Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Harnessing the Positive Contribution of South-South Cooperation for LDC’s Development

Statement by His Excellency Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan

to the United Nations

At the

LDC Pre-Conference

(Harnessing the Positive Contribution of South-South Cooperation for LDC’s Development)

Delhi, India

18-19 February 2011

Please Check Against Delivery

Mr. Chairman,

Let me begin by expressing, on behalf of the government and people of Afghanistan, my sincere appreciation to the government of India for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation.  We also commend the government of India and the OHRLLS for their collaboration in organizing this meeting.  We see this initiative as an important opportunity to strengthen our partnership for advancing the socio-economic advancement of the LDCs. We also look forward to the Fourth UN-LDC Conference in Istanbul, at which we will adopt the Istanbul Program of Action.

Mr. Chairman,

Forty-one years have passed since the first group of LDC’s was listed in resolution 2768 of the UN General Assembly. The number of LDC’s has increased from 24 in 1971 to 48 in 2011 – testimony to the fact that development remains a challenge to a significant number of countries. The past three decades have seen a number of important forums in support of LDCs. These include the LDC 2 and 3 Conferences in Paris and Brussels. Nevertheless, despite our efforts, our stated goals have not been realized. This is evident in the fact that only three countries have graduated from among our group.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan and its people understand all too well the unique challenges that are faced by LDCs. In our part, we not only understand these issues but experience them on a daily basis.  This volatile mix of circumstances, characterized by terrorism, poverty, narcotic drugs and a weak infrastructure pose a serious challenge to our development goals. It is clear that security is a vital pre-condition for socio-economic development. As in our case, the complex security environment, resulting from continued terrorism, has complicated our development efforts.

As a result of the challenging situation, our stated goal of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan has yet to be achieved.  A gender-gap in literacy and education; high child and maternal mortality rates, coupled with a worrying poverty rate remain harsh realities in Afghan society. For such reasons, we emphasize the steadfast and continued support of the international community.

Mr. Chairman,

Notwithstanding these challenges, we are making steady progress in improving the lives of our citizens.  Our national development strategy (ANDS) is the corner-stone of our efforts to meet the security, development and economic needs of our people.  In the area of health and education, we have established hundreds of schools and clinics throughout the country.  The percentage of the population with access to basic health coverage has increased from 9% to nearly 90% this year.  Close to seven million boys and girls are enrolled in schools, investing in a successful future. Economically, we are investing heavily in our agricultural sector and addressing barriers to increased trade and transit. Among other measures, these have enabled us to see a 22.5% growth in our GDP from 2009-2010.

To advance peace, security and development, we are pursuing regional cooperation with our immediate neighbors and other regional partners. In this context, we have committed to a number of important regional development projects.  These include the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project; the CASA 1000 project for energy transfer from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the North-Electric Power System (NEPS) project, which will be completed by end of this year.  Moreover, progress continues in improving transport infrastructure both within our country and in the region.

Mr. Chairman,

We are confident in our potential to become a land-bridge connecting South Asia and Central Asia. As part of our effort to enhance regional connectivity, we have accorded special focus to our national road and railway programs. More than 10,000 kilometers of roads have been constructed so far, linking our main cities; and we are working to implement our national ring road to neighboring countries. Further, our national railway network, many of which are now in the feasibility, design and construction phase, will play a crucial role in connecting our region through trade and strengthening LDC relationships. At the same time, we will maximize use of our untapped natural resources, including recently discovered mineral deposits. This will help us strengthen our economy, facilitate private sector investment, advance infrastructure development, generate jobs for our youth and integrate to regional and global markets.

Mr. Chairman,

In the context of advancing progress in LDCs, past experiences demonstrates that the ‘business-as-usual-approach’ will not yield substantial results. We must endeavor to build on the Brussels Program of Action and recognize the persisting challenges that have prevented us from meeting our seven goals. A part of this is the recognition of the important role that South-South cooperation will play in achieving the ambitious but important vision of reducing at least by half the number of LDCs by 2020, in accordance with the Istanbul Program of Action.

Mr. Chairman,

Many member states present here, like Afghanistan, are reliant on the support of our development partners, with which we have established strong bonds of cooperation. However, in an increasingly interdependent world, the advantages of South-South cooperation must not be underestimated. South-South cooperation has foundations in trade, investment, technical and technological cooperation between developing countries, but it is more fundamental than that; it is the sharing of knowledge, experiences and policies, of lessons learnt and best practice.

