Tuesday, October 21, 2014

United Nation’s Security Council on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations at the Security Council on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict

Mr. President,

Let me begin by expressing my delegation’s gratitude to you for organizing today’s open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict. Last week’s debate on post-conflict stabilization was very productive and we believe that today’s topic is inextricably linked to stabilization and peace building.

The protection of civilians is a very important issue to Afghanistan as the Taliban and al-Qaeda continue their heinous acts to disrupt the efforts of the government and international forces for establishing a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.
In our endeavor towards developing a democratic state, it is essential that all citizens feel their human rights are secure and everyone is treated with dignity and respect. The most basic human right is the right to live in security but too often people in Afghanistan are deprived of this fundamental right by terrorists.
Indiscriminate and brutal terrorist attacks are carried out in Afghanistan particularly, in the southern part of the country as terrorists use fear-tactics to undermine people’s trust in their government and the international community. Whether in the form of roadside bombings, suicide attacks, or various other heartless killings – the acts of violence committed against civilians by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are premeditated. They are designed to weaken the determination of the international community to support Afghanistan and the trust the government is trying to build with our citizens.

Mr. President,
The enemies of Afghanistan intentionally seize opportunities to use civilians in combat in order to complicate the response of international and national security forces. The insurgents attack remote villages populated by peaceful farmers and laborers. They take shelter in or around homes and buildings, using them to attack security forces, in an attempt to force combat in civilian areas. Local residents are inevitably caught in the middle. The Afghan government and international forces spare no effort to avoid civilian casualties, while terrorists use civilians as human shields. The suicide attacks are the clear manifestation of deliberate killing of innocent people. In fact, they thrive on a casual disregard for the sanctity of human life and the enmity widespread violence breeds.

Although it is very difficult to avoid collateral damage, an integral part of military planning is to avoid harming civilians. The number of civilian casualties is lower than often reported. Also, we are not certain about the accuracy of casualty estimates presented by international organizations as they are mainly based on reports that in many cases latter proved to be exaggerated. In fact we face an enemy without a uniform or identity badge, indistinguishable from local people. As a result, a dead Talib may be perceived as a civilian death if he is an Afghan.

Mr. President,
Despite the complexity of the issue, the protection of civilians is of the highest priority for our government. Our forces act with the utmost precaution during combat in civilian areas. Furthermore, international and Afghan forces have recently implemented new methods including the use of smaller bombs and revised the use of other weaponries. A new mechanism of coordination between ISAF and our security forces has been established in the eastern and southern zones, which allows us to carefully plan operations and avoid collateral damage.

Mr. President,
Thanks to these methods and mechanisms, my delegation is happy to report that the number of civilian casualties and airstrikes during counter-terrorist operations has decreased considerably since 2007. However, the government of Afghanistan is deeply concerned with any loss of civilian life, and urges the international community to exercise utmost caution during combat operations.

Mr. President,
Although we have come a long way -much more needs to be done both in Afghanistan and beyond. Unfortunately, where there is armed conflict, there will be casualties – it is a sad and painful truth. In order to enjoy the popular support of the people, any use of force by the government requires an elaborate moral justification. Insurgents and terrorists take advantage of this necessity with acts of violence that erect a barrier of fear and mistrust between the people and their government. Nonetheless, the most important question in front of us is how to minimize civilian casualties in armed conflict. The international community and the government of Afghanistan have a common understanding that it is imperative to enhance coordination between national governments and international organizations in a view to protect civilians.

Mr. President,
We are in a battle to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan. Terrorists are ruthless and irresponsible by nature: they intentionally exploit our sense of fairness. However, our humanity is not a weakness. In fact, it is the very foundation of our society. Hence it is crucial that we act upon what we have learned here today to secure the lives of civilians and engage local communities who are at the front lines of the struggle. After all, the diplomatic efforts here, and the counter-terrorist operations on the ground have a common goal: to protect the peoples of our nations without whom there would be nothing to fight for.

Thank you Mr. President.

Security Council debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

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 the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

Let me begin by expressing my delegation’s gratitude to you for organizing today’s open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict. Last week’s debate on post-conflict stabilization was very productive and we believe that today’s topic is inextricably linked to stabilization and peace building.  The protection of civilians is a very important issue to Afghanistan as the Taliban and al-Qaeda continue their heinous acts to disrupt the efforts of the government and international forces for establishing a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.

