Monday, December 22, 2014

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions

Statement of The Islamic of Republic of Afghanistan
Delivered by
G. Seddiq Rasuli Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations
at the Third Committee
Agenda Item 62:
Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank Mr. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for his reports under agenda item 62 and his in-depth statement this afternoon.

I further wish to take this opportunity to express my delegation’s gratitude to the High Commissioner and dedicated staff of UNHCR for their commitment towards protection and assistance of the world’s most vulnerable population, the refugees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs), in particular, their special attention to the plight of Afghan refugees, returnees, and IDPs. We are grateful for that, Mr. High Commissioner.

Mr. Chairman,

Since 2002, more than 5.6 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan, the vast majority of which have returned from neighboring countries, Iran and Pakistan. This is an encouraging sign that the situation in Afghanistan is improving and Afghan refugees can once again return to their homeland and join their families. However, in spite of the progress made over the past ten years, much remains to be accomplished. The pace of repatriation has slowed substantially relative to previous years. This can be attributed to the dual threats of terrorism and insecurity, widespread poverty, and a challenging humanitarian situation. These have also increased the number of IDPs in the provinces that continue to see the highest levels of insecurity.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government of Afghanistan remains committed to providing for the voluntary, dignified and gradual repatriation and re-integration of our Afghan brothers and sisters who fled our boarders due to years of conflict and violence. Already 4.6 million refugees received aid and since 2005 the Afghan Government has constructed 60 townships in 20 provinces for refugees, and a further 39,000 have been provided with portions of land.

As the security situation improves and people gradually return to Afghanistan, the Government faces a significant challenge to provide adequate shelter, work and healthcare, this is becoming an increasing problem as more Afghans return, with the potential for increased refugee flows in the coming years as Afghanistan becomes more stable and secure. The Government of Afghanistan is strongly committed to do all we can to provide facilities for voluntary, dignified, and gradual repatriation.

Mr. Chairman,

We must not forget that security challenges and threats still remain a reality in Afghanistan and this poses a serious challenge to the sustainable repatriation of refugees. Between June 2009 and September 2010 alone 12,000 people were displaced as a result of insecurity, bringing the total number to over 319,000 Afghan citizens. We must continue our efforts with our international partners to secure Afghanistan for its citizens both inside and outside its borders.

As a result of this continued insecurity we face a reality in which 40% of refugees who have returned to Afghanistan have not been settled yet, where people are trying to return to their homeland seeking a prosperous future only to be faced with despair with the situation and return to their respective countries of refuge. We must work with the international community and UNHCR to seek out new ways and mechanisms to review our returnee’s policy to find a way to provide shelter and easy access to primary services including health care education drinking water and importantly, work opportunities to ensure the sustainable repatriation of Afghans.

Mr. Chairman,

I would also like to take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the Government of Afghanistan to our neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran for being the primary hosts of Afghan refugees for more than 30 years now; we are grateful for that. We have held constructive trilateral meetings with Iran and Pakistan along with UNHCR in May this year recognizing the need to find a comprehensive solution for sustainable voluntary, gradual, dignified repatriation of refugees.

In this regard, Afghanistan, with UNHCR, Pakistan and Iran, is presently developing a multi-year (2012-2014) solutions strategy for Afghan refugees. This strategy will be presented for endorsement by the international community at a stakeholders conference in early 2012.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the Sixth Committee on Agenda Item 109: “Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism.”

Mr. Chairman,

I begin my congratulating you and the members of the Bureau on your elections, and assuming the Chairmanship of the Sixth Committee. We are convinced that you and your team will steer the work of the Committee successfully. And we assure you of our full support and cooperation.

We also thank the Secretary General for his comprehensive report, outlining recent national and international efforts in the fight against terrorism; and the Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee, established pursuant to GA resolution 51/210, on the work of its 15th Session.

Mr. Chairman,

Less than a month ago, the United Nations General Assembly observed the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The event was a grim reminder of the loss of life of men, women and children of distinct backgrounds and nationalities on that dark day in history.

