Saturday, November 1, 2014

CLOSING SESSION Statement by H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin Head of the Delegation Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Excellencies,

Distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process is drawing to a close. On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I would like to thank all participants for their contribution to the successful holding of this Meeting. I would like to once again register our sincere appreciation to the Government of Turkey for hosting this timely and important event and for the generous hospitality extended to all of us. The Committee looks forward to continuing and expanding this excellent cooperation we have with Turkey towards the common goal of finding a solution to the question of Palestine.

The Committee has convened this Meeting to garner support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Our special thanks go to the distinguished speakers for sharing with us their valuable insights and expertise. We know that there are still large obstacles lying ahead in the peace process. We clearly know what those hurdles are. We know that crucial provisions of international law and United Nations resolutions are not being upheld. We are all actually aware of what needs to be done to bring peace, as articulately described in the concluding document just presented. Some of the issues we have discussed during the past two days are extremely sensitive, politically and emotionally, but none of them can be neglected and excluded from the permanent status negotiations if a lasting peace is to be achieved.

The international community has legal and moral responsibilities to restore the long-lost justice. The Committee reiterates that the root cause of the conflict is the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territory, which has lasted for more than four decades. Palestinians have suffered for far too long. Years of occupation have also affected the lives of Israelis. This unacceptable situation must be urgently redressed to allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security.

As I said in my opening statement, what is more important than the deliberations is to translate all the ideas and suggestions into reality. Our Committee will always be at your disposal for this endeavour. The Committee will continue to work to raise awareness of the question of Palestine based on the mandate given by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I would like to announce that our next meeting will be the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine, which will be held in Rabat, Morocco on 1 and 2 July. Invitations are currently being sent out.

I would like to inform you that related documents and all other information about this Meeting will be available on the “Question of Palestine” website maintained by the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat. A list with the respective links has been distributed by the Secretariat. I would also like to invite you to visit the new Facebook page that the Division has recently launched, which will help you keep updated on all of our activities.

Before concluding, I would like to express our Committee’s sincere appreciation to the staff of the United Nations Secretariat , the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Conference Services team coming from Vienna, all interpreters, the press officer, the staff of the Sheraton Hotel, and staff of the Intra servicing company. The successful holding of the Meeting would have been impossible without their professional assistance.

Thank you all once again.

Ambassador Tanin Delivers Keynote at Global Governance Seminar in Brazil

H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, arrived in Brazil yesterday at the invitation of the Brazilian Government to attend a one-day seminar titled “Turning Point: Emerging Structures of Global Governance” to be held on Thursday, 22 April, 2010. The seminar’s purpose was to highlight the increasing interdependence of the world and the need for global governance, explore the current global governance mechanisms and identify possible areas for future improvement. The Concept Note for the seminar, circulated by the Government of Brazil, suggested that the period between the global financial crisis in September of 2008 and the difficult climate change talks in Copenhagen in December of 2009 represented a turning point for global governance, and prompted a widespread recognition that the old structures were no longer adequate to the need. Invitees to the conference included academics, politicians and diplomats.

Ambassador Tanin was asked to deliver the keynote address during the seminar’s working lunch, where he began with a brief overview of recent trends in global governance, the founding of the United Nations, and the attempts of the last few decades to reform the Security Council. He highlighted the unique legitimacy and legality of the United Nations as a body of global governance and argued for the necessity of reforming the UN, and the UN Security Council in particular, rather than turning to less inclusive forums. The Security Council, as the only global body dedicated to the maintenance of peace and security, and the only body whose decisions are binding on all 192 Member States of the UN, is unlike any other international body. He concluded by saying, “…If the last decade has taught us anything it is that the perceived legitimacy of power is now nearly as important as the power itself. In the sphere of international peace and security, the Security Council remains the only source of that legitimacy. This must be preserved, or we risk returning to the law of the jungle.” Ambassador Tanin’s statement was followed by an extensive debate.

Ambassador Tanin will return to New York on Saturday, 24 April.

