Friday, April 18, 2014

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative at the opening of the Art Exhibition at the United Nation

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I welcome all of you to this special event. (I am delighted at the presence of the President of the General Assembly.) It is also a pleasure to see so many colleagues and members of the Afghan community in New York.
Seven years ago in March 2001, the world learned of the destruction of the almost 2000 year old Buddha statues in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s shameful act was not only a blatant attack against Afghanistan’s rich history, but humanity as a whole. It received a wide international condemnation. Yet, the demolition of Statues is but one example of the cultural genocide aimed at the obliteration of Afghanistan’s historical memory and its cultural heritage. Afghanistan’s Kabul museum and national gallery were once home to precious sculptures, paintings, coins, gold, potteries, and other artwork depicting the rich history of Afghanistan and the region. During the armed-conflict, a great majority of these precious artifacts were looted and destroyed. Many were smuggled to foreign countries.
Nevertheless, seven years since opening a new chapter in our modern history, steady progress continues towards the restoration and revival of Afghanistan’s national heritage. In March 2002, the Government of Afghanistan partnered with the UNESCO to begin rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s National Museum in Kabul. Since then, a considerable number of historical artifacts have found their way home and been restored to the national museum.
Tonight’s event is a manifestation of our commitment to our cultural heritage. We have gathered to honor the work of one of our well-known artists, Professor Amanullah Haidarzad. During his illustrious career, Prof. Haidarzad has produced various sculptures, paintings, coins, and medals portraying Afghanistan’s rich identity, history and culture. As such, he has played an important role in promoting Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. His work has been recognized by a diverse audience of intellectuals and applauded in various forums and international gatherings.
As you will see, moments from now, his artwork not only provides an adequate illustration of Afghanistan’s cultural image, but also contains an international dimension, reflecting the beauty of three distinct traditions of art: Traditional West, Avant-Garde and Traditional Islamic. In each category, he has demonstrated a unique skill in mastering both technique and artistic sensibility.
Prof. Haidarzad has dedicated himself to rebuilding the arts and culture of Afghanistan. His service to his country dates back to 1966 when he played an instrumental role in the founding of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University. Since 2001, he has traveled to

Afghanistan on numerous occasions to propose the rebuilding of Buddha statues and conduct a survey for establishing a Cultural Center in Kabul University. In recognition of his sense of patriotism and potential, Prof. Haidarzad was appointed as Senior Adviser on Cultural Affairs by His Excellency President Karzai.
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over two-decades, images of violence, suffering, agonies and destruction, aired by the international media, has shaped a depressing perception about Afghanistan. Tonight’s exhibition gives testimony to the beginning of a new outlook in our history; one characterized by symbols of hope, peace and progress.
Art and culture unify people and connect humanity, irrespective of religious, racial and cultural differences. Together, let us invest greater in art and culture as they contribute to peace and harmony world-wide.
Before declaring this exhibition open I would like to give the floor to Professor Haiderzad to share his thoughts on his work with us.

“RECOGNIZING THE ACHIEVEMENTS, ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES AND GETTING BACK ON TRACK TO ACHIEVE THE MDGs BY 2015 “

STATEMENT
BY
H.E. DR. ZAHIR TANIN
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE
OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN
TO THE UNITED NATIONS
AT THE THEMATIC DEBATE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
“RECOGNIZING THE ACHIEVEMENTS, ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES AND GETTING BACK ON TRACK TO ACHIEVE THE MDGs BY 2015 ”

Mr. President,

I would like to express the appreciation of my delegation for organizing this important debate on the progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have been a powerful mobilizing force for greater focus on global and national actions to improve the well-being of people around the world. This meeting provides the opportunity to review and discuss the implementation of the MDGs and pave the ground for a successful convening of the High Level Meeting on MDGs in September 2008. In my remarks today, I would like to share Afghanistan’s experience towards fulfilling the MDGs.

Mr. President,
In 2000, when the Member States adopted the Millennium Declaration and committed themselves to endorse the MDGs in a time-bound manner, Afghanistan was embroiled in armed conflict. In March 2004, my Government committed itself to achieve the MDGs within a time bound period. As a late entrant to global development efforts, the Afghan Government has extended its MDGs timeline from 2015 to 2020 due to quarter of a century of conflict and our inability to join this global effort in 2000. Lack of available data has posed unique problems in preventing reliable baselines from which to set targets. Therefore most of the global targets have been “Afghanized”, which means that they have been revised to make them more relevant to Afghanistan. Moreover, in recognition of the interdependency of development and security a ninth goal of ‘enhancing security’ has been added to the MDGs.

The development policy framework of Afghanistan, which was established at the London Conference in January 2006, is aimed at enabling the achievement of the MDGs. At the London Conference, we launched our National MDGs Report, presented our interim National Development Strategy (i-ANDS) and adopted the Afghanistan Compact.

Mr. President,
Notwithstanding progress towards the MDGs, many challenges still remain in the implementation of our goals. Allow me to highlight some of them:
Poverty and Hunger (MDG1). Since 2001, economic growth has not only been significant but also generated better livelihoods; GDP per capita has increased 53% in the last five years. However, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 22 million Afghans – representing 70% of the population – living in poverty especially high in rural areas. Poverty and unemployment, both of which have contributed to the increase of the terrorist activities in the country, can jeopardize the gains made in the last 6 years. We have prioritized addressing both in a sustainable and timely manner.