The horrific attacks of September the 11th culminated in a robust international partnership to help rid Afghanistan from terrorists and extremists; and to defeat terrorism effectively and resolutely, wherever it existed.  Ten years on, with support from our international partners, the Afghanistan of today is different than that of a decade ago.  The collapse of the tyrannical Taliban regime, supported by their Al-Qaeda allies and other associates, gave way to successive democratic elections, in which Afghans from all walks of life exercised their right to self-determination. We have registered important progress in all spheres of society, social, political and economic, included.  And with the start of Transition in July of this year, we are now on the path towards Afghan ownership and leadership.

Nevertheless, Mr. Chairman, despite our achievements, terrorism has not gone away from the lives of our people. Terrorists are still bent on preventing peace and stability to take root.  The past months have seen a rise in the level of violence; terrorists continue to kill and maim ours school children; our security forces; our tribal and religious elders; our international partners; and our patriotic national figures.

Early this month, the world heard the tragic news of the assassination of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), who was killed in a cowardly suicide attack that was planned and orchestrated from outside Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

In the context of a viable solution to the problem of terrorism, we echo, yet again, our long-standing position that the terrorism which has engulfed Afghanistan and our region will not go away without eliminating sanctuaries and safe-havens that are, in fact, the umbilical cord from which the forces of evil are feed and nurtured.

In this connection, it is essential that countries comply with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, calling on States to prevent their territories to be utilized for the planning or preparation of terrorist acts. These include the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, adopted by UNGA resolution 49/60; as well as SC resolution 1373 of (2001).

Mr. Chairman,

Terrorism has proven its reach across borders and continents, affecting peoples of all nationalities, religions and backgrounds. This is evident by acts of terror committed around the world, including my own country Afghanistan, as well as Nigeria, Indonesia, India, Norway and Russia. And it remains crystal clear that a successful fight against terrorism requires a concerted and robust effort, characterized by effective regional and international cooperation.

In this respect, we underscore enhanced measures to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of September 2006, which remains the overall strategic and operational international framework for combating terrorism.
Further, we in Afghanistan attach great importance to the work of counter-terrorism committees, established pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 1267, 1988, 1989, 1373 and 1540 in combating terrorism.  As an active participant in counter-terrorism cooperation, we have submitted our national reports on the implementation of relevant SC resolutions, including resolution 1373.  In the same vein, we acknowledge with appreciation the important work being done by the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED).

As a country which remains forefront in the fight against terrorism, Afghanistan is ever more resilient in our resolve to help defeat this scourge in all its forms and manifestations.   We are party to 13 international conventions and protocols dealing with terrorism; and we remain fully committed to meeting our obligations under these conventions.

Afghanistan welcomes the successful outcome of the Symposium on Combating International Terrorism, which took place on the 19th of September, at the initiative of the UN Secretary General.

Mr. Chairman,

We are convinced that the signing of the agreement between the United Nations and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the creation of an International Center for Countering Terrorism will go a long way in helping to consolidate cooperation and building capacity of in relevant State institutions and agencies dealing with terrorism. We look forward to seeing the new center become operational in the near future.

Furthermore, we believe it is of paramount importance to conclude the Comprehensive Convention for Combating International Terrorism. While commending the work of the Ad Hoc Committee established by GA Resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, we join other speakers in stressing increased cooperation to resolve the outstanding issues.

Afghanistan further underscores the importance of convening a High-level Conference on countering terrorism, under the auspices of the United Nations.  Such an initiative will help formulate a joint and effective response to the global fight against terrorism.

In conclusion, I wish to reiterate our steadfast commitment to undertake all necessary measures to defeat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and to achieve international peace and security.

I Thank You.

Minister of Economy Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal Addresses UN Commission on Sustainable Development Roundtables on Mining and Transportation

H.E.,  the Minister of Economy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mr. Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal has addressed the 19th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, which brings together ministers as well as government high officials and representatives of international organizations and civil society to discuss the way forward in national and international development.