Speech

Keynote address of H.E. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan

To the United Nations

At the Seminar “Turning Point: Emerging Systems for Global Governance”

22 April 2010

Brasilia, Brazil

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today. I want to thank the Government of Brazil for extending me the invitation to participate in this seminar. In particular, I would like to thank Minister Amorim, Minister Guimarães, Professor Garcia, and Mr. Rothkopf for their thought-provoking comments this morning. On a personal note, it is a great moment to be in Brazil, because later this year Afghanistan will open its first embassy here, and I look forward to a bright future of close relations between our two countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

No nation chooses to put national interest second to the good of all. This is not a criticism; to the contrary, when governments do their jobs properly, they fight, above all else, for the wellbeing of their people. But it creates a central paradox in international relations. Though we all recognize the necessity of international agreements governing the global sphere, these agreements are at the mercy of national interests which are concerned more with local needs than with international stability.

This paradox means that global governance mechanisms are frequently toothless and devoid of enforcement measures, both practically and legally. Even when the agreements are widely seen to be necessary, self-interest and domestic political pressures frequently prove stronger than the perceived benefit of an agreement. Peoples are particularly reluctant to sacrifice visible comfort or convenience without equally visible returns. As a result, we often find ourselves caught up in empty rhetoric and unable to encourage tangible cooperation. Even when a political agreement can be found, the resulting decisions may be bluntly ignored by states at little cost when compliance is inconvenient.

However, to paraphrase the French scientist Blaise Pascal, if justice without force is powerless, force without justice is tyrannical.

International politics have always been governed by the law of the jungle: rule by the strongest. But none of us would be here if we didn’t also recognize that our self-interest can no longer be divorced from the interests of our fellow nations. Despite the difficulty in forging or enforcing agreements, the alternative would be unilateral action on the part of powerful states, enforcing their decrees by military or political force. Even those who have such power now recognize that this would be an unsustainable option. The world is far too interconnected for one state, no matter how powerful, to act alone without far-reaching repercussions. Frustrations, the difficulties and the inefficiency notwithstanding, global agreements have become necessary for the smooth functioning of the international system.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Recognition of the need for global cooperation is by no means unprecedented. It was precisely this recognition that underpinned the establishment of the United Nations after the Second World War. When fifty nations gathered in San Francisco in 1945, it was to address the growing interdependence of the world and the mutual responsibilities of nations to their people and to each other.  Together, they built an Organization that aimed to prevent conflict and to inspire mutual trust and respect among nations and between peoples.

Of course, the world has continued to evolve since 1945. Decolonization and self-determination have created a new map, shaped by imperialism and the fight against it. A global economy now binds us even more closely together, developed and developing worlds alike. Conflict and instability no longer recognize national boundaries but affect entire regions and can span the globe. Non-state actors and regional organizations play a large and growing role in both the political and economic spheres.  The hierarchy of power that bound the world together in 1945 has changed dramatically, with new powers rising and old powers finding new ways to engage with one another.

As the world has changed, the landscape of global governance structures has changed as well. Formal institutions like the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions, created in the middle of the 20th century, have been joined by the WTO, the ICC and other organizations with more specific spheres of influence. Dozens of regional and trans-regional organizations address a range of issues from security to economic cooperation. Lobbying and voting blocs like NAM and the G77 represent particular global interest groups. In addition, new, more informal and thus more flexible decision-making groups have evolved to address targeted issues where no formal decision-making bodies exist. The G7/8 and G20 are perhaps the best examples of these.

Despite this proliferation of global governance mechanisms, the United Nations is still the only international body that can claim to represent all nations on earth; that aspires to grant each nation equal voice and equal sovereignty. Member States, in ratifying the Charter, commit themselves to respect the rule of law and the sovereignty of their fellow nations. The Organization as a whole enjoys a legitimacy unparalleled in the international arena. And the Security Council, as the organ responsible for the maintenance of international security, is the only such body whose decisions have full force of law over Member States.

Today we are entering a new era in global governance. Recent events, including the global financial crisis, have made our need for collective governance even more painfully clear. At the same time, recent setbacks such as the stalling of the Doha trade round and the difficult climate change talks in Copenhagen have also highlighted the challenges we face in finding innovative ways to inspire and encourage cooperation.

