Wednesday, April 16, 2014

United Nations Security Council Debate on The Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

at the Security Council Debate on The Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

At the outset, I congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of the Council. I also wish to thank the Secretary General for his report on the Situation in Afghanistan, and extend a warm welcome back to the Council to my good friend, Special Representative Staffan de Mistura.

I also take this opportunity to express deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Government and people of Afghanistan, to the people and Government of Japan, for the tragic loss of life and destruction from the earthquake and Tsunami this past week.  We stand beside the friendly peoples of Japan as they recover from that tragedy.

Mr. President,

As we come together today to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, the country embarks on transition to full Afghan sovereignty, national ownership and leadership in an effort to realize the noble vision of a secure, democratic, and prosperous nation – one that is able to meet the needs of its citizens independently. We in Afghanistan know that transition is no easy task, but achievable with our determination and unity, and the sincere support and commitment of the international community.

The logic of transition will guide the way forward over the next four years. During this time, Afghanistan is determined to assume full responsibility at all levels, in order to provide Afghans with security, opportunities for social and economic progress, and the benefits of a society governed by the rule of law.

Mr. President,

The role of the international community in supporting the transition will remain essential for our success.  In London, Kabul and Lisbon, the international community endorsed, and committed to supporting the transition towards Afghan ownership and leadership. Over the next four years, the international community’s role in Afghanistan will revolve around the needs and requirements of the transition process.

Mr. President,

Today’s meeting comes on the eve of the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate.  As the lead international civilian coordinator, the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan over the transition period and beyond will remain crucial. We convey our appreciation for the resolute commitment of all UN staff working under difficult conditions to help meet the aspirations of the Afghan people. As we prepare to officially commence the transition process on the 21st of March, we look to the UN as a key partner in the way forward.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan cannot stand on its own feet if its state institutions remain weak and undermined by various parallel structures, and if its capacity is not strengthened. So, Mr. President, securing Afghanistan is first and foremost about Afghan ownership and leadership; about taking responsibility; and about operating effectively to achieve sustainable progress. This is our ultimate goal to which we are firmly committed.

In the past weeks, we have been engaged in discussions about how UNAMA’s mandate should evolve, in light of transition.  In that regard, on the First of March, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul sent a letter to the Secretary General on behalf of the Afghan Government, in which he underscored three main requests:

First, a comprehensive review of the UNAMA mandate and the role of the UN in Afghanistan, to be conducted, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, within the next six months.  In subsequent weeks we have agreed that such a review will be done before the Bonn Conference at the end of 2011.

Second, greater coherence, coordination, and efficiency in the work of UN funds, programs, and agencies operating in Afghanistan towards “One United Nations.” Such an approach, bringing each of the UN’s entities together in synergy, is necessary for an efficient and successful transition in the country.

And third, a reshaping of this year’s UNAMA mandate around the transition. To this end, Mr. President, the Government of Afghanistan proposed the following adjustments to the mandate:

1. Transition must be the Central Focus of UNAMA.  A UN mandate that is centered on transition objectives would facilitate a smooth shift to Afghan ownership and leadership. The underlying imperative to transition full responsibility for security, governance, and development to Afghan leadership by the end of 2014 should guide the work of UNAMA and the SRSG.

2. Emphasis must be placed on UNAMA’s responsibility as the co-chair of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) to promote coherence in the international community’s support for the Afghan-defined and Afghan-led development strategy.

3. We stress the need to increasingly channel aid through the Afghan budget, and align it with our Afghan National Priority Programs.  We are convinced that this will lead to more effective and efficient utilization of development assistance.

4. UNAMA plays a crucial role in improving civil military coordination with ISAF. This role, however, should be recalibrated to reflect the aim of the transition process in order to support Afghan-led stabilization efforts.

5. National ownership of the reintegration and reconciliation process is necessary. We are reaching out to all Afghans who are willing to renounce violence and join the peace process. The peace and reconciliation process is Afghan-led and could benefit from support and good offices of UNAMA if requested by the Afghan government.

6. The Afghan government must have ownership of the election process, based on the clear requirements of the Afghan constitution and principle of Afghan sovereignty. In line with the Kabul and London Communiqués, the Government of Afghanistan is fully committed to electoral reform as a measure to ensure sustainability for the democratic process, one which is national in nature and should be addressed by the citizens of Afghanistan. We welcome the availability of UNAMA in helping with capacity building and technical assistance for electoral law if requested by the Government of Afghanistan. Last year’s elections in Afghanistan cost hundreds of millions of dollars, a cost which is not sustainable for an Afghan-led democratic process over time. The election process in Afghanistan must be effective and sustainable; this is only possible through Afghan ownership.

7. A reassessment of UNAMA’s work throughout the country is necessary. While the presence of UNAMA’s offices in eight regional zones remains important, the number, location and TOR of UNAMA’s offices in other provinces should be looked at within the comprehensive mandate review.  This will help encourage Afghan institutions to end the culture of dependence; avoid unnecessary security risks for the UNAMA staff; and streamline funding for the relevant UN agencies in the country.