During his address on mining, Minister Arghandehwal emphasized the significant production potential of Afghanistan’s mineral resources.  He explained how Afghanistan’s mineral deposits remain largely untapped, and that a recent United States Geological Survey (USGS) study estimated Afghanistan’s mineral reserves to be worth up to 3 trillion dollars.   He shared that “Most of these deposits include significant reserves of iron ore, copper, cobalt, gold and industrial production metals such as lithium. Studies also suggest that Afghanistan has large deposits of niobium and other rare earth elements. The deposits are large enough to make Afghanistan a major global producer of these minerals.”

Focusing on the production potential of these mineral reserves, Minister Arghandehwal told of the significant foreign direct investment flows Afghanistan has already attracted, particularly with the MCC company for the exploration and processing of Aynak copper deposits.  Of note, he shared that this MCC investment will include the construction of more than 600 km of railroad and a 400 MW power plant.

The Minister of Economy went on to highlight current contributions to the Government of Afghanistan from mining revenues.  He noted that the Government currently receives US$20-25 million annually in mining revenues.  Further, he explained that according to IMF projections, the mining sector is expected to contribute an average of $11 billion per annum over the five years between 2014/15 to 2019/20, and that this is expected to rise to a projected average of $17 billion per annum in the 10 years between 2020/21 to 2029/30.

In addition, he addressed the challenges that lie ahead, including higher capital investments and operating costs required for the development of Afghanistan’s mining sector, the development of infrastructure for support operations, capacity building, establishing a connected transportation system to enable trade, and the establishment of effective policies for revenue management, benefit sharing, and public-private partnerships for infrastructure development.

The Minister also shared Afghanistan’s long-term vision, “To develop an economically vibrant mineral sector which creates jobs, develops infrastructure, generates domestic revenue and ensures inclusive economic growth for the benefit of all Afghans.” He added that “Mining in Afghanistan has the potential to be a driver of a poverty reduction and sustained growth, if managed properly.” Further, Minister Arghandehwal acknowledged that these developments will require strategic action and vision in order to create an enabling environment for private sector investments, including field security, good governance, and overall transparency.

During his address on transportation, Minister Arghandehwal highlighted the impact of prolonged conflict on Afghanistan’s transportation sector, noting the challenges that lie ahead in construction and restoration efforts alongside the opportunities for economic development and for the improved living standards of the Afghan people.

Focusing on the specific challenges for Afghanistan, he underscored the impact of turmoil on transportation, which has left behind damaged roads and structures and has turned away international air carriers and other sectors from investing in and servicing Afghanistan’s transportation needs.

The Minister of Economy also specified that “The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s strategic vision and goal for the transport sector is to have a safe, integrated transportation network that ensures connectivity and that enables low-cost and reliable movement of people and goods domestically as well as to and from foreign destinations. This will give impetus to economic growth and employment generation and help integrate Afghanistan into the global economy. A high priority is to have in place an efficient and viable road transportation network for achieving economic growth and poverty reduction, particularly in rural areas.”  To this end, Minister Arghandehwal spoke of the many gains Afghanistan has made in building and restoring transportation infrastructure in the country.  He explained the progress that had been made with roads, railways, and civil aviation as well as the legal and regulatory gains that have been made for effective governance and for the facilitation of trade.

Further, Minister Arghandehwal drew attention to the fundamental role of transportation for economic growth, stability, and peacebuilding in Afghanistan, and that this relationship necessitates the strategic development of the Afghan transportation sector.  He noted that Afghanistan is currently “…working to develop and complete a network of regional roads to connect to neighboring countries, the coordination of funding for the implementation of projects, quality control and the development of a sustained operation and maintenance of roads, organizational strengthening and capacity building of technical staff, and strengthening the role and relation of private sector in road construction and maintenance.”

During his addresses on both mining and transportation, Minister Arghandehwal expressed Afghanistan’s appreciation for the organization of CSD 19 and for the continued support and commitment of the international community for stabilization and security in Afghanistan.