The United Nations has struggled to adapt to these new realities. The very solidity and legitimacy of its foundation makes it resistant to change, and the breadth and scope of its activities means that any reform has far-reaching consequences. And yet, despite the institutional inertia, reform efforts have begun. UN processes aimed at revitalizing and empowering the General Assembly, reforming the Secretariat, encouraging system-wide coherence and institutional efficiency, and reviewing and reforming peacekeeping operations, have been ongoing for years and have seen some modest success. New bodies like the Peacebuilding Commission and the new Human Rights Council have been created in the past years and are now entering their first review phase. Discussions on UN-led environmental governance efforts are ongoing. But perhaps most important, and most complex, are efforts to reform the United Nations Security Council.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Efforts to reform the UN Security Council began almost as soon as the Charter was signed. In 1965, the eleven-member Council was expanded to the current fifteen to account for the growing membership of the UN. Since then, the composition of the Council has not changed: we have five permanent members, whose concurring vote is needed for all Security Council resolutions, as well as for Charter amendments, and ten non-permanent members selected from the five regional groups, who are elected for two-year terms.

In the early 1990s, as new economic and political powers emerged, efforts to further reform the Council began with the creation of an Open-Ended Working Group to explore the issue.  Two major drives for reform have occurred since then: the first, in 1997, when the facilitator of the group proposed a possible three-stage solution; the second in 2005, when Secretary-General Kofi Annan undertook a comprehensive review of the UN system with a view to promoting ambitious and sweeping reforms, including reform of the Security Council. Both efforts failed. In between, the Open-Ended Working Group oversaw years of endless discussions.

Our current reform attempt, which was mandated by a decision taken in September of 2008, tries a new approach: intergovernmental negotiations. These negotiations represent a long-needed break with the repetitive OEWG and the best opportunity for real reform that we have seen in decades. As the Chair of this process, I would like to take this opportunity to look at the efforts to reform the Security Council, and the attitudes of Member States towards this reform, in the context of our larger debate about global governance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The need for reform of the Security Council is universally agreed upon, though the principles and details of reform are the subject of intense debate. Some feel that the current structure’s lack of representivity is a real threat to its legitimacy, while others feel that the long-term legitimacy of the Council is guaranteed by the UN Charter. Some feel that the decision-making process, even more than the membership of the Council, lacks transparency and effectiveness. Others are concerned that the Security Council supports a power structure that is no longer reflective of current geopolitical realities. Though the proposed reform options vary widely, there is a large and increasingly vocal majority who feel that the continued effectiveness of the Council is threatened by its current composition.

Perhaps as a result, Member States are now increasingly demonstrating an intense engagement in the process. Since the beginning of these intergovernmental negotiations last February, the Member States have gone through four rounds of negotiations, looking at each of the five key issues of reform both separately and together – categories, veto, regional representation, size and working methods, and relationship between the Security Council and the GA. In this time Member States have shown the desire to push for a real reform.

As I stand here today, we are reaching an historic moment in these negotiations. The fifth round, which will begin shortly, will be based on a negotiation text that reflects the positions and proposals of Member States. Member States all agreed on the need for a text and all expressed readiness to engage in this process. What remains to be seen is whether the membership has the political will, and the flexibility, to rise above their immediate national concerns to recognize the long-term consequences of failure. A solution is both possible and necessary, both for the strength of the United Nations as an institution and for the continued viability of our current system of global governance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Security Council is unique among global governance mechanisms. As a body mandated to make legally binding decisions, the Security Council both directly and indirectly affects the national interests of all 192 UN Member States. As the only international body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council deals with the most intractable and contentious issues in the world. It is crucial that Member States feel a stake in the Council’s decisions and that these decisions are widely, if not universally, implemented.

The Security Council must be reformed. No other body has the legal standing to tackle the most difficult issues of the day, and no other body has enough legitimacy to demand that its decisions are implemented. If we are unable to achieve this reform, we run the risk that some will turn to other less inclusive mechanisms to preserve peace and stability in the world, sidestepping the rule of law and the principles of fairness and sovereign equality of nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

None of us are naïve enough to believe that relative power has become irrelevant in international relations. Lack of coercive enforcement mechanisms can mean that international agreements reinforce the political weight of strong nations, who are able to enforce their decisions through bilateral or multilateral political pressure. This will not change in the near future. But if the last decade has taught us anything it is that the perceived legitimacy of power is now nearly as important as the power itself. In the sphere of international peace and security, the Security Council remains the only source of that legitimacy. This must be preserved, or we risk returning to the law of the jungle.

