Sunday, November 29, 2015

Election of Afghanistan as a Member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

Press Release: Oct 21, 2015

On October 21, 2015 Afghanistan was elected as a member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for a term of three years (January 2016 to 2018) by a clear majority of votes by the United Nations General Assembly.

One of the six main organs of the United Nations, ECOSOC is the principal UN organ for the discussion and coordination of international economic and social issues and for formulating policy recommendations for Member States and the UN system. It is the main body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as for implementation of the internationally agreed development goals.

Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, the designated Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations was present at the event. Talking about Afghanistan’s previous candidature efforts, he said: “Afghanistan had introduced its candidature in 2009 for a term from 2012-2014 but deferred for the term 2016-2018 to preserve solidarity of the Asia-Pacific Group and avoid internal competition. This year, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Viet Nam were endorsed by the Asia Pacific group and had the Group’s full support. Afghanistan’s membership would be a great opportunity to contribute and join the collective global efforts in elimination of poverty and realization of sustainable development goals within the framework of ECOSOC.” While talking about how it was time to focus on sustaining the development gains in Afghanistan, he said “Our membership in ECOSOC and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda will provide us with an excellent opportunity to advance Afghanistan’s national development strategy in a sustainable way”

18 new members from five regional groups, namely Algeria, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, and South Africa from African Group, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Viet Nam from Asia-Pacific Group, Czech Republic and Republic of Moldova from Eastern European Group, Chile, Guyana, and Peru from Latin American and Caribbean States Group, and Australia, Belgium, Italy and United Sates of America from Western European and other States Group were also elected.

Afghanistan was a member of ECOSOC from 1959-1961 and then from 1976-1978. This is the third time Afghanistan will serve as a member of ECOSOC.

Statement by H.E. Mahmoud Saikal Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the Fourth Committee Agenda item 51 (Assistance in Mine Action)

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

Let me join other delegations in congratulating you on your assumption of Chairmanship of the forth committee of the 70th session of the UNGA and your bureau members for their well-deserved elections. We look forward to working closely with you and assure you of our full support and cooperation throughout the deliberations of issues concerned to this committee.

Afghanistan has been struggling with the problem of landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and their devastating consequences for more than three decades. Abandoned landmines and explosive ordnances, vestiges of the prolonged conflict in the country, continue to pose a great threat by jeopardizing the security and development of Afghanistan and its people. Although significant progress has been achieved in demining activities, Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

Mr. Chairman,

Approximately, half a million Afghan civilians live within five hundred meters of landmine contaminated areas. An average of 33 civilians have been injured or killed each month so far in 2015. 1,612 communities remain affected in 258 districts across the country. Over 107 square kilometres of minefields impede upon national infrastructure projects, such as, highway and road networks, airports, transmission lines, new settlements etc., delaying implementation until clearance. The country remains littered with hazardous explosive devices in multiple areas, including those where conflict has long ceased. Innocent civilians, including a large proportion of women and children, bear the highest risk of being killed or injured by these mines. Not only it is detrimental to stability and post-conflict development, landmines and other explosive remnants of war impede significant socio-economic development, required for basic sustenance in a war torn economy. More than eighty percent of the landmine and ERW contaminated areas obstruct agricultural and grazing spaces, thereby posing a tremendous challenge in a country where livelihoods of majority of people are concentrated around agriculture and livestock.  Mines and ERWs obstruct access to basic services, facilities and infrastructure and create severe challenges to use land for schools, crops, and other productive activities.

The presence of Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs is another imperative threat to civilian life. Indiscriminate use of IEDs is a common tactic amongst the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Last year alone, approximately three thousand civilians were victims of injuries caused by IEDs in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan has cleared nearly 78.5 percent of known “legacy” contamination – the mines and ERWs which resulted from the pre-2001 conflict. The remaining 21.5 percent includes 4,363 identifiable mine and battlefield hazards covering a total area of 557.6 square kilometres.  In December of 2012, Afghanistan submitted a request to the States Parties of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty to extend the deadline. All antipersonnel mines would be removed from Afghan territory in ten years.  As part of the extension request, Afghanistan submitted a ten-year work plan that will eliminate mines by 2023 if, and only if further mining stops.

