Tuesday, October 6, 2015

President Karzai Announces Run-Off

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan announced on Tuesday that he had agreed to conduct a runoff.  He made the statement at a press conference, flanked by Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry and Special Representative of the Secretary-General Kai Eide.

He said he accepted as legal the results announced by the Electoral Complaints Commission and the Independent Complaints Commission. Preliminary results had calculated President Karzai’s lead at 54%, but after an investigation into fraud by the ECC threw out almost a quarter of all ballots cast, that number was reduced to just below the over-50% necessary to declare an outright victory. According to the Constitution of Afghanistan, if in the first round of voting no candidate exceeds 50% of the vote, a second round will be held within two weeks.

His announcement was welcomed across the globe as a statesmanlike decision taken for the good of his country and in support of the laws and Constitution of Afghanistan. From the United States, President Obama praised the decision, calling it “an important step forward.” He said, “While this election could have remained unresolved to the detriment of the country, President Karzai’s constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan’s new democracy.” In addition, Secretary of State Clinton and Senator John Kerry publicly supported the decision. Echoing his president’s sentiments, he said “A moment of great uncertainty has been transformed into a moment of great opportunity.” He thanked all of those Afghans who had risked their lives and, in some cases, lost their lives to vote and to protect those voting.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon commended President Karzai “for the leadership he displayed” and pledged the UN’s full support to the ongoing Afghan electoral process, saying the UN would do its best to ensure a fair, transparent second round for the elections. Special Representative of the SG Kai Eide commented on the decision also, particularly congratulating the Afghan institutions that have played such a crucial role in the process.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown also welcomed the decision, and congratulated the people of Afghanistan for showing such “patience and resilience” during the long elections process.

The run-off will be conducted on November 7th. The IEC has said it is ready to conduct the elections on that date and has all materials necessary.

In his statement, President Karzai praised the courage of Afghan voters, who had risked their lives in the millions during the first round, and “call[ed] upon this country to take this as an opportunity to move this country forward and participate in this new round of elections,” adding that he hoped the international community would assist in ensuring that security for the new round would be in place on time.

The Advancement of Women

Statement By Mr. G. Seddiq RASULI

Counsellor of Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Third Committee Debate On

Agenda Item 62 (a):  Advancement of Women

on behalf H.E. Zahir Tanin

Mr. Chairman,

Eight years have passed since the signing of the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan.  Over the course of this time, in spite of serious challenges, the people and government of Afghanistan have made advances in various sectors, including education, health, and institution-building.

Since the collapse of the Taliban, Afghanistan has seen the re-employment of women in government organizations and the resumption of female education.  Women have also begun participating at broad and unprecedented levels in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of Afghanistan, for example in the formation of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and in the creation and execution of the new Constitution and the recent Presidential and Provincial elections.

Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan remains fully committed to human rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality. The government’s commitment to these goals is embodied in the Afghan constitution, which strongly adheres to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  For example, Article 22 of the constitution states that “the citizens of Afghanistan, men and women, have equal rights and duties before the law.”  Similarly, Article 44 stipulates that “the state shall devise and implement effective programs to create and foster balanced education for women,  … as well as eliminate illiteracy in the country.”

As part of Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy (ANDS), launched in June 2008, benchmarks such as advancing gender equality, promoting the participation of women in state and non-state activities, providing legal privileges for women, and implementing a national action plan for the development of women should be realized by 2010.  These benchmarks are intended to build upon the existing policy framework that integrates women into all aspects of Afghan life.

Women continue to play an important role in the political life of Afghanistan.  In the most recent Afghan elections, two women ran for President, and seven Vice Presidential candidates were women.  Three-hundred twenty eight women ran for provincial council seats.  Moreover, women currently hold 17 seats in the Upper House and 68 seats in the Lower House of the Parliament.  Of the 4.5 million new voters in the 2009 elections, 38% were women.

Women’s access to educational services has also improved since 2001. Of the 6.2 million students enrolled in primary and secondary school, 41% are girls.  20% of students enrolled in universities and institutes of higher education are female.  In 2008, more than 75% of the 300,000 students attending the literacy courses offered throughout Afghanistan were women.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In spite of the progress made during the last eight years, efforts towards the empowerment and advancement of women in Afghanistan face enormous challenges.  Enemies of the people and government of Afghanistan continue to ravage the Afghan countryside by burning down schools and creating an atmosphere of precariousness and fear, which in turn affects school attendance and enrollment, particularly for women.  The Afghan Ministry of Education estimates that girls represent less than 15% of total enrollment in provinces with the lowest level of security.

The government of Afghanistan recognizes that the successful socio-economic development and reconstruction of Afghanistan requires the complete and equal participation of Afghan women in all socio-economic activities.  Regrettably, despite efforts towards progress, the security situation of Afghanistan has thus far affected the engagement of women in productive activities.

Mr. Chairman,

Violence against women is an intolerable breach of human rights.  The Afghan government has criminalized violence against women, and is engaged in a variety of initiatives to properly address this issue.  The Government remains firmly dedicated to The National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), a ten-year program designed to implement the commitments made to Afghan women in the country’s constitution.  Recently, the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs partnered with UNIFEM to create a thorough review of cases involving violence against women, in order to better address reported claims of violence.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan continues to be fundamentally committed to the advancement of women, both within its borders and across the world. Efforts to improve the situation of women face many of the same challenges that confront Afghanistan as a whole: a deteriorating security situation, weak state institutions, and an infant economy. With the help of the international community, the Afghan government is comprehensively addressing each of these issues, with particular attention to the essential role of women in the stabilization of Afghanistan. We will work towards this goal until every woman in Afghanistan can pursue the full enjoyment of her rights in safety.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.