Thank you.

Keynote address of H.E. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan

To the United Nations

At the Seminar “Turning Point: Emerging Systems for Global Governance”

22 April 2010

Brasilia, Brazil

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today. I want to thank the Government of Brazil for extending me the invitation to participate in this seminar. In particular, I would like to thank Minister Amorim, Minister Guimarães, Professor Garcia, and Mr. Rothkopf for their thought-provoking comments this morning. On a personal note, it is a great moment to be in Brazil, because later this year Afghanistan will open its first embassy here, and I look forward to a bright future of close relations between our two countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

No nation chooses to put national interest second to the good of all. This is not a criticism; to the contrary, when governments do their jobs properly, they fight, above all else, for the wellbeing of their people. But it creates a central paradox in international relations. Though we all recognize the necessity of international agreements governing the global sphere, these agreements are at the mercy of national interests which are concerned more with local needs than with international stability.

This paradox means that global governance mechanisms are frequently toothless and devoid of enforcement measures, both practically and legally. Even when the agreements are widely seen to be necessary, self-interest and domestic political pressures frequently prove stronger than the perceived benefit of an agreement. Peoples are particularly reluctant to sacrifice visible comfort or convenience without equally visible returns. As a result, we often find ourselves caught up in empty rhetoric and unable to encourage tangible cooperation. Even when a political agreement can be found, the resulting decisions may be bluntly ignored by states at little cost when compliance is inconvenient.

However, to paraphrase the French scientist Blaise Pascal, if justice without force is powerless, force without justice is tyrannical.

International politics have always been governed by the law of the jungle: rule by the strongest. But none of us would be here if we didn’t also recognize that our self-interest can no longer be divorced from the interests of our fellow nations. Despite the difficulty in forging or enforcing agreements, the alternative would be unilateral action on the part of powerful states, enforcing their decrees by military or political force. Even those who have such power now recognize that this would be an unsustainable option. The world is far too interconnected for one state, no matter how powerful, to act alone without far-reaching repercussions. Frustrations, the difficulties and the inefficiency notwithstanding, global agreements have become necessary for the smooth functioning of the international system.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Recognition of the need for global cooperation is by no means unprecedented. It was precisely this recognition that underpinned the establishment of the United Nations after the Second World War. When fifty nations gathered in San Francisco in 1945, it was to address the growing interdependence of the world and the mutual responsibilities of nations to their people and to each other. Together, they built an Organization that aimed to prevent conflict and to inspire mutual trust and respect among nations and between peoples.

Of course, the world has continued to evolve since 1945. Decolonization and self-determination have created a new map, shaped by imperialism and the fight against it. A global economy now binds us even more closely together, developed and developing worlds alike. Conflict and instability no longer recognize national boundaries but affect entire regions and can span the globe. Non-state actors and regional organizations play a large and growing role in both the political and economic spheres. The hierarchy of power that bound the world together in 1945 has changed dramatically, with new powers rising and old powers finding new ways to engage with one another.

As the world has changed, the landscape of global governance structures has changed as well. Formal institutions like the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions, created in the middle of the 20th century, have been joined by the WTO, the ICC and other organizations with more specific spheres of influence. Dozens of regional and trans-regional organizations address a range of issues from security to economic cooperation. Lobbying and voting blocs like NAM and the G77 represent particular global interest groups. In addition, new, more informal and thus more flexible decision-making groups have evolved to address targeted issues where no formal decision-making bodies exist. The G7/8 and G20 are perhaps the best examples of these.

Despite this proliferation of global governance mechanisms, the United Nations is still the only international body that can claim to represent all nations on earth; that aspires to grant each nation equal voice and equal sovereignty. Member States, in ratifying the Charter, commit themselves to respect the rule of law and the sovereignty of their fellow nations. The Organization as a whole enjoys a legitimacy unparalleled in the international arena. And the Security Council, as the organ responsible for the maintenance of international security, is the only such body whose decisions have full force of law over Member States.

