Friday, August 17, 2018

Children and Armed Conflict

STATEMENT

BY

H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin

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

at the Security Council Debate on

Children and Armed Conflict

NEW YORK

Madam President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, please allow me to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency of the Council, and thank you for convening this meeting; your Excellency’s presence here today reflects Mexico’s enduring commitment to advancing the international agenda on this issue. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his report, and the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for her briefing this morning.

Madam President,

More than half of Afghanistan’s 30 million people are under the age of 18. This is a half of the country whose earliest memories are violence and war; who have grown up amidst a decimated economy, shattered institutions and broken society. But these children are also the best and only hope for the future of Afghanistan, and my Government is fully committed to protecting them and to developing their potential.

Madam President,

A country of youth poses unique challenges. Thirty years of warfare have left thousands orphaned or disabled. Mines and unexploded remnants of war kill and injure hundreds more every year. Many children are the primary breadwinners for their families. Poverty, unemployment and weak national institutions create unrest and particularly disadvantage children, putting them at risk for diseases and malnutrition, and making them easy victims for crimes and extremist ideology.

But more than this, children in Afghanistan suffer from the terrorism and violence of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and their allies. These groups are responsible for heinous acts against civilians – including the recent heartbreaking murder of a 7 year old boy, hanged as a government spy. Their complete disregard for human life is well documented, and they continue to bear the overwhelming responsibility for the danger to children across the country.

Madam President,

The Government of Afghanistan has taken many legal, institutional and practical steps to promote security, development and good governance, and to fulfill its national and international obligations to protect children.

In addition, as part of an ongoing dialogue with the Office of the Special Representative, and in line with the recommendations of the Security Council Working Group, the Government of Afghanistan has taken further steps to address the particular needs of children in armed conflict. Many of them are not fully reflected in the current report. For example:

1. My Government welcomed the recent creation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism in the country, and established an interministerial steering committee to develop a governmental action plan on children and armed conflict.

2. The Government established a Commission to oversee the needs of children and juveniles, and another to ensure the observance of human rights during detention and interrogation, as required by law.

3. The Government is working with civil society and religious leaders to address sexual violence, which is contrary to both Islamic teachings and national law.

4. Because of the threat from the Taliban, the Ministry of Education has instructed that schools will no longer be used as polling stations in elections.

5. The Government is engaged with international forces to improve protection of civilians, and welcomed recent tactical directives in this regard.

6. Focal points for child recruitment have been identified in the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and the Ministry of the Interior has tasked the Unit on Human Rights, Gender and Children to address any allegations of children in the Police, as well as allegations of sexual violence.

7. The recruitment process for both the Army and the Police is increasingly centralized and standardized, including through the introduction of biometric verification procedures, and records are kept of underage applicants who are turned away.

8. The Interior Ministry recently released an executive directive reinforcing the existing legislation by banning recruitment of anyone under 18 to the police, requiring that any children found to be reintegrated into society within thirty days, and mandating disciplinary measures for those responsible.

Madam President,

Given these steps and others we have taken, my Government is disturbed by the decision to list the Afghan National Police Force in the Annex of the present report. As the Special Representative herself has recognized, recruitment policy is clearly designed to prevent children from being involved with the security forces. This decision creates an unacceptable equivalence between the Police and the intentionally abusive practices of the Taliban and their allies, and undermines the efforts of the Afghan Government and the international community to build strong, effective and responsible Security Forces under very challenging circumstances. I have outlined my Government’s concerns more fully in a letter to the Secretary-General on this subject, which will be circulated as an official document of the Security Council. In particular, my Government was not provided with any evidence to support this report’s allegations of child recruitment in the Police, or of mistreatment or torture in government facilities in contravention of national law, and we are not satisfied with the partial and anecdotal nature of the report itself.

However, and despite our reservations, my Government remains ready as always to engage fully with the Office of the Special Representative and with the monitoring and reporting mechanism to ensure the full implementation of Resolutions 1615 and 1882, among others, and to continue to improve our capacity and procedures for the protection of children.

Madam President,

Earlier this week we became aware of vast mineral resources in Afghanistan that have the power to transform the country’s economy; likewise, the millions of children in Afghanistan are an untapped wealth of human potential, who will grow into an economic, political and social force that will remake the future of the country. My Government is fully committed to educating these children, to protecting them, to providing them with a bright and promising future, and to building a country that they can be proud to inherit. This is not just a moral and legal duty; it is also the only way for Afghanistan to fully and finally emerge from conflict.

I thank you.

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.

“The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.”

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.

The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

“On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”

By JAMES RISEN

Source: The New York Times

Afghanistan Elected to Vice-Presidency of 65th General Assembly

This morning, the General Assembly met to elect the President and Vice Presidents for the upcoming 65th session of the General Assembly, scheduled to begin on 14 September, 2010, and to select the Chairs and Rapporteurs for the Main Committees. His Excellency Mr. Joseph Deiss, of Switzerland, was elected to serve as President of the General Assembly.

The Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations was also honored this year, with two positions of leadership in the upcoming Session. His Excellency Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations, will serve as one of the Vice Presidents of the 65th General Assembly. In addition, Afghanistan’s Fourth Committee Delegate was also selected by the General Assembly to serve as Rapporteur for the Fourth Committee and as a member of the Bureau of the Committee.

This is the second time in three years that Ambassador Zahir Tanin has served as Vice President to the General Assembly – Afghanistan was also elected Vice President during the 63rd Session. In addition, this is the second consecutive year that Ambassador Tanin has served as Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform, first appointed during the 63rd General Assembly, and then reappointed in the current session as a result of the trust the membership showed in his impartiality and leadership. That process is now moving into more concrete negotiations on the basis of a widely-acclaimed negotiation text, under Ambassador Tanin’s guidance.

Afghanistan was among the founding members of the United Nations, joining officially in 1946. In the 1960s, Abdul Rahman Pazhwak served as President of the 21st session of the General Assembly, the only Afghan to hold that post. Since then, and as a result of the decades of conflict and violence that rocked the country, Afghanistan’s presence at the UN has waned. However, recently, Afghanistan has begun to reclaim an important role in world affairs, a role that is certainly in evidence today at the United Nations.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan