Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Situation in Afghanistan

STATEMENTBY H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
at the General Assembly debate on  agenda item 38 “The Situation in Afghanistan”

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to be here today to discuss the annual resolution on “The Situation in Afghanistan.”  I wish to extend my gratitude to all delegations who have contributed to the debate, and to all of the co-sponsors, whose collective work on this resolution reaffirms a unified commitment to shaping a peaceful future for Afghanistan.

I would like to further express my appreciation to H.E. Peter Wittig, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Mr. Daniel Krull, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Germany, and their entire team for their great diligence and efforts to chair the informal negotiations and coordinate the positions of member countries for the support of this resolution.

Mr. President,

Last year, in November, just after President Karzai’s re-election, he set forth an ambitious national agenda for the next five years.  In his inaugural statement, President Karzai called for all who are willing to renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution to join the peace process and embrace national reconciliation.  He asserted the determination of the country to take the lead in ensuring security and stability with continued international support.  He also committed to establishing a competent, clean, transparent government, promoting good governance, and fighting corruption.  In his speech, the President reaffirmed the commitment of the Afghan government to focus on economic development, growth, and the well being of Afghan people.  He set out the aim for greater regional cooperation in all areas, and finally expressed with appreciation the desire to further the partnership between Afghanistan and its international allies.

The President’s national agenda marked a new beginning for Afghanistan to stand on its own feet. The commitments made highlighted the readiness of the Afghan government and the international community to embark on a transition to national leadership and national ownership.

Mr. President,

In January, the international community came together for the London Conference to align international support with Afghanistan’s efforts regarding security, governance and development, as stated in President Karzai’s inauguration speech.  This conference was an opportunity to establish concrete plans for transforming Afghanistan’s commitments into realities. Through engaging with our international partners, mutual security goals were set and specific measures for tackling corruption, achieving national reconciliation, and improving the delivery of basic services were presented.

In May, the Presidents of Afghanistan and the United States, with members of both governments, met in Washington in order to assess jointly the prospect of a successful new focus on Afghanistan.  This meeting aimed to strengthen the partnership between the US and Afghanistan, and solidified the united efforts of the two nations for sustainable cooperation, peace and stability in the region.

In June, The National Consultative Peace Jirga (NCPJ) jumpstarted our reconciliation process with aims to end the violence and unify our nation.  By consulting with different leaders for ideas and proposals we began to align all peace efforts in the country. The Jirga included 1,600 delegates representing a wide variety of segments of Afghan society including both men and women from all over the country.  The conference spawned a unified call to end the miseries of this war and move together toward peace.

In July, the Kabul Conference hosted by the Afghan government and co-chaired by the United Nations marked an important step forward in the continued empowerment of Afghanistan to assume its leadership role, which is key for a successful transition process.  It was the first time that high representatives of more than 70 countries and international organizations came together on Afghan soil.  The conference furthered the international commitments made in the London Conference. The resulting agreement secured a significant increase in the amount of international funding that would be channeled through the Afghan Government, reflecting renewed support for national ownership.

The conference crafted the Kabul Process, which is the new foundation for change through transition to full responsibility and leadership of the Afghan government.  It also developed a new compact between the Afghan government, the Afghan people, and the international community. The Kabul Process also had a major focus on regional relationships, encouraging improved cooperation between all regional parties. At the conference, Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy: Prioritization and Implementation Plan, was presented, which reflects the renewed commitment of Afghanistan’s government to building a secure and democratic future.

In September, we had our second parliamentary election, which, as the first Afghan-led election, represents a significant transition to leadership and responsibility in the hands of the Afghan people. This recent election included 2,556 candidates, 406 of whom are women.  Millions of Afghans cast their ballots to choose 249 members of the parliament, shaping our nation’s future by strengthening Afghan institutions and building momentum for stabilization.  More than one million votes were discounted in this election, reflecting the seriousness with which the Afghan electoral institutions attribute to fairness in this election, and marking a courageous demonstration of regulating and protecting democracy.