We do not seek to replace the North-South relationships we have fostered; but instead we must endeavor simultaneously to strengthen our ties with those in our regions, sub-regions, and fellow countries who share the common challenges we face.

Mr. Chairman,

Lack of financial resources is rightly recognized as one of the main causes for a country to be an LDC. It is in this context that we underscore sustained international support in the form of financial and technical assistance to LDCs. Official Development Assistance remains the main source of financing for development in LDCs. More needs to be done to ensure that such assistance is dispersed on time, aligned with the national development priorities and channeled through core government budgets.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan understands the unique challenges that are faced by LDCs and in my country we not only understand these issues but face them in a post-conflict situation. Despite our challenges, we will work diligently to implement our national development strategy and ensure our citizens with peace, security and development. We look forward to the Fourth UN-LDC Conference in Istanbul and express our full support to its successful outcome.

Thank You.

Remarks by Ambassador Tanin at the open discussion entitled, Afghanistan: Is a Negotiated Settlement Possible

United Nations, NY, February 11, 2011: H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, joined a panel of fellow ambassadors in an open discussion entitled, “Afghanistan: Is a Negotiated Settlement Possible?” Jeffrey Laurenti, Senior Fellow and Director of Foreign Policy Programs at the Century Foundation facilitated the panel and Co-hosted, the event along with Jeanne Betsock Stillman, President of the United Nations Association Southern New York State Division.  The panel was a part of a day-long event organized by the Century Foundation and Mid-Atlantic region of the United Nations Association of the United States.

Former American Ambassador to Afghanistan, H.E. Robert Finn responded to questions about the changing role of the Taliban after international forces intervened in Afghanistan.  He explained that there is a need to focus on rebuilding infrastructure and strengthening security in the country. The US Military, he says, considers the progress of the Afghan army to be successful thus far, and that the Taliban does not have the “upper-hand.”

H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin responded to questions about possible negotiations with the Taliban.  He emphasized that “there is no military solution alone” in Afghanistan, and that it is the responsibility of the Afghan government and international forces to work together to bring peace and stability to the country. “The road to peace,” he said, “is through reconciliation.” The Afghan government is not yet engaged in formal talks with the Taliban, but supports reconciliation with those Taliban who are willing to disassociate with Al-Qaeda and terrorism, renounce violence, and accept the Afghan constitution.  “The reconciliation is not an end, it is a means,” Ambassador Tanin explained.  He highlighted three underlying issues that must remain central in the context of reconciliation: The ‘end state’ of the stabilization process, according to Ambassador Tanin, is defined by the end of the war, and establishing the Afghan leadership and ownership. The constitutional framework of the country, including human rights and democracy must be protected. Finally, International and regional partnerships must be balanced throughout the transition to Afghan-led security efforts through 2014 and beyond.

When asked about the potential for Pakistan delivering Taliban members as negotiators, H.E. Abdullah Hussein Haroon, Pakistan Ambassador to the United Nations, emphasized that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are separate entities. He explained that it is difficult for Pakistan’s government to stop the Taliban from entering Pakistan, comparing it to the US’s border control struggle with Mexico. However, the Afghan and Pakistani governments are working together to control the situation, he said, and Pakistan has a stake in the security and stability of its neighbor.

A lively question and answer session followed the debate. Key themes of this discussion included speculations about the potential for peace in the country’s future, a recognition of the thriving intellectual and cultural Afghanistan of the 1960s, and a debate about the effectiveness of international involvement in the country.

The full text of the opening remarks given by Ambassador Tanin are below:

How Afghanistan Views Negotiation with the Taliban

“As we know, there is no military solution alone in Afghanistan. At the same time it the prime responsibility of the Afghan government and of international forces present in Afghanistan to end the war and bring peace and security to the Afghan people after decades of suffering. It is our understanding that the road to peace is through reconciliation.

This year with the beginning of the transition to Afghan leadership, particularly the step by step takeover of the responsibility of security, talks with the Taliban are becoming an essential part of the stabilization efforts.

The government of Afghanistan is not yet engaged in formal talks with the Taliban but it has taken all necessary steps to widen its contact with those Taliban that can be reconciled.  The representatives of all political and social groups of the country through the High Peace Council have started to engage in peace talks.

In fact, a mutually reinforcing military and political stabilization effort will eventually lead to the beginning of negotiations with the Taliban. This is a position that both civilian and military leaders continue to support.

The official position of the government of Afghanistan on reconciliation is simple and clear: we want to talk to and reconcile all those Taliban who are ready to join the peace process in the country.

