Friday, January 20, 2017

Security Council Debate on Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace

STATEMENT  BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal

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

Statement at the Security Council Debate on Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace

(Check against delivery)

10 January 2017

 

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. President,

Afghanistan wishes to thank Her Excellency Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom of the Kingdom of Sweden and her delegation for convening today’s important debate. We hope it will mark the start of a new phase in the UN’s efforts to embed conflict prevention at the core of its “Peace and Security Architecture.”  We are also particularly grateful to Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his visionary and inspiring statement.

Today, we witnessed yet another bloody day in my country. The Taliban waged multiple terrorist attacks in Kabul, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces of Afghanistan. Based on the most recent reports, around 135 people, mostly civilians including women and children have been killed and wounded in this carnage. Among the wounded are our Governor of Kandahar, Ambassador of UAE to Afghanistan, and a number of other diplomatic colleagues. We pray for those who lost their lives and wish a quick recovery of those injured. 

These attacks in my country, and today’s debate illustrates in clear terms that sustaining peace is a complex undertaking, requiring consistency across multiple lines of effort.  It also highlights that the UN is simultaneously preoccupied with an unprecedented number of security and humanitarian crises, and more focus is needed to overcome current conflicts and prevent those of tomorrow.

Mr. President,

A glimpse at the current international landscape reveals that violent extremism and terrorism feature dominantly in several conflicts around the world. These two threats violate human rights, undermine stability and development, and take the lives of scores of innocent people worldwide. We believe terrorism can only be defeated with a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on both of their internal and external drivers.

The UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE) constitutes a key preventive tool, to address some internal drivers of violent extremism at the societal level, beyond security and military measures. Addressing social grievances, ensuring inclusive and egalitarian communities; empowering the youth with economic opportunities; and countering the terrorist narrative at the national and local levels are all essential to address some of the drivers of violent extremist activity. We in Afghanistan have incorporated the goals of the PVE action plan into our national counter terrorism activities.

That said, the UN must also afford greater attention to some of the external drivers of these phenomenon. The cycle of violence and insecurity in Afghanistan and our part of the world is inextricably linked to the presence of sanctuaries and safe havens in the region, from which extremist groups are sustained and enjoy an incessant flow of political, financial, material, and logistical support for the continuation of their malicious activities. In this light, the UN, and this Council in particular, can devise a viable approach to identify situations where elements in some “State institutions” facilitate violence and extremist activities by non-state proxies as a means to advance their foreign policy agenda. 

Mr. President,

We concur that the Sustaining Peace Agenda goes hand in hand with 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), providing a key tool in helping to prevent conditions that may give rise to conflict and instability, such as poverty, lack of development and dire humanitarian conditions. Consistent with Goal 17, the continued partnership of the international community, particularly for developing, land-locked developing and fragile countries, remains crucial for helping States to implement their national development goals.

National dialogue, mediation and reconciliation, aimed at fostering understanding to prevent conflicts, as well as resolve them through peaceful means are other important components of the “conflict prevention and sustaining peace” agenda.  In our own case, the Government of National Unity is making every effort to ensure lasting peace for our peoples. In that effort, we are reaching out to reconcilable elements of Afghan armed groups willing to give up violence and embrace a new future as peaceful and law-abiding citizens.

We are pleased that our peace efforts enjoy broad support from regional and international partners, which is imperative for the success of our endeavor. That said, whether in our case, or any other peace process, it is imperative that the “principle of national leadership and ownership” are fully upheld, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter, including the principle of respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. In this context, we have expressed strong reservations in regards to open declarations by some in our region of their counter-productive contacts with armed opposition groups active in Afghanistan, without the consent of the Afghan Government. Let me reassert, any kind of talks on the situation in my country has neither any value nor legitimacy without the participation and approval of our Government which is the most democratically elected administration in the history of our nation.

Mr. President,

What additional steps are required by the Security Council and the UN system to bolster existing efforts, and how can current preventive tools be better utilized to prevent conflict and sustain peace? 

The UN is well positioned to help address trust deficit associated with negative state rivalries which often leads to conflict, and wherein some actors go at all lengths, including the use of violent proxy forces in pursuit of political, security and economic objectives. This phenomenon is predominant in our region. The UN, and the Security Council in particular, can play an important role in addressing “root causes and structural drivers of conflict,” and in furthering efforts to foster mutual trust and confidence for common gain, at the national, regional and international levels. 

Unity and consensus in the Council and ensuring justice are imperative for conflict prevention and sustaining peace. Far too often, lack of consensus in the Council has prevented necessary and effective action to avoid the exacerbation of a particular conflict, as well as the creation of fertile ground for healthy dialogue on the peace and negotiations front. Moreover, strengthening the UN’s early warning system requires greater coordination between relevant UN offices to monitor fluid and conflict prone settings to identify viable approaches to avert potential crises. We believe the role of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and its regional UN offices are of particular importance. In this respect new focus should be given to identifying aggressors who in fact are mainly responsible for fueling conflicts. 