Mr. President,

Throughout the year, the Government of Afghanistan made strong efforts to enhance and strengthen trust and cooperation with its neighbours and regional partners.  The government sought to involve regional players not only in peace and security, but in trade, development, and economic cooperation.  President Karzai visited China in March, India in April, Japan in June and Pakistan in September.  He attended the 16th annual South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Bhutan in April. Important trilateral summits from the year include those with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey in Istanbul in January, with Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan in Tehran in August, and Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan in Tehran in January.  Afghanistan participated in a quadrilateral along with Pakistan, Tajikistan and Russia in Sochi, and was a guest in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s meeting of the council of heads of states in Uzbekistan.

As we speak, the fourth round of Regional Economic Cooperation Conference (RECCA) in Turkey is finishing, and through Afghanistan’s participation, our government aims to promote economic cooperation with all countries in the region, international partners and financial institutions. The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have played important roles in strengthening the process of regional and economic cooperation, through measures such as facilitating regional trade and infrastructural connectivity.

Mr. President,

With our fresh start mapped out by President Karzai’s National agenda, and consistent help of the international community, this first year, our Year of Refocus, was one marked by hard work and rewarded by notable progress.  Despite our busy calendar year, we have made substantial strides in the areas of economic growth and human rights advancements as we near our national goals.

While challenges remain ahead, progress has been made in all areas including economic advancement, women’s rights, education, and health. Our average income has quadrupled since 2001, and government revenue in the past year surpassed one billion dollars for the first time. Women will make up over a quarter of our parliament after this election and are currently 18% of government employees.  There are now more than 1,000 women in Afghan National Security Forces and we have ambitious plans to increase this number in the coming years.  Women and girls now have equal access to education, and make up 37% of the 7 million students in Afghanistan. The 71% student enrollment rate is also a sign of our success in improving education in our country.  We have built 4,000 school buildings in the last nine years and plan to build 2,900 more by the end of 2013. Furthermore, by providing basic health services to nearly 90% of our population, health care in Afghanistan has improved greatly. Our immunization efforts have helped millions of children, and infant and under five mortality rates continue to improve.

Mr. President,

Important steps have been taken to promote good governance, rule of law, and fight corruption.  The government of Afghanistan has progressed in this regard, including through establishing the Senior Appointments Panel and strengthening the power of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC). Last year, our commitment to good governance was demonstrated by the prosecutions of dozens of corrupt officials.

Our fight against narcotics has seen progress over time.  The number of Poppy-free provinces has maintained at 20, and there has been a major reduction in the production of opium this year. Meanwhile, our efforts to fight illicit narcotics continue as we work with regional and international partners on all aspects of this global challenge.

Mr. President,

Security is the most immediate and critical challenge facing Afghanistan, and is also the most basic building block of progress. The Taliban and its allies continue their attempts to increase insecurity and spread violence to new parts of the country. The violent campaigns of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have killed thousands of innocent men, women, and children. It has further destroyed our economy and what we have worked so hard to build throughout the last decade. Our aim is to stop this momentum and despite the challenges we continue to make important strides in the fight against terrorism.  During this year, Afghanistan’s partners and friends increased the number of forces and engaged to disrupt and defeat the murderous activities of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. As we meet here today, the Afghan and international forces continue fighting together to stop terrorists and violent activities of armed groups.

Mr. President,

With all the important steps taken throughout the course of the year, and with international support, my government is prepared to intensify efforts and work together to launch the transition process.  We are committed to taking the lead in combat operations in volatile provinces by 2011 and assume full responsibility for security efforts with the support of the international community by the end of 2014. It is a gradual and condition-based process, which relies upon the full support of our friends and partners in helping to build the size, strength and operational capability of Afghan security forces.

