Saturday, August 30, 2014

UN Security Council Addresses Children and Armed Conflict

On 12 July the UN Security Council convened an open debate on Children and Armed Conflict. Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon opened the meeting, followed by remarks by Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, and Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  The meeting was presided over by the Foreign Minister of Germany, H.E. Mr. Guido Westerwelle.

H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, contrasted ongoing improvements in the living conditions of children in Afghanistan with the alarming recent escalation in violence against civilians and children in particular. He pointed out that terrorist attacks indiscriminately targeting women and children, such as recent school and hospital bombings. Ambassador Tanin condemned such “deplorable” and “heinous” attacks, particularly those involving child suicide bombers.

“A child’s vulnerability, from knowing nothing outside of a war-torn existence, is not up for exploitation in war;” he stated, “a child’s innocence is not fair game for fighting strategy; and most importantly, a child’s body is not a weapon for war, by the standards of the constitution of Afghanistan or by international law.”

On the other hand, while many Afghan children are living in poverty, Ambassador Tanin explained, many more – especially girls – are going to school for the first time ever, and almost all have access to basic healthcare services.

Ambassador Tanin reiterated the Afghan Government’s commitment to protecting children through their National Action Plan and other measures. He went on to assert that children in Afghanistan need and deserve “an environment free of indiscriminate violence to pursue their full potentials,” and according to Ambassador Tanin, the Afghan Government and the international community are responsible for ensuring one.

Other speakers in the debate echoed this unwavering support for the protection of children’s lives and rights. These speakers included Foreign Minister of Columbia, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Minister of Justice of South Africa, and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Portugal. Other Council Members and Non-Council Members also expressed their concerns about children in armed conflict, violations of children’s rights, child soldiers, and attacks on schools and hospitals.

Security Council Debates Afghanistan with a Focus on Transition


On 6 July, the United Nations Security Council held a debate on the Situation in Afghanistan. The debate began with a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, was given the floor after the SRSG’s remarks.

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Both the SRSG and Ambassador Tanin focused on the “critical juncture,” as Ambassador Tanin put it, of transition to Afghan ownership and leadership of the country’s security. In this transition, according to Ambassador Tanin, continued international support and engagement beyond 2014 is crucial for the future stability of the country, in particular, a “lasting partnership with the UN.” The SRSG pointed out the need to focus beyond security for the transition period and address “social, economic and, frankly, human rights.”

Most participants in the meeting brought up the recent tragedies of the attacks on the hospital in Logar Province and the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Ambassador Tanin referred to the recent campaign as a display of  “promo-psychodrama…a conspicuously well-orchestrated attempt by the enemies of Afghanistan, designed to incite fear among people, to hinder the international support for Afghanistan, and to convince a war-weary audience in some countries that the war is unwinnable…However,” he said, “acts of terror will not shake our determination for securing peace and stability in Afghanistan.” The SRSG highlighted the effectiveness of the Afghan military and police in responding to these attacks, praising their strengthened capacity and improved abilities.

Both Ambassador Tanin and the SRSG emphasised the importance of ongoing reconciliation and reintegration efforts aimed at achieving a political solution to the conflict. In these efforts, the SRSG explained, UNAMA is functioning as a confidence-builder, as substantive discussion on these matters is the purview of the Afghan government. In this regard, he praised the Security Council’s ongoing de-listing of ex-Taliban militants from sanctions lists as a move in the right direction.

In addition, the SRSG praised progress on bilateral, multilateral and regional cooperation, as well as improvements in the human rights, including women’s rights and the protection of children – though both the SRSG and Ambassador Tanin noted that civilian casualties from Taliban action continue to increase.

The other delegates of the Security Council, along with representatives from the EU, Japan, Pakistan, Canada and Turkey, expressed concern over recent escalations in the level of civilian casualties, and unanimously condemned violence against UN personnel. Nevertheless, they also reaffirmed their faith in the Afghan parliamentary process and pledged continued support of an Afghan-led reconciliation effort.

Photos of the Meeting by U.N.

Video of the meeting by U.N

United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process in Brussels

On 28-29 June, the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process was held in Brussels, under the auspices of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP). Ambassador Zahir Tanin attended the conference as Vice-Chair of the Committee.

The meetings focused on the role of Europe in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The opening session set the tone, with statements from H.E. Mr. Michael Goffin, Representative of the host nation Belgium, and others calling for a rapid and lasting resolution to the conflict. CEIRPP Chairman H.E. Mr. Abdou Salam Diallo reiterated this need, emphasising the importance of the European voice in the work of the diplomatic Quartet.

Ambassador Tanin chaired the second plenary session, on “The urgency of realising a two-State solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the resumption of direct negotiations or multilateral mechanisms. Other plenary sessions examined the last twenty years of European involvement in the process, from the Madrid conference to the Oslo peace accords, as well as the European Union’s continuing role in the future of the peace process. The Committee is also holding meetings with Mr. Prosinias de Rossa, Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the PLC, Maghreb and Mashreq countries, as well as other MEPs.

In addition to CEIRPP representatives, speakers included political and academic representatives from Israel, Palestine, the European Parliament and elsewhere. The Meeting was closed on 29 June by H.E. Mr. Saviour F. Borg, Rapporteur of CEIRPP, H.E. Mr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., and Chairman H.E. Mr. Abdou Salam Diallo.