakistan and another 3, 000 from Iran have voluntarily returned to Afghanistan with the hopes of getting back to their places of origins: their villages, and rejoining their families to live peacefully again in their native land. Nevertheless some 3 million Afghans still remain in Pakistan (2.1 million) and Iran (915,000).

The Government of Afghanistan is grateful to those countries, especially our neighbors Pakistan and Iran, for having hosted our compatriots during the ravaging years of conflict in Afghanistan and for continuing their assistance to Afghans living in their lands. Afghanistan’s main objective in 2008 and 2009 will be to improve conditions for voluntary repatriation as well as reintegration of returnees, in conformity with the objectives contained in our National Development Strategy (ANDS) and in line with the spirit of the tripartite agreements on voluntary repatriation signed with the Governments of Iran, Pakistan, and UNHCR.

The voluntary return and reintegration of all Afghans refugees is a priority for our Government and we would like to underline the importance of the provision contained in the tripartite agreement which stresses the need to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Afghan Refugees from Iran and Pakistan if the conditions inside Afghanistan allow. We would like to seize this opportunity to call for sustained international assistance to create a feasible environment for the voluntary, gradual, safe and dignified return and reintegration of Afghan Refugees.

We welcome the temporary suspension of UNHCR’s assisted voluntary repatriation operation from Pakistan to Afghanistan during the annual winter break, in view of the difficulties that it could engender for the reintegration of Afghan Refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

Effective and sustainable reintegration requires economic and social development and the provision of employment opportunities, especially in the rural areas. Many returnees are facing reintegration difficulties including lack of land, shelter, water and basic services such as health care and education. The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation of Afghanistan (MRRA) is monitoring the voluntary, dignified and gradual nature of returns and focuses on the provision of key physical, legal and material necessities linked to the reintegration process. MRRA, in partnership with UNHCR, provides individual assistance including the allocation of the repatriation and initial reinstallation cash grant which is complemented by reintegration programmes particularly in the sectors of shelter, water and income generation. These public programmes include:

  • Shelter assistance for the most vulnerable families
  • Allocation of land to landless returnees
  • Legal and employment individual assistance
  • Particular assistance to women and girls with the support of the Ministry of Women of Affairs (MOWA)

Mr. Chairman,

Insecurity is the main obstacle to the return of Afghan Refugees and their effective as well as sustainable reintegration. The majority of this year’s returnees have resettled in the eastern, central, or northern part of Afghanistan. The deterioration of the security situation in the south of Afghanistan caused by the terrorists activities of the Taliban and Al-Qaida have created difficult conditions for returnees and restricted the scope of humanitarian assistance, as justly mentioned in the Report of the High Commissioner for Refugees. We commend the work done by UNHCR staff operating under those difficult conditions and are deeply concerned about the prevailing insecurity in certain areas impeding the access of humanitarian assistance to the population, including the vulnerable returnees.

Moreover, the global rise in food prices, the current drought and approaching winter have resulted in high dependence on humanitarian assistance. The Afghanistan -UN joint appeal launched in January 2008 to address this issue asked for additional financial mobilization in response to the impending crisis. Thus far only 32% of our identified need has been met.

Mr. Chairman,

It is estimated that a total of some 540,000 Afghan refugees will return home in the next two years. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and UNHCR will co-host an International Conference on return and reintegration on November 19 in Kabul. This conference aims to address how best to ensure the sustainable return of refugees and IDP’s and seeks to reconcile the repatriation targets and timelines proposed by the neighboring countries with the increasingly challenging operational environment in Afghanistan.

It will also be a forum to mobilize additional resources for a comprehensive, integrated approach and multi-year funding delivered through the framework of ANDS.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite Members States to participate to this conference at the highest level possible. We are looking forward to the outcomes of the conference and we invite the participants to take into consideration the following important issues in their discussion:

-       To incorporate Afghan refugees’ needs into ANDS through national development programmes particularly in key sectors such as health, education, sanitation and employment.

-       To ensure that areas to which refugees return are properly provided with basic amenities as well as the means for making a livelihood

-       To give priority to rural economies for future development programmes as a tool to achieve successful and sustainable return of refugees, bearing in mind that 80% of Afghanistan’s population lives in rural areas.

-       To keep the spirit of partnership and openness to look for a comprehensive solution to the question of Afghan refugee in order to make further progress towards an integrated and coherent solution, that will ensure the interests of Afghanistan, its neighbors and the region.

At the closing Mr. Chairman,

We would like to express our gratitude to the international community and other relevant UN agencies for their support to the plight of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons.  No sign of confidence in a country’s future is more compelling than the return of its citizens to participate in the upcoming Presidential election. Afghan refugees will not hesitate to return home if Afghanistan achieves to cement peace, security, prosperity and justice. We count on your continued support and remain committed to work together to fulfill our commitments made during the Paris Donor Conference in June 2008, to ensure the conditions for voluntary and sustainable returns of Afghans to their homeland.

Thank you for your attention.