Afghans know that ultimately, it is the responsibility of our own Afghan forces to defend the country and provide security for our people. Therefore, a new focus on the accelerated training and equipping of the Afghan National Security Forces is vital for security and for a successful transition.  We hope that at the end of this transition period, the Afghan army and police will be able to take full responsibility within Afghanistan as intended. We have increased the number of National Security Forces significantly. With the help of our partners, we now have approximately 130,000 soldiers and 106,000 police. We plan to increase that number to 171,000 soldiers and 134,000 police by October 2011. The strengthening and development of the Afghan armed forces largely depends on the immediate end to parallel private security structures.  In the coming years, the Afghan armed forces will require the continued commitment and sustained support of NATO and our main allies and partners.

Later this month, a NATO Summit of Heads of State and Government will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. This Summit will be another important milestone in our partnership with NATO. Among the important issues discussed at the Summit will be Afghanistan’s transition strategy. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with NATO and expect to establish the steps needed for a long-term partnership between NATO and Afghanistan that will endure beyond the completion of NATO’s combat mission.

Mr. President,

Military strategies alone are not sufficient for the success of stabilization efforts. The peace process necessitates national reconciliation, outreach to the people, and sustainable partnerships with the region and international community.

Reconciliation and reintegration of former combatants is critical for establishing peace and security in our country. It is a reasonable and a responsible policy to open the door for reconciling those who would like to join the peace process. We are not only committed to such a policy, but have embraced it through our actions.  Outreach to the armed opposition has led to their inclusion in peace talks, as an effort for achieving peace and security, while our government and international partners continue to end the armed activities of the enemies of peace and progress. Throughout our reconciliation process, human rights, including the rights of women remain a high priority.

Secondly, outreach to the Afghan people is more than a communication strategy. Afghans from all segments of society should be more actively involved in the political arena, and play a role in promoting security, defense and development.  We must ensure an environment in which all Afghan people feel that they are the masters of their own destinies.  This will enable them to participate in the betterment of Afghan society.

Thirdly, regional cooperation is vital for peace and security in the country. In order to address terrorism, extremism, and narcotic drug production and trafficking, we must have meaningful cooperation and conduct sincere and effective dialogue with our neighbors. Ending sanctuaries where terrorists continue to receive training, financial, and logistical support in the region is a necessary element for eliminating terrorism.  Additionally, Afghanistan is firmly committed to enhancing economic cooperation in the region.  We recently signed several trade agreements, which seek to increase bilateral and multilateral trade and create opportunities for prosperity. Afghanistan is a connecting bridge between Central and South Asia and all could benefit from economic cooperation, trade, and investment.  This role can be enhanced within the new frameworks of regional cooperation based on mutual commitments made in various forms.

Mr. President,

Essential to our efforts is the continued support of our friends and allies.  We appreciate their commitments and sacrifices, despite the economic struggles of recent years.  We aim to work actively together to move beyond today’s military activities and share our energies for establishing stability and long-term cooperation.

While it is important to assess our efforts consistently, we must recognize the progress we have made and the need to allow time for transition to continue in the ripe moments for change.  The strength of our partnership with the international community is crucial for the stability of our people and the people of the world.

Mr. President,

The current resolution on the situation in Afghanistan is a reaffirmation of the commitment of the international community for the betterment of our country. We know all too well the seriousness of the challenges ahead, but with the strength from enduring and now overcoming decades of war and tragedies, and the sustained support of international partners, our nation can emerge, united for peace and prosperity. Our continued transition is not only about handing over leadership to the Afghan government, but also transforming our entire national landscape and culture from one afflicted with war to one that is graced with peace.

I thank you.

Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children

STATEMENT

BY

H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Third Committee

Of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

On Agenda  Item 64

“Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children”

New York

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, please allow me to thank the Secretary-General for his recent reports on the rights of children. I would like to further express my appreciation for the report of the

Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Violence Against Children.

Mr. Chairman,

In Afghan tradition, each child is considered to be a blessing. The government of

Afghanistan’s continued efforts to strengthen national policy to promote and protect the rights of children reflect the Afghan value of honouring our children, which is pitted in the very roots of our culture.