Education (MDG2). Since 2001, nearly 7 million children have returned to schools – one third of whom are girls. More than 3,500 schools have been built and new curriculum 2
and textbooks have been developed for primary education. In addition, the number of teachers has increased seven-fold. However, a great number of children, particularly those living in rural areas, continue to face difficulties in accessing educational institutions. It is also important to mention that the Taliban and Al-Qaida, during their campaign of terror, have attacked and intimidated teachers, students and burned out a large number of schools.
Gender (MDG3). Significant progress has been achieved to empower women in the political, economic and social areas. Women play an important role in the development and peace process in Afghanistan. However, many women still face obstacles. Among them are low rates of literacy and life expectancy, coupled with pregnancy related complications, unemployment and insufficient access to education and health services.
Reduce child mortality, Improve Maternal Health and Combat Diseases (MDGs 4, 5, 6). Today 85% of the Afghan population has access to basic health services and access to diagnostic and curative services has increased from almost none in 2002 to more than 40 % in 2008. The rate of infant and maternal mortality has been reduced by 85,000 and 40,000 annually. We have created our National AIDS Control Program (NACP) in 2004 to collect systematic data on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. However, close to 900 children under the age of five die daily and more than 60 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications. Malaria is prevalent in more than 60% of the country and Afghanistan is the 12th highest tuberculosis burdened country in the world and the highest in South Asia.
Environment (MDG7). In 2007, 343 community water points were constructed in the drought hit and conflict-affected parts of southern Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan has taken numerous initiatives to prevent environmental degradation. However, only 23 % of the entire population has access to safe drinking water and most of the diseases are caused by lack of drinkable water.
Security (MDG9). The lack of security caused by the Taliban and Al-Qaida in the southern parts of Afghanistan is a major obstacle to economic and social development. Achieving our MDGs solely depends on providing security to our people. Afghanistan has added this new goal which includes targets related to disarmament, de-mining and counter narcotics. We would like to place emphasis on the need for technical and financial assistance to our security institutions to contribute to the rule of law, and advance the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process (DDR) and the counter narcotics efforts.
Mr. President,
Develop a Global Partnership for Development (MDG8). The main part of Afghanistan’s national development resources are currently provided by the international community. Therefore, the partnership with the donor community is key to ensuring the implementation of our National Development Strategy, including the MDGs. In this

regard, it is important to mention that the delivery and effectiveness of aid to Afghanistan is faced with the following constraints:
1.
The overall volume of aid delivered to Afghanistan is less in comparison to other post conflict settings.
2.
There is a growing gap of billions of dollars between amounts pledged and amounts disbursed which undermines the ability of our government to undertake long-term fiscal planning.
3.
Nearly three quarters of the aid is disbursed outside our national budget which creates a parallel system that undermines our government’s ownership, involves multiple levels of contractors that inflate cost and fail to build Afghan national capacity.
4.
The proportion of “tied” aid is three times more than “untied” aid which affects our capability to plan and effectively implement our national development strategy.
By adopting the Afghanistan Compact, the international community committed itself to improve aid effectiveness in Afghanistan, to provide resources and support for the implementation of our development strategy including the MDGs. We would like to seize this opportunity to remind the donor community to fulfill its commitment under the Afghanistan Compact and to:
1.
Increase the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA), particularly to countries emerging from conflict.
2.
Translate pledges into commitments and therefore provide more predictable and multi-year funding commitments.
3.
Provide its financial support through our national budget in order to reduce the duplication, transactions costs, strengthen the national ownership.
4.
Deliver “untied” aid whenever possible and provide assistance within the framework of the Afghan National Development Strategy.
Afghanistan is currently at the crucial stage of finalizing its National Development Strategy (ANDS) and entering into its implementation phase. The Afghanistan National Development Strategy will be launched during the International Conference on Afghanistan to be held in Paris in June 2008. The Paris Conference represents an opportunity for our international partners to renew their political and financial commitment for the implementation of ANDS and the achievement of our MDGs. In Paris Conference, we expect that the international community will continue its political and financial support to Afghanistan so as to enable us to improve the lives of our people and stand on our own feet.
Thank you for your attention.

Commemorative High-level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-Up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative to the United Nations
At the Commemorative High-level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-Up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children
Mr. President,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, allow me to express my delegation’s appreciation for organizing this Commemorative High Plenary Meeting on a topic that requires special attention from the family nations represented in this noble organization; The Future of Our Children”.

The protection of the rights of the child remains a fundamental responsibility of the human community, requiring children to be raised in a healthy environment and ensuring their physical, psychological, social, emotional, cognitive and cultural development.

This value represents a high priority in a country like Afghanistan, where the devastating consequences of three decades of war has particularly affected the most vulnerable part of our population, namely children and women. During this period, the basic rights of Afghan Children have been undermined due to the vicious cycle of violence, poverty and lack of access to education and health facilities.

