Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN

At the Security Council

Open debate

On the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

At the outset, let me congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of this Council for the month of November. I would also like to thank you for convening and chairing this meeting. In particular, I would like to thank Foreign Minister Spindelegger, for making this issue such a priority and for his presence here today. I would also like to thank His Excellency the Secretary-General and Under Secretary-General Mr. Holmes for their statements.

Mr. President,

This week Europe and America remember the ends of two World Wars, which were international conflicts conducted between states and empires. Since then, the nature of conflict has evolved. Where sixty years ago state actors were the central players in international war, today asymmetric warfare with non-state actors is increasingly common.

Now, children walk into markets with bombs strapped to their chests. Girls become targets just for trying to go to school. Aid workers are threatened specifically because they do so much good. The protection of civilians is an issue of growing importance for us all.

Mr. President,

The Geneva Conventions, signed sixty years ago, remain central to our understanding of our responsibilities in conflict, but in Afghanistan, our enemies do not respect even these most basic rules of war. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups show complete disregard for human life. More, they deliberately target anyone, civilian or military, who does not embrace their extremist philosophy. They target those with no conceivable military connection: teachers, healthcare workers, students on the way to school. It is estimated that more than five thousand people were killed, injured or kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2008 alone as a result of terrorist activity.

These groups cannot hope to defeat the world’s greatest armies with their military strength. Rather, their strength lies in their brutality and viciousness, which they use  to lend an atmosphere of control and inevitability to their fight. The Taliban will never be able to provide security, governance or development. Their goal is not to build an alternative state; their goal is to prevent any state from being built.

Mr. President,

Civilian casualties, in this fight, are both a human and a political tragedy.

The human tragedy is obvious.

From January to August 2009, UNAMA recorded 1500 civilians deaths in Afghanistan, an increase of 24% over the same period in 2008. 68% of these attacks can be attributed to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. This percentage has been increasing steadily as the terrorists rely increasingly on bombs and indiscriminate attacks. And although the proportion of deaths attributed to the international and to some extent Afghan military forces has decreased over previous years, they still account for 23% of civilian deaths. 300 died as a result of airstrikes.

Mr. President,

The political cost is more subtle, though equally damaging.

The Taliban’s main tactic is to encourage the alienation of the international community from the Afghan people. The people of Afghanistan know from past experience exactly how brutal and repressive the Taliban are, and show consistent resistance to them.  However, they have higher expectations from the international community.

Afghans want to see their government and our international partners be their protectors. When we fail to protect and respect the Afghans, the Taliban and their allies use the people’s disappointed expectations to strain the partnerships that are so central to this fight, and damage our ability to earn the trust and engagement we need to succeed.

Mr. President,

Concern for the lives of civilians is therefore not only an important moral and humanitarian issue. It is also crucial to our political, military and economic goals in Afghanistan, and the region.

We should adopt a strategy that values the protection of people, respects their lives, rights and property, and enables positive and constructive interactions with local communities. We fully support the new NATO strategy which emphasizes the protection of civilians and introduces important follow-up mechanisms to ensure accountability. We appreciate the increased sensitivity that has been shown in response to concerns about the conduct of searches and arrests. And we support other strategic changes that have been proposed to improve the protection of civilians.

Further, we stress the need for increased emphasis on training the Afghan National Security Forces. Afghans are eager to take increasing responsibility for the security of their country and the protection of their people. Unfortunately, lack of capacity and resources continues to hobble our progress, and we hope to address this with the international community in the coming years.

Mr. President,

We appreciate the steadfast condemnation voiced by the Security Council in response to terrorist attacks across the world, and in particular your strong and unwavering support for UNAMA following the appalling attacks in Kabul on the 28th of October. Groups that deliberately target civilian populations should continue to be strongly condemned in these halls, and their unwillingness to obey even the most basic rules of combat should strip them of any legitimacy in our eyes.

Mr. President,

The blood of Afghans has been continuously spilled amidst thirty years of local, regional, and global power struggles. In 2001, we undertook to rebuild this shattered country and ensure that it could never again be used as a launch-pad for regional or international terror. As I mentioned Monday in the General Assembly, eight years ago we were debating how to build what did not exist; today we are debating how to take what we have built and make it better. This is a substantial achievement. Nevertheless, violence still threatens the lives of Afghan civilians. International military forces should take all necessary measures to ensure protection of civilians. And we have a shared responsibility to condemn with the utmost severity any attacks by the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their allies that target civilians or result in civilian death. We must enforce the rules of war that bind us all, and make it clear to our enemies that targeting civilians will only alienate them further from the international community and from the populations they seek to control.