Sadly, we continue to face challenges to protecting the rights of Afghan children due to the grave impacts of thirty years of war, destruction and terrorism. Their lives are all too often defined by the ongoing violence and danger, which have been the backdrop of their entire existences. Not only have the children of Afghanistan endured the harsh physical effects of war such as serious injuries, disabilities, hunger, dehydration, lack of medical care, and devastatingly, even death; but they must face the detrimental psychological effects of growing up in wartime, which result from witnessing horrendous acts of violence, losing parents and loved ones, post-traumatic stress, and living in constant fear and poverty.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite all this, the resilience of the children of Afghanistan shines through. The children of our country yearn for their educations. Enrollment rates in schools have increased to 71% this year. Around 37% of the 7 million Afghan students are girls.  Merely ten years ago, under the Taliban, girls were not allowed to go to school and were forbidden from working. Today Afghan boys and girls have equal access to education. 4,500 new schools have been built in the past 8 years, over 22 million textbooks have been delivered, and the number of teachers has grown exponentially. We must continue our efforts to address the gender gap in literacy as well as in education in rural areas and in higher education, but it is certain that we have come a long way toward improving access and gender equality in education.

Afghanistan has made efforts to improve access to healthcare for its children. Basic healthcare in Afghanistan has increased from 9% coverage of the population in 2003 to nearly 90% this year. Polio has been nearly eradicated in Afghanistan, and our national immunization campaign is in full swing. Infant and under five mortality rates have improved significantly in the last year. However, we still have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and 50% of our children remain underweight and under-nourished. Going forward, we must take into account the link between women’s education, maternal health, and children’s health and mortality.

Mr. Chairman,

The issue of children’s rights and well-being are inextricably linked to security. The main challenge to upholding international standards of children’s rights in Afghanistan lies in the danger of those who do not recognize the importance of the rights of children. Hundreds of Afghan schools have been burned or destroyed by terrorist groups.  Disrupting access to schools has been a major element of Taliban strategy. Just a few months ago, deadly nerve gases were released in Afghan schools, poisoning hundreds of innocent students and teachers, and targeting girls.  We believe the Taliban are responsible for these horrendous attacks.  The Taliban’s targeting of young students as well as their use of children for suicide bombings and recruitment of children as listed in the report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict from 13 April 2010, reflects their disregard for international standards of children’s rights, and in fact the tradition of Afghan culture itself which recognizes the preciousness of each and every child’s life.

The government of Afghanistan will continue to assist the Secretary-General’s efforts to protect schools as zones of peace through monitoring and reporting mechanisms for these violations against children.

Mr. Chairman,

In a war-torn country like Afghanistan, a major impediment to protecting children’s rights is the challenge of enforcing rule of law. Issues such as fighting impunity and addressing grave acts of violence, or sexual abuse take time and need the support of the international community in order to maintain security in the country throughout the process.

The government of Afghanistan holds strong to its enduring commitment to protecting the rights of children under our constitution, and by international conventions and agreements to which we are a party, such as Security Council resolutions 1612 and 1882, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols.  We have supported the recent creation of monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and further support UNAMA’s addition of Child Protection Officers on staff, and the inclusion of child protection issues in the mandates of UNAMA and ISAF. We appreciate deeply the generous assistance we have received from the international community in supporting our relentless efforts to promote the protection of children’s rights and needs, as mapped out in our National Strategy on Children at Risk.

I am pleased to report that we have implemented a high-level Steering Committee of all relevant ministries and authorities of the government to interact with the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, to develop an action plan for effective and timely responses to problems faced by children in armed conflict. Furthermore, the government created a Commission to oversee the needs of children and juveniles, and we are currently working with civil society and religious leaders to address sexual violence, which is contrary to both national law and Islamic values.

Mr. Chairman,

The efforts we put forth toward helping children are an investment in the future of our countries and world.  Today, we reaffirm our commitment to creating an environment in which all children can move beyond the struggle to survive violence, overcome poverty, or fight for their health and educational opportunities, and can excel through realizing their human potential.