Our red lines for the negotiation to start and an agreement to work are based on a principled minimal proposition: disassociation with Al-Qaeda and terrorism, renouncing the violence and accepting the constitutional framework. Such a position provides a reasonable foundation for any solemn settlement.

The reconciliation is not an end, it is a means. As such, it should not be seen in isolation from three underlined issues:

A.    The “end state” of the stabilization process is defined by the end of the war, and establishing the Afghan leadership and Afghan ownership.

B.    The constitutional framework of the country which guarantees the human and fundamental rights of people; a peaceful and democratic basis of governance; and regular, peaceful transfer of leadership.

C.    The regional (rather international-regional) context. Peace and stability in Afghanistan is closely linked with a balance of relations between Afghanistan, its international partners and its neighbors.

The debate about the negotiation is based on different perceptions about a political solution. Obviously, we are not expected to negotiate a military exit from Afghanistan. The negotiation is aimed at engaging the armed opposition in a peace process to end the conflict. A peace agreement would allow the Taliban a safe return, security, and peace dividends. It is not about an anti-constitutional suggestion for power-sharing or establishing a coalition government. But reconciliation will provide the Taliban, from the low ranks to military leaders, with the prospect of taking part as a political force in political process, including elections, and social and economic life of the country.

Our history did not begin in 2001 and will not end in 2014.  As President Karzai has suggested, 2014 is the date that Afghans will take the lead of security of the country. 2014 is not the last rendezvous in Afghanistan. The partnership between the US, NATO and Afghanistan will endure for a long time beyond 2014. We signed an enduring partnership document with NATO in Lisbon in November 2010. We are now working with the relevant authorities of the US to prepare a new strategic partnership document in the coming months. These historical agreements, hopefully, will frame a secure prospect of lasting relations between Afghanistan, the US and NATO.”

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Forests for people, United Nations Forum on Forests

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Round table 1: Forests for people

9th Session, United Nations Forum on Forests

Mr. Chairman,

I thank you for convening this meeting early in 2011, our International Year of Forests and I would also like to indicate Afghanistan’s desire for active participation in relevant forums and activities in conjunction with the International year.

The pictures of arid and barren landscapes of Afghanistan we see today make it difficult for us to imagine that the country once had much more extensive forests, with cedars, firs and pines in high-alpine areas and coniferous mountain forests, as well as pistachios and almonds in dry woodlands. As a result of the absence of forest management and poor agricultural practices amongst other contributing factors due to decades of conflict and instability, forests cover less than 3% of total land area in Afghanistan today. UN Environmental Protection experts predict that at the current rate of deforestation, Afghanistan’s forests will disappear within 30 years if collective action is not taken to reverse the destruction. As a consequence of thirty years of war, around 50-60% of pistachio forests were destroyed. The provinces of Paktya, Khost and Paktika once had 450,000 hectares of forest, nearly 70% of which has been destroyed.  Most of the destruction in these Eastern provinces is due to illegal logging, even though this practice has been banned since 2006.

Healthy, functioning forests are the primary energy source in the form of fuelwood for rural communities, which make up 80% of our total population. Non-timber forest products, particularly fruits, supplement rural income. However, current rates of deforestation are threatening the existence of our remaining woodlands, and thereby indirectly threatening the livelihoods of our people.

Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan has taken steps to prevent further destruction of forests. An approach based on a national plan has been adopted by the government, including policies such as a Reintegration Program in 5 provinces of Afghanistan, the announcement of 9 national protection areas, rehabilitation of pistachio forests, community based natural resource management, the prevention of illegal logging and a new legislation for the management of forests. Among major challenges are security, lack of expertise, smuggling of timbers to neighboring countries and lack of donor interests to support forest related projects.

Afforestation projects represent valuable opportunities in reducing the level of poverty by generating employment, as well as providing products that will improve local economic conditions and diversify Afghanistan’s potential commodities for export. The key concerns of energy and food security in rural communities are also addressed in participatory afforestation programs. The return of forest and vegetation to our landscape is also crucial in our efforts to combat desertification. Vital ecosystem services provided by forests can also reduce the water stress Afghanistan faces, and sequester carbon in addressing the global problem of climate change.

Forests and sustainable forest management can contribute significantly to Afghanistan’s efforts in pursuing sustainable development, poverty eradication and the achievement of internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals. Together with our development partners, Afghanistan is ready to facilitate knowledge sharing and improve our human and institutional capacity for sustainable forest management.

Thank you