In our endeavor towards developing a democratic state, it is essential that all citizens feel their human rights are secure and everyone is treated with dignity and respect. The most basic human right is the right to live in security but too often people in Afghanistan are deprived of this fundamental right by terrorists.

Indiscriminate and brutal terrorist attacks are carried out in Afghanistan particularly, in the southern part of the country as terrorists use fear-tactics to undermine people’s trust in their government and the international community. Whether in the form of roadside bombings, suicide attacks, or various other heartless killings – the acts of violence committed against civilians by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are premeditated. They are designed to weaken the determination of the international community to support Afghanistan and the trust the government is trying to build with our citizens.

Mr. President,

The enemies of Afghanistan intentionally seize opportunities to use civilians in combat in order to complicate the response of international and national security forces. The insurgents attack remote villages populated by peaceful farmers and laborers. They take shelter in or around homes and buildings, using them to attack security forces, in an attempt to force combat in civilian areas. Local residents are inevitably caught in the middle. The Afghan government and international forces spare no effort to avoid civilian casualties, while terrorists use civilians as human shields. The suicide attacks are the clear manifestation of deliberate killing of innocent people. In fact, they thrive on a casual disregard for the sanctity of human life and the enmity widespread violence breeds.

Although it is very difficult to avoid collateral damage, an integral part of military planning is to avoid harming civilians. The number of civilian casualties is lower than often reported. Also, we are not certain about the accuracy of casualty estimates presented by international organizations as they are mainly based on reports that in many cases latter proved to be exaggerated. In fact we face an enemy without a uniform or identity badge, indistinguishable from local people. As a result, a dead Talib may be perceived as a civilian death if he is an Afghan.

Mr. President,

Despite the complexity of the issue, the protection of civilians is of the highest priority for our government. Our forces act with the utmost precaution during combat in civilian areas. Furthermore, international and Afghan forces have recently implemented new methods including the use of smaller bombs and revised the use of other weaponries. A new mechanism of coordination between ISAF and our security forces has been established in the eastern and southern zones, which allows us to carefully plan operations and avoid collateral damage.

Mr. President,

Thanks to these methods and mechanisms, my delegation is happy to report that the number of civilian casualties and airstrikes during counter-terrorist operations has decreased considerably since 2007. However, the government of Afghanistan is deeply concerned with any loss of civilian life, and urges the international community to exercise utmost caution during combat operations.

Mr. President,

Although we have come a long way -much more needs to be done both in Afghanistan and beyond. Unfortunately, where there is armed conflict, there will be casualties – it is a sad and painful truth. In order to enjoy the popular support of the people, any use of force by the government requires an elaborate moral justification. Insurgents and terrorists take advantage of this necessity with acts of violence that erect a barrier of fear and mistrust between the people and their government. Nonetheless, the most important question in front of us is how to minimize civilian casualties in armed conflict. The international community and the government of Afghanistan have a common understanding that it is imperative to enhance coordination between national governments and international organizations in a view to protect civilians.

Mr. President,

We are in a battle to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan. Terrorists are ruthless and irresponsible by nature: they intentionally exploit our sense of fairness. However, our humanity is not a weakness. In fact, it is the very foundation of our society. Hence it is crucial that we act upon what we have learned here today to secure the lives of civilians and engage local communities who are at the front lines of the struggle. After all, the diplomatic efforts here, and the counter-terrorist operations on the ground have a common goal: to protect the peoples of our nations without whom there would be nothing to fight for.

Thank you Mr. President.

Role of the UN in Post-Conflict Stabilization

Statement of H.E. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations at the Security Council on the Role of the UN in Post-Conflict Stabilization

Mr. President,

My delegation is pleased to see your Excellency Mr. David Miliband the Foreign Secretary of the UK chair today’s Security Council meeting. Allow me to express my delegation’s appreciation to you for organizing today’s important and timely open debate of the Security Council to consider the challenges facing the international community in stabilizing countries recovering from conflict and delivering sustainable peace.

We are also thankful for the concept paper on the subject which is certainly a comprehensive document that articulates the realities of dealing with situations in countries emerging from conflict.

I am certain that the outcome of this debate will greatly benefit nations undergoing post-conflict stabilization and the peace-building process as well as the UN.

Emerging from more than two decades of armed conflict, Afghanistan is well aware of the challenges associated with post conflict stabilization efforts.