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 106: International Drug Control 65th General Assembly

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since its inception in 1997, the UNODC has played an instrumental role in leading the global fight against illicit drugs and international crime. For our part, Afghanistan values the indispensible role of UNODC in supporting our efforts to eliminate the threat of narcotic drugs and other forms of organized crime. This support has been provided in various areas, including capacity building of relevant law-enforcement institutions for effective border-control management, drug-demand-reduction and provision of alternative livelihoods.

Mr. Chairman,

Addressing the threat of narcotic drugs on the security and well-being of our society is among the top priorities of the Afghan government. Given its global and transnational character, defeating this menace will be possible only through a concerted international and regional effort.  The problem of narcotics is part of a complicated and sophisticated criminal network, from which the people of Afghanistan continue to suffer immensely on a daily basis.

Cognizant of this threat, the Afghan government has taken a number of steps at the national, regional, and international levels for addressing this scourge.  We are pleased to state that our efforts have yielded important results. With support and assistance from our international partners, we have succeeded in reducing poppy cultivation by 48% this year. We are pleased to see this reflected in UNODC’s 2010 Afghanistan Opium Survey. Additionally, through a comprehensive set of measures, which include strengthened law-enforcement, agricultural development, interdiction, alternative livelihoods, demand-reduction and public awareness, we have maintained twenty poppy-free provinces and are committed to increasing that figure by next year.

Meanwhile, it has become evident that a successful fight against narcotic drugs requires a comprehensive strategy with more focus on addressing the trafficking and consumption dimension of the narcotics problem. More needs to be done by transit and consuming countries to prevent trafficking of chemical precursors, and reduce demand in foreign markets. In this regard, we call for increased measures by member-states to implement Security Council resolution 1817 on combating deliveries of chemical precursors for drug production in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

The production of illicit drugs is linked to the continuation of terrorist and extremist activity in Afghanistan and our region. The proceeds from narcotic drugs continue to be used as a main source of terrorist funding.  Like terrorism, the narcotics problem is a threat to stability in our region and beyond. Therefore, given the interdependent link between terrorism and narcotics, these twin challenges must be addressed in tandem with one another .

Aside from security implications, narcotic drugs pose a serious threat to the social fabric of Afghan society. Drug abuse in Afghanistan has increased substantially over the past years.  Those affected include both youth and adults.  As indicated in last year’s ‘Drug Use in Afghanistan Survey,’ “[e]asy access to cheap drugs and limited access to drug treatment, combined with three decades of war-related trauma have resulted in problem drug-use among almost one-million Afghans, roughly 8% of the population between 15-64 years old.” Moreover, according to the survey, more than 90% of drug users are in dire need of treatment.  Currently, 40 structured drug-treatment centers are operational in 21 provinces. In this regard, we underscore the need for sustained international assistance in expanding quantity and quality of “drug-treatment centers” throughout the country.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan attaches special importance to effective regional cooperation for addressing the many challenges facing our region. These include terrorism, extremism, narcotic drugs, and organized crime. In this regard, we continue collaboration with regional countries for a viable solution to these problems. We are working to expand cooperation in various fields, including strengthening of relevant law-enforcement agencies, greater intelligence sharing on terrorist threats, and drawing effective mechanisms to curtail trafficking of chemical precursors and narcotic drugs. We continue to hold bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral consultations, and maintain our efforts through other mechanisms and forums, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and South-Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Moreover, in the context of more effective border management, we underscore the need to expedite the recruitment and training of Afghan security forces, including Afghan border and customs police to render a more effective role in preventing the infiltration into Afghan territory of all forms of illegal activity.

Mr. Chairman,

We are thankful to the international community, the UNODC in particular, for its continued support and commitment in addressing the challenges of security, narcotic drugs and organized crime, and achieving a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Together we have come a long way, but much remains to be accomplished.  We look forward to our continued partnership to finish the vision we began nine and a half-years ago.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.

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