I thank you, Mr. President.

Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects

Statement by, Mr. M. Wali Naeemi, Minister Counsellor
Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations
On Agenda item 33: comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects
Delivered before the 4th Committee

On Behalf of H. E. Zahir Tanin

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,
I have the honor of delivering the statement on behalf of Afghanistan during this comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations. We associate ourselves with the statements delivered by the distinguished representative of Morocco on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
At the outset my delegation would like to extend our thanks to you and to the members of the bureau and reiterate our ongoing support for your work.
My delegation particularly thanks Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Mr. Alan Le Roy and Under Sectary General for Field Support Ms. Susana Malacora for their compressive statements made on Oct 23rd on this item. We believe that in order to achieve our goals and targets, and to present effective responses to our present challenges, it is necessary in particular to enhance coordination and interaction between stakeholders.
We share the feeling in this room today that 2010 will be a crucial year for UN peacekeepers, particularly in fighting against terrorists, suicide bombers and other criminals. In addition, we reiterate the concerns raised by distinguished delegates during our debate about the importance of protecting civilians and ensuring safety and security for peacekeepers in the increasingly dangerous circumstances we send them into.

Mr. Chairman,
Afghanistan is part of a growing number of hybrid missions worldwide, with DPKO-supported UNAMA dealing with political conciliation and humanitarian efforts, and a parallel military force, ISAF, led by NATO and mandated by the Security Council, overseeing traditional peacekeeping functions and a wider stabilization and reconstruction mandate. The current forces, numbering more than 71,000, include troops from 43 nations, including the 26 NATO member states. The primary responsibility of ISAF, as mandated under chapter VIII of the UN Charter, is to enforce peace throughout the country. In parallel, UNAMA, directed by DPKO, has two primary responsibilities: development/humanitarian issues and political affairs. With a presence in much of the country, UNAMA has been instrumental in monitoring human rights issues, strengthening good governance and the rule of law, assisting local institutions, and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. Such a broad and all encompassing Mission could only be carried out with the assistance and consistent support of the United Nations, in particular DPKO. These unconventional peace operations in Afghanistan have allowed the international community more flexibility in responding to the interlinking challenges of security, governance, development, humanitarian issues, and counternarcotics.

Mr. Chairman,
Peacekeeping is not only vital for international stability but also for regional and national stability, particularly in post conflict countries such as Afghanistan, where peacekeeping can provide support and space for necessary reconstruction efforts. For almost three decades the UN has been promoting peace, stability, and amity in Central Asia. Today, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) the UN, in conjunction with ISAF forces, is actively engaged in stabilizing Afghanistan and fostering sustainable political and economic conditions. Though the situation on the ground presents substantial challenges, tremendous progress has been made by the government and National Security Forces with the support of ISAF and UNAMA. As a result of improved security and governance, 6 million children attended school last year, and studies show that women, who were once banned from public life, came back into the public sphere to play a vital role in rebuilding Afghanistan. In addition, civil and social infrastructure has expanded, and 85% of Afghans now have access to basic healthcare. There are crucial, tangible benefits to our common work, and I thank the United Nations for renewing and supporting UNAMA’s mandate and continuing to support Afghanistan’s journey towards peace and prosperity.
Afghanistan applauds the work the DPKO is doing through UNAMA and supports its continued success.

Mr. Chairman,
The government and the people of Afghanistan express their sincere appreciation to the people and governments of troop contributing countries and those who provide necessary resources and technical support to UNAMA and other UN bodies in Afghanistan. Afghanistan appreciates the role that DPKO and UNAMA play in Afghanistan and fully recognize the grave sacrifices it has suffered. The Government of Afghanistan will do everything in its power to protect those who come to our country to help in reconstruction efforts. In particular, we offer our sincere condolences to the coworkers and families of all those who lost their lives in the attacks in Kabul on Wednesday. We recognize the grave risk undertaken by both civilian and military personnel in difficult security situations, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is our duty here to ensure that their operations are organized and carried out in a way that supports their mandate while minimizing their risk.

Agriculture development and food security

Statement delivered by, Mr. Enayet Madani, Counsellor

At the Second Committee

Debate on Agenda Item 60: Agriculture development and food security
on behalf of H.E. Zahir Tanin


Mr. Chairman,

I would first like to thank you for convening this meeting, and align myself with the statement delivered by distinguished delegate of Sudan on behalf of the G77 and China my delegation as well voice a support for the statement delivered by distinguished representative of Nepal on behalf of LDCs I take this opportunity to thank the UN secretary General for his report on agriculture development and food security. I would also like to thank the UN system, and particularly the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization for their continued aid and support to Afghanistan. We also appreciate their efforts in research and development, as well as technical assistance on global agriculture and food security.