Afghanistan welcomes the focus with which the Security Council and the overall UN system are seeking to advance the role of women peace and security agenda. Experience has shown that peaceful settlement of conflicts is most probable when women have a clear and decisive role in peace processes.  In that light, we have made sure to include women in all stages of our peace efforts, including in the decision making phase.   

In conclusion, we hope 2017 will mark the start of a new era of the UN’s advantageous efforts to place prevention and the sustainability of peace at the forefront in its efforts to ensure a more peaceful and prosperous international landscape for humanity as a whole. We fully support the vision of the Secretary General presented today on conflict prevention and sustaining peace and look forward to work with him on its implementation.

Thank You!

 

Security Council Debate on the Trafficking of Persons in Conflict

STATEMENT  BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal 

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

Security Council Debate on the Trafficking of Persons in Conflict

(check against delivery)

20 December 2016

I would like to thank the Spanish Presidency for convening today’s debate on a topic of crucial importance, which demands the urgent attention of the international community. We thank Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other presenters for their comprehensive briefings. We are also moved by the statements of civilian activists Ms. Ameena Saeed Hasan and Goodwill Ambassador Ms. Nadia Morad Basee Taha.

Human trafficking constitutes a grave violation of international law, including international humanitarian law. It violates the fundamental values and principles we hold dear, like justice, equality, and human rights for all.

Over the past several years, the world has seen human trafficking continue unabated in different parts of the world, especially in countries stricken by conflict and facing violent extremism. This has many causes: to generate illegal profits in the criminal economy; to enlist people in illegal armed groups; to impose forced labor and slavery upon the innocent; and to have them carry out terrorist attacks in different parts of the world.

Human trafficking is particularly prevalent in countries stricken by conflict and strife, especially those who continue to suffer at the hands of terrorists and extremists. We have witnessed a continuing trend where many terrorist and extremist groups, such as the Taliban, ISIL or Daesh and Al-Qaeda, among others, increasingly resort to human trafficking to advance their evil agenda. In Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, extremist groups have abducted men, women, and children as a means to finance and conduct their criminal activities. In many cases, women and girls in particular, have been put for sale to mobilize financial resources and fund military operations. Such despicable activities represent the most evil of human actions.

The inextricable link between human trafficking and terrorism remains a serious source of concern, demanding urgent attention of the international community. We believe that addressing some of the underlying factors driving violent extremism should not be separate from ending the problem of human trafficking. In various conflict situations, especially in our region, a multitude of terrorist and extremist groups, including the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network still enjoy sanctuary, safe havens, alongside material and financial support that have reinforced their operational capability to continue their reign of terror against innocent people.

One of the best ways to address human trafficking is to prevent conflict from arising in the first place and resolving those wherever they occur. In doing so, we will avoid the enabling environment that fuels the problem of human trafficking.

As the principal organ of the UN responsible for the maintenance of peace and security, this Council should take necessary measures to identify and address the lingering problem of continued support for extremists as a means to advance political objectives. More focus should be given to ensure that States comply with their counter-terrorism commitments and obligations, on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

As a front-line State in the fight against global terrorism and extremism, we assure this Council, and the international community at large, that our struggle against these twin menaces will continue unabated, and with firm resolve. As we speak, our national security forces are engaging a multitude of international extremist groups that pose a serious threat to the civilized world. 

Mr. President,

The UN Global Action Plan to Prevent Trafficking of Persons and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children remains the overall international framework for decisive action to combat human trafficking in all its aspects.  Afghanistan is a party to the said convention and we have put in place several legislations to criminalize various forms of human trafficking. Additionally, we are grateful to USAID for the Combating Human Trafficking in Afghanistan Project, co-funded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that works with our Government to effectively prevent trafficking, prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and improve regional coordination to combat cross-border trafficking.

The problem of human trafficking is wide-ranging with various components.  The unprecedented flow of migrants and refugees, mainly from countries facing conflict, has left millions of people vulnerable to human trafficking throughout the world. In this context, we are pleased that the joint declaration adopted at the conclusion of the Summit Meeting on Migration here in New York in September offered due focus on preventing human trafficking.

Today’s meeting of the Security Council signifies that the trafficking of persons constitutes a crime against humanity and that any individual or groups involved in this heinous practice must be brought to justice. We hope this meeting will also serve as a reminder for all that additional progress is required to implement their commitments and obligations not only as matter of legal responsibility, but also as a moral imperative.  

Finally, we concur with previous speakers that the problem of human trafficking in conflict situations should not be seen in isolation from the global fight against terrorism. Hence, it is imperative that States spare no effort, whatsoever, to implement the relevant counter-terrorism resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly. In that context, relevant States must prevent the cross-border movement of terrorists, to cut off the flow of financial resources and other enablers that have thus far sustained extremist activity.