I would like to turn now to the resolution on assistance in mine action which was facilitated by Poland. As a mine affected country, we highly appreciate the resolution on Assistance in Mine action and its role in reaffirming the normative framework for the humanitarian mine action activities carried out by the UN system. We are pleased the resolution continues to support the work of United Nations Mine Action Service and takes note of the elaboration and adoption of UN mine action strategy for the years 2013-2018.

Afghanistan fully supports the work and appreciates the enormous contribution of the UN and civil society in progressing mine action. We look forward to continuing to work with Member States, UN agencies, implementing partners, civil society and other donors to achieve our collective goal of a mine free world. I would also like to express my government’s sincere appreciation for the victim assistance project generously funded by USAID in Afghanistan.  This is a thirty million dollar project that will be implemented over the next three years with the aim to provide assistance to the victims of mines, ERWs and IEDs.

Continued support of the international community and sustained financial support are required to help Afghanistan meet the 2023 deadline and provide the Afghans a secure and stable, mine-free future.

Thank you.

Statement by H.E. Mahmuod Saikal  Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the General Debate of the First Committee 70th Session

Madame Chairperson,

Allow me to congratulate you on your election as Chairman of this session. My delegation is fully committed to the successful fulfillment of the work of the Committee, and assures you of our full support and cooperation.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan aligns itself fully with the statement delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, I would like to draw attention to a few specific points in my national capacity.

As history has repeatedly shown, political decisions incur the worst ramifications when made unilaterally, without consultations or consideration of the needs of all actors involved. It is for this reason Afghanistan wishes to reiterate its commitment to multilateral diplomacy as a crucial principle for advancing the global disarmament agenda. Only with all sides demonstrating political will we can achieve the goal of arms control, reduction, disarmament and total elimination of all types of Weapons of Mass Destruction, including nuclear weapons. In this context, we welcome the successful conclusions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and P5+1, which will benefit security and stability in our wider region. Going forward, it will be imperative that the concerned parties fulfill commitments to implement the agreement. Only through strong collective political will we can reach our collective desired goal of a nuclear-free world.

Madame Chairperson,

Afghanistan strongly and consistently supports all initiatives in the sphere of nuclear disarmament. As such Afghanistan is party to Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, among many other treaties calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction.

We are of the firm belief that full utilization of these existing international mechanisms is the only guarantee to the security of our world, and doing so requires their universal adherence. Afghanistan is not alone in urging all states to fulfill their international responsibilities in signing, ratifying, and actively supporting all efforts to promote the goals of all multilateral treaties relating to disarmament and non-proliferation.

The failure to agree on an outcome document at the 2015 NPT Review Conference represents an increasingly grave need for more effective action and leadership on the part of NPT member states. The division exists on a number of urgent issues which have, in our opinion, otherwise clear-cut solutions, is a worrisome reality and should serve as a wake-up call for the international community to renew its commitments and turn words into action.

In the same manner, we would like to express our strong disappointment at the failure to convene a conference on the establishment of the Middle East as a zone free of Nuclear Weapons and all Weapons of Mass Destruction. As the political turmoil in the Middle East threatens to spill over into its neighbouring regions, Afghanistan wishes to highlight the need for immediate action to be taken by the international community to prevent looming humanitarian and political catastrophe and overcome diplomatic stalemates.

Afghanistan is extremely disturbed at the humanitarian threat posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, and the possibility of their use, intentionally or accidentally. It is for this reason that we welcome the outcome of the third and final Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which recognizes that total elimination of all nuclear weapons is the only definite safeguard against a nuclear explosion. Despite this collective understanding, there has been inadequate progress by Nuclear Weapons States in fulfilling their commitments to eliminate their nuclear stockpiles, and we echo the calls for these states to abolish their dangerous nuclear doctrines, which include the practice of refurbishing or modernizing existing nuclear stockpiles and related facilities, and using the global existence of nuclear-weapons as an excuse for maintaining or proliferating one’s own stockpiles.

Madame Chairperson,

Enduring conflict has facilitated one of the most destructive developments in Afghanistan. The mass illicit trafficking of arms, mainly small and light weapons, facilitating their easy access and ample abundance in procurement along the Durand Line has enabled the terrorists and extremists to cause the Afghan people tremendous suffering for decades and must be put to an end. We embrace the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons but believe that it must be accompanied with a deeper understanding of the complex realities on the ground, closer follow up of its implementation, and integration with the mandate of the Arms Trade Treaty.

We are also grateful for the recommendations made by the 2015 Open-ended Meeting of Governmental Experts, and their thoughtful insights on developments and emerging needs for the Programme of Action, including new considerations that need to be reviewed in light of evolving modern technologies and the importance of marking weapons for tracing purposes.

Subsequent brutal wars over the past few decades have left Afghanistan heavily mined, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of our civilians. We remain one of the most heavily mined countries in the world; despite the fact over 80 percent of minefields have been cleared thanks to international efforts. For the year of 2014, an average of 38 civilians were killed or injured each month, and nearly 1 million Afghans still live within 500 meters of landmines. The continued existence of minefields also poses a threat to the development process in Afghanistan, as they delay the construction of national infrastructure projects until clearance.

The use of anti-personnel landmines in Afghanistan is used freely to the benefit of brutal terrorists who have no regard for the children they maim, the lives they destroy, or the country they devastate. It is for this reason that the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service in Afghanistan, which transferred full responsibility for mine action entirely to the Afghan government in 2012, is critical. While Afghanistan’s Mine Action Programme has produced excellent results, funding cuts threaten the goal we set in line with the Ottawa Treaty for fully ridding Afghanistan of mines by 2023, if further conflict and furnishing mines are prevented. However, we thank the generous donations made from Member states to UNMAS, aid that is invaluable to achieving our goals, but still far from what is needed. We look forward to the successful completion of the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. We are committed to the full realization of the goals adopted at the Third Review Conference of the Convention in Maputo.

And finally Madame Chairperson, Afghanistan is gravely concerned about the continued existence of Improvised Explosive Devices – IEDs around the globe. IEDs are responsible for thousands of civilian casualties every year; they have become the primary weapon for non-state armed groups across many conflicts. Their impact on the security and stability of states are profound, as they do not only damage the political, social, and economic development of a country, but also prevent the ability of necessary humanitarian aid to reach afflicted areas. Due to the lack of a comprehensive, systematic approach to countering the use of IEDs, which is relatively simple in its manufacturing, acquirement, and transfer, we call for an international mechanism to be established which seeks to eradicate the creation and proliferation of IEDs. Therefore, my delegation is tabling a resolution at this committee during the current session. The resolution, inter alia, includes the consistent collection of data, awareness raising, regulation of components, and international technical assistance and cooperation, and victim assistance. In this regard we held our first informal consultations with the member states and my delegation seeks further your full cooperation and support, so the resolution could be adopted by consensus.

Madame Chairperson,

In conclusion, I would like to state that this year; we share a special responsibility to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic attack on Nagasaki and Hiroshima that killed many lives and hopes across generations. Remembering this catastrophe brings an ample occasion to remind ourselves of the dire humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In this context, my delegation has supported the initiative of Austria on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons during this year’s NPT Review Conference.

My delegation sadly notes that, despite the many positive developments in the work of international diplomacy for the disarmament of nuclear weapons, we still face threats to human security and sustainability of a scale similar to what the generation before us have faced. The global and regional climate of terrorism has made the call for nuclear disarmament as well as that of the weapons, including small and light arms the more urgent.

I thank you for your kind attention.