We welcome the recent L’Aquila Initiative on Global Food Security which both prioritizes the urgency of addressing food security, agriculture, and food price trends in developing countries, such as Afghanistan, and acknowledges the importance of continued financial and technical assistance. We recognize and are thankful to those who have taken the lead to keep food security challenges at the top of the global agenda.

Afghanistan once had a very abundant and robust agricultural economy and was a self-sufficient producer of wheat, fruits, nuts, barley, sugarcane, and wool, before conflict engulfed the country. Today, our agricultural productivity has significantly declined, necessary physical infrastructure has been destroyed, and droughts and price fluctuations have created food shortages and left millions of Afghans starving. It is of the utmost importance that we restore our agricultural sector to what is once was, while also ensuring its sustainability by adapting to new environmental and political circumstances.

Although only 12% of Afghanistan’s land is fertile for agriculture, eighty percent of our country’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on sustenance farming for survival and livelihood. Furthermore, agriculture accounts for half of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product and thus is closely linked to our economic growth. However, war has left much of our population, particularly farmers, dependent on international assistance. Thus, it is vital to continue humanitarian assistance and create food safety nets for those most vulnerable, while at the same time re-structuring and investing in our agricultural sector so self-sufficiency can be achieved.

Mr. Chairman

In the past few years, we have experienced some of the worst droughts in Afghanistan’s history. In 2008 and 2009, droughts led to a 60% reduction in wheat production from the previous year. Increasing water scarcity affects both rain-fed and irrigated lands. While 40% of the sector has irrigation systems, many of these irrigation systems were largely destroyed during the past few decades of war. More pressing, 85% of our irrigated land is dependent on water from the mountains, which are sensitive to climate change and shifting rainfall patterns.

As a result of conflict and draught, malnutrition in Afghanistan is a growing problem. An average of 50% of children under 3 are moderately or severely stunted from poor nutrition, and 80-90% of households are considered to have very poor dietary diversity. This prohibits us from achieving the first Millennium Development Goal without substantial efforts to restructure of our agricultural sector with the support of the international community.

Mr. Chairman,

Small farmers and women, those who are most vulnerable to political and economic instability, must be at the center of our food and agriculture policy. Women bear the responsibility of providing food and nutrition to the family, and are critical to successfully tackling food security issues. Farmers, particularly small landowners must have access to financing and technology, so agriculture can be a viable source of their livelihoods. Farmers, civil society groups, and the government all play a vital role in ensuring these plans are implemented.

To re-build Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, and ensure food security, several key steps are necessary:

First, we need to improve our agricultural productivity without succumbing to wasteful or unsustainable agricultural practices. This includes improving water conservation and minimizing soil and ecosystem degradation. Food security can only occur with sustainable usage of water and natural resources.

Second, Afghanistan’s agriculture sector demands more research on and funding for drought resistant crops and seed varieties to build our resiliency against climate change and volatile price fluctuations. Technology transfer can play a role in achieving this.

Third, our infrastructure must be re-built, with the support of the international community. Rehabilitation of water wells, reservoirs, and irrigation technologies is a first step in re-building our physical systems. This will also ensure socioeconomic development as it has also been found that poverty rates tend to be higher in areas lacking irrigation, demonstrating the strong connection between agriculture and Afghan livelihoods.

Fourth, policies for food pricing should be established. In the beginning of 2008, FAO index of prices spiked, increasing by 40% and leading to severe food shortages in Afghanistan. High food prices and corresponding food shortages require emergency food assistance. Safety nets during these times must be established so the most vulnerable sectors of our society do not suffer the fallouts of unstable food and financial markets

Mr. Chairman

As the reconstruction of Afghanistan continues, we see an enormous opportunity to secure our food resources and restore our position as a self-sufficient agricultural producer. Reducing hunger and stabilizing our food security is closely tied with women’s rights, poverty alleviation, and economic growth. We also see the opportunity to increase Afghan farmers’ capability to adapt agricultural practices in response to climate change and economic conditions. We ask the World Food Programme, USDA, FAO and other funders continue aiding us in overcoming the obstacles Afghanistan faces, and for the international community as a whole to continue supporting and collaborating with us on achieving food security.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.