Today we are entering a new era in global governance. Recent events, including the global financial crisis, have made our need for collective governance even more painfully clear. At the same time, recent setbacks such as the stalling of the Doha trade round and the difficult climate change talks in Copenhagen have also highlighted the challenges we face in finding innovative ways to inspire and encourage cooperation.

The United Nations has struggled to adapt to these new realities. The very solidity and legitimacy of its foundation makes it resistant to change, and the breadth and scope of its activities means that any reform has far-reaching consequences. And yet, despite the institutional inertia, reform efforts have begun. UN processes aimed at revitalizing and empowering the General Assembly, reforming the Secretariat, encouraging system-wide coherence and institutional efficiency, and reviewing and reforming peacekeeping operations, have been ongoing for years and have seen some modest success. New bodies like the Peacebuilding Commission and the new Human Rights Council have been created in the past years and are now entering their first review phase. Discussions on UN-led environmental governance efforts are ongoing. But perhaps most important, and most complex, are efforts to reform the United Nations Security Council.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Efforts to reform the UN Security Council began almost as soon as the Charter was signed. In 1965, the eleven-member Council was expanded to the current fifteen to account for the growing membership of the UN. Since then, the composition of the Council has not changed: we have five permanent members, whose concurring vote is needed for all Security Council resolutions, as well as for Charter amendments, and ten non-permanent members selected from the five regional groups, who are elected for two-year terms.

In the early 1990s, as new economic and political powers emerged, efforts to further reform the Council began with the creation of an Open-Ended Working Group to explore the issue. Two major drives for reform have occurred since then: the first, in 1997, when the facilitator of the group proposed a possible three-stage solution; the second in 2005, when Secretary-General Kofi Annan undertook a comprehensive review of the UN system with a view to promoting ambitious and sweeping reforms, including reform of the Security Council. Both efforts failed. In between, the Open-Ended Working Group oversaw years of endless discussions.

Our current reform attempt, which was mandated by a decision taken in September of 2008, tries a new approach: intergovernmental negotiations. These negotiations represent a long-needed break with the repetitive OEWG and the best opportunity for real reform that we have seen in decades. As the Chair of this process, I would like to take this opportunity to look at the efforts to reform the Security Council, and the attitudes of Member States towards this reform, in the context of our larger debate about global governance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The need for reform of the Security Council is universally agreed upon, though the principles and details of reform are the subject of intense debate. Some feel that the current structure’s lack of representivity is a real threat to its legitimacy, while others feel that the long-term legitimacy of the Council is guaranteed by the UN Charter. Some feel that the decision-making process, even more than the membership of the Council, lacks transparency and effectiveness. Others are concerned that the Security Council supports a power structure that is no longer reflective of current geopolitical realities. Though the proposed reform options vary widely, there is a large and increasingly vocal majority who feel that the continued effectiveness of the Council is threatened by its current composition.

Perhaps as a result, Member States are now increasingly demonstrating an intense engagement in the process. Since the beginning of these intergovernmental negotiations last February, the Member States have gone through four rounds of negotiations, looking at each of the five key issues of reform both separately and together – categories, veto, regional representation, size and working methods, and relationship between the Security Council and the GA. In this time Member States have shown the desire to push for a real reform.

As I stand here today, we are reaching an historic moment in these negotiations. The fifth round, which will begin shortly, will be based on a negotiation text that reflects the positions and proposals of Member States. Member States all agreed on the need for a text and all expressed readiness to engage in this process. What remains to be seen is whether the membership has the political will, and the flexibility, to rise above their immediate national concerns to recognize the long-term consequences of failure. A solution is both possible and necessary, both for the strength of the United Nations as an institution and for the continued viability of our current system of global governance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Security Council is unique among global governance mechanisms. As a body mandated to make legally binding decisions, the Security Council both directly and indirectly affects the national interests of all 192 UN Member States. As the only international body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council deals with the most intractable and contentious issues in the world. It is crucial that Member States feel a stake in the Council’s decisions and that these decisions are widely, if not universally, implemented.