8. UNAMA’s role in supporting the efforts to enhance governance and rule of law would be achieved best through strengthening the effort of the government of Afghanistan, in accordance with the Kabul Process. This is why we request that all efforts be made toward strengthening the Afghan government’s capacity.

9. The coordinating role of UNAMA in delivering humanitarian assistance in accordance with humanitarian principles is crucial. However, in the way forward, the focus must be on strengthening the central coordinating role of the government of Afghanistan, consistent with the goal of Afghan ownership.

Mr. President,

The realization of our requests, will not only facilitate a more efficient UN in years to come, but also a government functioning with greater confidence in its ability to become self reliant.

Ten years after the Bonn Conference, Afghanistan is adamant in its decision to take responsibility for its country and people. This is a process that will not happen overnight, but over time. Throughout the four-year transition to Afghan leadership and ownership, and beyond, the enduring partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, the UN and other partners will remain crucial. The transition is not an end to the relationship between Afghanistan and the international community, but the beginning of a new chapter in an evolving partnership.

Mr. President,

We must end the war and violence in Afghanistan. The time has come to ensure that Afghans have the chance to live in peace – free from the threat of violence and sufferings endured for many years. The war against terrorism will not be won without the confidence and support of the Afghan people. While most of the civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, incidences of loss of innocent life during military operations have increased. However, our moral obligations place a heavy burden on us to make the protection of civilian lives priority number one. Civilian casualties must end and additional measures must be taken to prevent harm to civilians.

We all have come to realize that war and violence cannot be ended through military means alone. That is why we continue to reach out to all those who want to join the peace process. The support of the international community and our enduring partnership is essential for this process and for success in Afghanistan. Afghans are determined to work toward their own destiny. Let us renew our efforts to achieve peace and prosperity in the country through the transition and beyond.

I thank you.

Ambassador Tanin

Ambassador Tanin Addresses Least Developed Countries Ministerial Conference

A year-long celebration of vital role of world’s forests

Recognizing the role that forests play in everything from mitigating climate change to providing wood, medicines and livelihoods for people worldwide, the United Nations today kicked off a year-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of this important resource.

“Forests for People” is the main theme of the International Year of Forests, which was launched at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York attended by world leaders, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and forest experts.

The General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, on which at least 1.6 billion people depend for their daily livelihoods and subsistence needs. Forests are also home to over 60 million people, mainly members of indigenous and local communities, who reside in forests.

“By declaring 2011 as the International Year of Forests, the United Nations General Assembly has created an important platform to educate the global community about the great value of forests – and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them,” noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Today’s launch ceremony, presided over by General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, is part of the high-level segment of the UN Forum on Forests, an intergovernmental policy forum dealing with forest-related issues. “Every one of us, all seven billion people on earth, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to the health of our forest ecosystems,” noted Jan McAlpine, the Director of the Forum’s Secretariat. “Throughout 2011, we will celebrate this intricate, interdependent relationship between forests and people,” she said.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), also noted that forests represent many things to many people including spiritual, aesthetic and cultural dimensions that are, in many ways, priceless. “But they are also cornerstones of our economies, whose real value has all too often been invisible in national accounts of profit and loss,” he added.

Forests cover about 31 per cent of total land area, amounting to just under 4 billion hectares, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which today released its “State of the World’s Forests” report.

The report, which is published every two years, stresses that the forest industry forms an important part of a “greener” economy and wood products have environmental attributes that would appeal to people.

The industry is responding to numerous environmental and social concerns by improving sustainability of resource use, using more waste materials to make products, increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. For example, 37 per cent of total forest production in 2010 came from recovered paper, wood waste and non-wood fibres, a figure that is likely to grow to up to 45 per cent in 2030, with much of that growth from China and India.

“What we need during the International Year of Forests is to emphasize the connection between people and forests, and the benefits that can accrue when forests are managed by local people in sustainable and innovative ways,” said Eduardo Rojas, FAO’s Forestry Director.

Ms. Maathai noted in her address at the launch, as well as in a briefing to reporters, that the value of the International Year is the opportunity to “explore the value of the trees, the forests and the environment, as well as the value of the environmental services that these resources give us.”

She added that too often forests and the services they provide are taken for granted and seen as resources that are unlimited. “But we all know now that we are facing situations where these forests are disappearing,” she told reporters.

As part of the launch, international filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand will premiere his short film “FOREST.” The ceremony also featured clips from winning films from the International Forest Film Festival which was organised by the UN Forum on Forest Secretariat in collaboration with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

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On Behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ambassador Zahir Tanin spoke at a round table session on “Forests for People.”  He described the dramatic changes in the Afghan forest coverage over the last thirty years.  “As a result of the absence of forest management and poor agricultural practices amongst other contributing factors due to decades of conflict and instability,” he said, “forests cover less than 3% of total land area in Afghanistan today.” Ambassador Tanin explained the necessity of preserving forests in order to serve as a primary energy source as well as for their non-timber products.

According to Ambassador Tanin, “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.”  The government of Afghanistan, he explained, is working to address the issue through the adoption of a national plan to improve policies in relation to forests.