Second Committee Debate on Countries in a Special Situation

Statement by Mr. Mohammad Wali Naeemi

Counselor, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Second Committee Debate on Countries in a Special Situation

Madam Chairperson,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of my delegation on a significant agenda item of the Second Committee, “countries in special situations”. My delegation appreciates the hard work of the Office of the Under-Secretary General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries , Landlocked and Small Island States. We thank Mr. Cheikh Sidi Diarra for his comprehensive introductory statement.

My delegation aligns itself with the statements of Antigua and Barbuda and Bangladesh on behalf of the G77 and China and the Group of Least Developed Countries, respectively.

Madam Chairperson,

The Brussels Programme of Action is a partnership framework between the LDCs and their development partners. It contains time-bound and measurable goals and has set out seven specific commitments, namely, poverty eradication, gender equality, employment, governance, capacity building, and sustainable development. These are seen as cross-cutting issues that should be addressed in the implementation process. There is no doubt that the achievement of these targets would mean the achievement of the MDGs by the LDCs. In order to fulfil their commitments as set out in the Brussels Programme of Action, the international community needs to take the necessary steps by supporting and equipping LDCs with the resources they need.

The Secretary General’s report on the LDCs highlighted progresses and achievements in the Least Developed Countries in the area of human development and good governance. However, significant challenges still need to be addressed. Increased poverty in the LDCs and the global financial crisis have multiplied the challenges of the least developed countries, in particular the post-conflict LDCs such as Afghanistan. Lack of security, a weak infrastructure, and insufficient capacities are primarily responsible for that.

The emergence and acceleration of the crisis has further increased the challenges of LDCs meeting the IADGs, including the MDGs. Such a scenario, no doubt, warrants increased global action if we want to secure the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action by 2010, which is only two years from now.

The LDCs are highly vulnerable to both internal and external shocks. The world is passing through a critical time and the most vulnerable countries are LDCs, LLDCs, and post conflict countries. The continuation of the food crisis, financial crises and other challenges in the LDCs will hinder developmental velocity. LDCs are not in a position to weather further shocks such as a decline in exports, investment and access to capital that the current crises may potentially cause in the long run. Comprehensive and decisive policy action is critically important at all levels to overcome the current multiple crises.

The food crisis alone will drive millions of people into poverty and hunger. The LDCs are the hardest hit, particularly the landlocked LDCs and those LDCs which are emerging from conflicts. The comprehensive framework for action submitted by the Secretary General’s Task Force needs to be carefully examined with special attention to LDCs, particularly vulnerable LDCs in Africa and Asia.

In addition, food and livelihood security in LDCs will be seriously affected by climate change. Urgent and decisive action is needed to address the climate change. The international community should provide necessary funds in a predictable manner to meet the adaptation needs of the LDCs.

The importance of the agricultural sector in the economies of the LDCs can not be overstated. Agriculture is critically important for many LDCs. It contributes significantly to their national income, employment and rural development. Regrettably, this sector remains the most underdeveloped due to weak infrastructure, lack of capacity and access to adequate energy and technology. In addition to that, the prices of the agricultural products are generally low and volatile in the international market. Unless these are addressed, a number of LDCs, particularly those are emerging from conflicts, will not be able to achieve the internationally-agreed-upon development goals.

Nevertheless, this sector remains underdeveloped in countries in special situations. Agricultural productivity in the LDCs continues to decline. We need to scale-up investment and provide modern technologies to this sector to enhance agricultural production.

International trade has assumed a central place in the global development process. It’s clear that exports from LDCs are facing increasing challenges. We welcome the offer of duty-free and quota-free market access by some developed and developing countries and invite others to follow similar path. In recent years, South-South trade, often coined as the new geography in trade, has significantly increased. Nevertheless, LDCs, which are marginalized in North-South trade, are also increasingly marginalized in South-South trade.

Trade capacity-building of the LDCs is urgently needed. The Aid for Trade initiative should particularly support the LDCs in addressing their supply-side constraints and erosion of preferences. The accession process of the LDCs, particularly those that are currently in process to the WTO, should be simplified.

We have noted with concern that the special circumstances of the LDCs are not finding adequate reflection in relevant reports of the Secretary General. It is acutely important to analyze the status of progress in the LDCs on a sectoral basis.

Madam Chair,

My delegation attaches great importance to the final review of the Brussels Program of Action, which will begin shortly, and to the outcome of the 4th UN Conference on LDCs. These will further identify obstacles, constraints, challenges and emerging issues that require affirmative actions and initiatives to overcome. Hopefully, the outcome of the Conference will be a new framework for partnership for sustainable development and economic growth of the least developed countries that will assist LDCs to integrate progressively into the world economy.

I thank you Madam Chairperson.

Security Council Debate on Women, Peace and Security

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Security Council Debate on Women, Peace and Security

Mr. President,

Thank you for convening today’s important debate on “Women, peace and security.” My delegation commends your leadership of this council for the month of October.  I would also like to express my appreciation for the Secretary General’s comprehensive report on the progress of Resolution 1325.

Mr. President,

The government of Afghanistan is dedicated to the implementation of Resolution 1325. However, in post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, forces of insecurity are the greatest threat to the advancement of the three pillars of this resolution: protection of women in war and peace, promotion of women’s rights, and participation of women in peace processes.