Since the end of 2001, despite facing many challenges in our state-building efforts, we have achieved substantial progress in addressing the rights of our children. We have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols in 2002 and included dispositions in our domestic law aimed to protect the rights of children. Improving the lives of our citizens and providing our children with a better and brighter future stands high among our policy objectives. We remain committed to address the plight of our children by implementing our Millennium Development Goals through the Afghanistan Compact and our interim National Development Strategy (I-ANDS).

Mr. President,

During the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children in 2002 it was recognized that building a World Fit for Children would be a major step in fulfilling the commitments of the Millennium Summit. The four major goals of the Plan of Action strongly reinforce the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs, all of which address and affect the rights of children. In the effort to achieve this noble task, we have submitted our first progress report covering the period 2002 – 2006. In this regard, we count on sustained financial assistance from our international partners to implement our national development strategy. We remain hopeful that a greater share of such assistance will be provided on the basis of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

Mr. President,

Allow me to briefly refer to some achievements in protecting and promoting the rights of our children and improving their socio-economic conditions.

In the area of education, close to 6 million children have returned to schools – 35% of which are girls. More than 3,500 schools have been built and new curriculum and textbooks have been developed for primary education. In addition, the number of teachers has increased seven-fold.

These figures mirror achievements made in the area of health. Our Ministry of Health continues to work diligently to implement nation-wide programs to improve the lives of mother’s and children. The rate of infant and maternal mortality has been reduced by 85,000 and 40,000 annually. In just September and October, more than one hundred thousand previously un-immunized children were vaccinated against Polio in southern Afghanistan. Distribution of the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), has improved coverage of basic health services from 9% in 2003 to 81% of the population this year. These include assistance in the form of maternal and new born health, child heath and immunization, public nutrition, communicable disease control of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Mr. President,

Our Government is strongly committed to address child protection issues. Our National Strategy on Children which lays out specific activities to prevent violence and exploitation of children has been launched in May 2006. Our nation wide program to demobilize child soldiers was completed in 2006. A total number of 7,444 under age soldiers between the ages of 13-18 were demobilized through out the process. In order to facilitate social integration of those children, local demobilization and reintegration committees have been established all over the country. Important steps towards preventing child trafficking have taken place. We have established a special task force to protect children in bordering provinces from falling into hands of traffickers. As a result, since 2002, 429 cases of child trafficking have been discovered out of which 317 children have been rescued from traffickers.

We are thankful to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for making our achievements possible and rendering services during the most difficult of conditions.

Mr. President,

The prevention of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is among our priorities. However effective policies to combat HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan are hampered by the lack of reliable data on the prevalence of, incidence and ways of transmission. Nevertheless, Afghanistan created its National AIDS Control Program (NACP) in 2004 to collect systematic data on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. We are also taking every measure possible to avert a full epidemic through awareness campaigns.

Mr. President,

Despite progress made, the Afghan Children continue to face insurmountable challenges. Children remain the prime victim of terrorism in Afghanistan. Just last month, a terrorist attack in northern Baghlan province led to the death of more than fifty children. Close to 90 children were left wounded. The horrific incident was among the latest of numerous attacks illustrating the effects of terrorism and insecurity on the lives of our children. As part of their intimidation campaign, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have resorted to new and brutal tactics such as executing young children for teaching English and being in possession of foreign currency. Terrorists are also attacking students and burning schools. Just between August 2006 and July 2007, at least 133 incidents of schools attacks took place, mainly in the southern provinces. As a result, 384 of the 721 schools in provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul are currently closed. Other tactics used by terrorists include deliberate targeting of female teachers and students, as well as use of children as suicide bombers.

Many present here today may recall the incident in which a six year old boy from Ghazni province was deceived by terrorists to wear a vest laden with explosives. Refusing to conduct the attack, the boy confessed to authorities he was told that by pressing the button, flowers would spring out of the vest. The use of children as a tool by terrorists is a new phenomenon that must be prevented.

Mr. President,

Despite the significant increase in enrollment of children in schools, a great number of children, particularly those living in rural areas, continue to face difficulty in accessing educational institutions. To date, approximately 1.2 million primary school age girls remain at home, owing to various factors, including dire socio-economic conditions and insecurity in some areas. We call on our international partners to support the implementation of our National Strategic Plan for Education, whose objectives also include the development of community based schools that are closer to home.

Challenges facing children are not confined to education alone. Recent estimates indicate that the rates of child and maternal mortality in Afghanistan remain among the highest in the world. Close to 900 children under the age of 5 die daily. More than 60 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications. Reversing this trend will require continued international assistance to enhance the capacity of our health centers in all parts of the country. In this regard, we stress the importance of development of accessible family planning services and emergency obstetric care which will help reduce the number of deaths.

Mr. President,

Poverty remains the biggest obstacle in Afghanistan in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the Action Plan of a World Fit for Children. We would like to stress the need for full partnership and expanded cooperation with the international community in our mutual commitment to attain the MDGs and create an “Afghanistan fit for Children”. In that regard, we highlight the need for a considerable increase in the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for least developed countries, particularly countries emerging from conflict, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Thank you Mr. President.