Almost seven years ago following the defeat of the Taliban, in December 2001, the Bonn Agreement laid out the path towards political transition in Afghanistan. It was clear from the outset that the stabilization of Afghanistan in the post-Taliban period was not an easy task. As a result of long wars and foreign occupations, Afghanistan had become a failed state and a broken society.

In fact, about seven years ago, Afghanistan was:

  • A geography without a state,
  • A stage for factional wars imposed by invaders and outsiders,
  • A safe haven for international terrorism and extremism,
  • A land where the people live in constant fear of bandits and thugs,
  • And a country where its citizens were deprived of all their rights.
  • In addition more than half of its population, being female, could not go to school, work or even attain simple medical care.

The collapse of the state led to nation-wide insecurity. Millions left the country or became internally displaced and the social trust had been eroded. People reverted to traditional forms of mutual support such as tribal and ethnic alliances, which led to an increasing societal fragmentation.

In a country where agriculture was the chief engine of the economy, illicit drugs became the main source of income; the land began to fuel the war rather than to feed the people.

Since the Bonn Agreement, in cooperation with the international community, we have come a long way in overcoming the enormous challenges of building the foundation of a new political system aimed at promoting long term stability. We have adopted a new constitution and held democratic presidential and parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2005, supported overwhelmingly by all the people of Afghanistan.

To ensure security, recovery and development we embarked on security sector reform which serves as the lynchpin of the entire state-building process in the country. Thanks to the support of our international partners our security forces have become stronger and effective. Our national army has now reached 76,000 and assumed a greater role in the fight against terrorists seeking to destabilize Afghanistan and the region.

Five years after the Bonn Agreement, in February 2006, the Afghan government and the international community came together in London to design a new roadmap to solidify our achievements and further empower Afghanistan to realize a sustainable peace and development.

Mr. President,

Despite all these remarkable gains, we still face challenges that pose a threat to our long term stability. There are at least four major challenges to peace and stability in Afghanistan: terrorism, narcotics, weakness of governance, and poverty. These challenges are interlinked and an integral part of the same threat. In dealing with these challenges, we realize that effective stabilization efforts in post-conflict situations require a comprehensive and multi-faceted strategy, encompassing the essential components of social and economic development, good governance, human rights, the rule of law, and national reconciliation. Such an approach demands a pro-active and sustained engagement of the international community in the process.

Mr. President,

From the beginning of the Bonn process in Afghanistan, the U.N. played a central role in bringing together the international community to help Afghanistan’s transition from conflict to peace, stability and democracy.

During the course of the last year, a new momentum was built to reinvigorate the role of the UN in Afghanistan. The appointment of a new SRSG was an important step. Today we have a broad consensus that the UN should focus on its role as lead coordinator, essential for reenergizing efforts on stabilization. The success of the UN in delivering its mandate relies on uniting the efforts of all international actors including the donor community, NATO, EU, regional countries, international financial institutions, and NGOs in supporting the government and people of Afghanistan in their struggle for peace, stability and progress.

The key elements for success of the UN in its role entail full cooperation of all parties to be coordinated, as well as the mandate, resources and an adequate staff on the ground.

The role of the U.N. in Afghanistan, similar to other post-conflict situations, is to facilitate the stabilization efforts including supporting institutional building and bridging the international community with the government and people. While state-building is a collective effort in post-conflict countries, the national ownership of the process is the core principle. Given the enabling role of the international community, it is essential to invest more in establishing capable and functioning institutions. To achieve this we need to build national capacity to deal successfully with all challenges which arise during the post-conflict stabilization. As experience shows an “effective state-building is like a spider-web; in that they work best when built by the spiders themselves”.

Mr. President,

The success of the international community and national government in the process of recovery from the conflict, as we have learned from our experiences, is closely linked with effective use of resources and aid. It is paramount that the aid be need driven not supply driven. A coordinating strategy should reflect the principles of the aid effectiveness and successful delivery of aid that are aimed at improving the situation of the country and the people.

Mr. President,

In Afghanistan, the enemies of peace and stability will continue their attempt to disrupt the efforts of the government and the people as well as our international partners for establishing a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan. However we are confident that these actions will not succeed in interfering with our long term goal of building a new Afghanistan. In this fight what we need is the continuing commitment of the international community, time and resources.

Mr. President

In conclusion, Mr. President, I am confident that this debate will help the international community join their efforts more than ever to deal with the challenges of post-conflict stabilization, and to address the challenges and enhance the coordinating role of the UN.

Thank you Mr. President