As the Secretary General’s report has indicated, insecurity is the basic concern that must be addressed before true progress towards women’s rights can be made. Instability affects the most vulnerable parts of the population, and women and children continue to account for the majority of casualties in hostilities.  In Afghanistan, the atrocities of the Taliban threaten the progress of women.  The historical agenda of the Taliban, during its rule in Afghanistan, included a tyrannical denial of all basic rights to women: the right to free movement, to education, to work. Today, this goal of the Taliban appears unchanged: where they advance in Afghanistan, women’s rights retreat. In areas of increased Taliban activity, there are pronounced restrictions on women’s mobility, attacks on girls’ schools, and a decrease in services for women provided by our government and aid agencies.

Mr. President,

Despite the growing threat of insecurity, Afghanistan, with the support of the international community, has made several improvements in the participation of women in peace and security.

The Government of Afghanistan has ensured that women’s rights are enshrined in the

Afghanistan Constitution, as well as all major international agreements such as the Afghanistan Compact and the recent Paris Declaration. In addition, women have participated in the transitional process from the Bonn Conference until the elections of 2004-2005 and onward. Women have been appointed to high positions in national and local governments, including cabinet-level posts. Today, women account for 27% of the National Assembly and almost 26% of civil servants. Habiba Sorabi, the successful female governor of Bamiyan, is one notable example.

Afghanistan has also strengthened its government institutions to promote women’s rights. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has achieved much through its dedicated advocacy for women. The National Justice Plan of Afghanistan seeks to improve women’s involvement in the justice sector, and the National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan aims to increase women’s participation in all areas of social, economic and political life. Finally, the Government of Afghanistan, with international organizations and domestic groups, has worked tirelessly to promote women’s rights in Afghanistan by improving access to healthcare, education and basic services. Today, 40% of children in school are girls, and 81% of the population now receives healthcare through the Basic Package of Health Services. 40,000 more women now live through childbirth every year.

Mr. President,

Despite these advances, Afghanistan needs to continue to do much more to meet the objectives of Resolution 1325.

Most immediately, the security situation continues to directly affect women’s security and their access to health, education and social protection. Continued terrorist activity is affecting the implementation and monitoring of all programs and projects, especially in the provinces. In addition, poverty, the lack of education and unbalanced allocation of resources must also be addressed. More work is needed to ensure the participation of women in all parts of the stabilization process.

To continue to advance women’s participation in peace and security, our country has a few observations to offer:

1. International involvement is crucial. International support for national initiatives provides important gender-sensitivity training for national institutions such as the national army and police force. International training for women in the civil service, and international support for female students in the form of schools and increased educational opportunities are also crucial. Lastly, coordinating roles, such as the role of UNAMA in Afghanistan, are immensely helpful in coordinating activities and sharing knowledge between organizations that are working to forward women’s rights.

However, international partners must recognize that:

a) Improvement should be internally-driven. While international support is important for all of the aforementioned reasons, the international community should be cautioned that true reform for women’s participation in peace and security should be generated within the context of the particular country. International involvement should be motivated by the needs of the women within  the particular country. There should be no external imposition of standards; there should be no external political agendas.

b) International troops should assist national efforts to protect women. For better protection of women’s participation in peace and security, gender sensitivity training should be mandatory for troops from all countries. In addition, their assistance is important in facilitating women’s mobility to access water, healthcare and markets, and in creating the conditions for women’s safe

participation in the public and political life of the country. For example, in Afghanistan, international forces continue to protect roads on which women and families frequently travel to access government services.

2. Importance of regional collaboration. The Secretary-General’s advocacy of regional action plans and regional organizations to support national commitment is fully supported by our government. As infringements on women’s rights are often cross-boundary issues, such as the spillage of women refugees from conflict situations, solutions should also be cross-boundary.

3. Importance of a cohesive approach. A successful approach to advance women’s participation in peace and security must address women’s role in all major sectors of society. In Afghanistan, women’s advancement must be addressed by quelling terrorism, eradicating poverty and addressing ignorance through education.

4. Involvement of women in reconciliation processes. Talks to consolidate peace in post- conflict settings should involve women at every stage. Such talks cannot compromise women’s rights in any way and must strongly adhere to the principles of true democracy and women’s political participation.

5. The need for action, not words. Steps forward must move women’s rights beyond slogans and good intentions. The gender advisor to the Afghan Ministry of the Interior has found that “organizational inertia” is perhaps the main cause of problems associated with gender inequity in the government ministries. We need the political will and the genuine commitment that will transform words into action. And as the Paris Conference recently reminded us, international donors must fulfill their pledged aid so that efforts to improve women’s standing can be sustained.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, to advance the protection of women in war and peace, the promotion of women’s rights and the participation of women in peace processes, Afghanistan would like to emphasize the importance of addressing the threats of insecurity. Security is the first concern of post-conflict countries that hope to make progress in women’s rights. After security is addressed, the following lessons are important: recognition of the importance of international involvement, the importance of regional collaboration, the inclusion of women in reconciliation processes, and the need to move beyond words towards action.

Thank you for your time and consideration.