The Security Council must be reformed. No other body has the legal standing to tackle the most difficult issues of the day, and no other body has enough legitimacy to demand that its decisions are implemented. If we are unable to achieve this reform, we run the risk that some will turn to other less inclusive mechanisms to preserve peace and stability in the world, sidestepping the rule of law and the principles of fairness and sovereign equality of nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

None of us are naïve enough to believe that relative power has become irrelevant in international relations. Lack of coercive enforcement mechanisms can mean that international agreements reinforce the political weight of strong nations, who are able to enforce their decisions through bilateral or multilateral political pressure. This will not change in the near future. But if the last decade has taught us anything it is that the perceived legitimacy of power is now nearly as important as the power itself. In the sphere of international peace and security, the Security Council remains the only source of that legitimacy. This must be preserved, or we risk returning to the law of the jungle.

Thank you.

commemorative meeting of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Women

Statement by HE Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

Chairman of Asian Group for the month of March

on behalf of Asian Group

to the commemorative meeting of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Women

Mr. President,

First and foremost, on behalf of the Asian group, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to Chile. We wish the Chilean people a speedy recovery and we admire their strength during these tragic times.

Mr. President,

On behalf of Asian Group, it is an honor for me to address this historic gathering commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration.

In September 1995 we gathered in Beijing for the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on women. Today, fifteen years later, we come together again to commemorate the occasion, acknowledge progress made and challenges ahead, and pay tribute to the ideals embodied in the Beijing Platform of Action. In Beijing we unequivocally declared our shared determination to advance the goals of equality, development, and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity; we recognized the persistent inequalities between men and women and the repercussions they have on societies; and we acknowledged that the situation is exacerbated by the abject poverty that affects the lives of many of the worlds people, in particular woman and children. We concluded by dedicating ourselves to addressing these constraints and obstacles, and, perhaps more importantly, we recognized the urgency of this endeavor and the need for collective determination and cooperation for the tasks ahead.

In assessing our progress in implementing the commitments we made to the world’s women in Beijing, we realize much progress has been made, but considerable obstacles remain that hobble and dehumanize women throughout the world.

Women’s rights are progressive and evolving. Since the Beijing conference men and women throughout the world have become ever more aware of the inequities that women endure, and they have spoken up to demand change. It is that demand that has brought about the improving recognition of women’s rights in each country’s legal system and here at the United Nations.

Furthermore, the Beijing Conference cemented the notion that it is unacceptable to differentiate women’s rights from human rights. But still in many countries around the world women are not safe from the threats of domestic violence, continued discrimination, and wide-ranging socio-economic barriers. We must continue our efforts toward the implementation of Beijing Declaration.

But progress has been made through a concerted effort of the international community, national governments, and in part through the action of women and girls themselves. According to the World Bank, women in South Asia now live longer than men for the first time. This improvement in women’s longevity is an indicator of better treatment of women and girls and a valued outcome identified in the Beijing Platform for Action. In addition, high economic growth has led to significant reduction in gender gaps in the labor markets of Asian and Pacific nations.

In the political realm, Asia, where, according to the World Bank, women political leaders are more prevalent than anywhere else, has certainly made progress through the introduction of quota systems to increase women’s representation in political governance structures. For example, in Afghanistan where the misogynistic Taliban once ruled and women were deprived of their very basic human rights, now constitutional law stipulates that 27% of all seats in parliament must be filled by women.

Undoubtedly, because of our actions over the past three decades, women’s issues have gained prominence on the international and national development agendas. Attention has gone not only to the plight of poor and disenfranchised women in developing countries, but also to the unfinished gender agenda in more developed countries, such as addressing women’s representation in higher-paying jobs and management positions and reducing the prevalence of gender-based violence.

We gather here today to commemorate this special occasion, to celebrate a cause, to celebrate progress, but more importantly to realize that our job is not finished – to realize that there are remaining and arising new challenges. We have come a long way since the conference in Beijing; we shall be ruthlessly unyielding in our pursuit to ensure that our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, are treated with equality, respect, and dignity.

I thank you, Mr. President.