Mr. President,

We hope the outcome of today’s meeting will revitalize the global fight against a menace that constitutes a crime against humanity and a challenging confronting us all.

Thank you.

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

STATEMENT BY

H.E. Mahmoud Saikal

Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

(check against delivery)

19 December 2016

NEW YORK

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Thank you Mr. President. Let me congratulate Spain on its successful leadership of the Council this month. We wish to thank Ambassador Roman Oyarzun and his team at the Spanish Mission for their dedicated efforts as penholder on Afghanistan during the past two years, and welcome Japan’s assumption of this important task. I thank the outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his recent report on the situation in Afghanistan. We are grateful to Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, for his comprehensive briefing, and outstanding leadership of the UN’s work in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

Two years after the three-pronged transition, with focus on reforms and renewed international commitments, Afghanistan has defied odds by standing on its own and managing complex challenges, notwithstanding a high price in lost lives and denied opportunities. From the perspective of security, in recent months, our armed forces have proven their strength by repulsing unprecedented waves of attacks in various provinces. Economically, Afghanistan’s regional connectivity has been growing fast. And politically, our vibrant course of democratization continues with electoral reform on track. However, with a high rate of return of refugees, coupled with increased IDPs resulting from terrorist attacks, this winter and beyond we have fresh humanitarian challenges ahead of us.

Mr. President,

In 2016, parallel to the challenges, we witnessed significant developments that emphasized strong international military and civilian support for Afghanistan. In July, our international partners at the NATO Warsaw Summit pledged continued assistance towards the sustainability of our security forces; in September, this noble Council reaffirmed its full support to Afghanistan through a Presidential Statement; in October, the Brussels conference on Afghanistan renewed the partnership for prosperity and peace between our country and the international community; and in November, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution titled “The Situation in Afghanistan”, which reiterated the commitment of the international community for a stable Afghanistan. These represent clear consolidation of international consensus on Afghanistan, for which we are deeply grateful. On behalf of my Government and people, let me thank all member states, due to their positive contributions for Afghanistan’s stability and progress. In particular, we are grateful to the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Turkey for forging the Warsaw Summit consensus on Afghanistan and the European Union (EU) for galvanizing renewed international development commitments for our country.

Mr. President,

Effective counter-terrorism requires settled regional and global security architecture and constructive engagement among the relevant stakeholders. For too long, terror has found a comfort zone in the occasional tectonic shifts and grinds of security fault lines, along with negative rivalries of regional and global powers. Scattered, fragmented and slow counter-terrorism measures have been exploited by terrorists to maneuver, spread violence, and create discord among people. In the face of growing terrorism worldwide, we must improve trust, collaboration and coordination among relevant member states for a comprehensive response based on rule of law and established international norms.

In that context, any kind of outside contact with the Taliban, or other such groups, without the prior knowledge and approval of the Government of Afghanistan, is seen as legitimization of terror, a direct breach of our sovereignty and in a clear contravention of the UN sanctions regimes and Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which will not be tolerated. Fighting terror with terror, no matter what the justification, is a sign of weakness of the “civilized world” and a return to impasse and stagnation. Certainly, our people will suffer most from this irrational and reckless policy.

In the campaign against terrorism, Afghanistan ought to be a symbol of international cooperation. We welcome regional and global convergence of legitimate interests in our security, political stability, and development. The surest way to protect these interests in Afghanistan is to desist from ill-conceived attempts at regional orchestration of Afghanistan’s insecurity, enhance official state-to-state cooperation and support our national security forces.

At the peak of international military presence in 2012, the casualty rate of coalition forces was over 400, and the approximate cost of war in financial terms amounted to around $110 billion; in 2016, the casualty rate has dropped to 16, and financial costs are estimated to be less than one eleventh of that figure. Hence, today our forces are primarily at the forefront of countering terrorism on behalf of the world, and need to be supported across all counts.
It must be noted that in October and November, various provinces of Afghanistan became the target of unprecedented terrorist attacks in the modern history of our country. The enemy intention was to establish a parallel geography for the Taliban, but the commitment and bravery of our security forces prevented terrorists from realizing their wicked ambitions.

Mr. President,

Given its sensitive geo-strategic location, Afghanistan firmly believes in regionalism and multilateral diplomacy. The 6th Ministerial Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference held in Amritsar two weeks ago “acknowledged the support that terrorism derives in our region” and called for “dismantling of regional terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens.” Further, it “called upon all states to take action against these terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter terrorism policies, their international obligations and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy.” The Conference welcomed and supported Afghanistan’s initiative in taking the lead in exploring a regional counter-terror strategy, in accordance with the UN charter.

At Amritsar, President Ghani proposed an Asian and international mechanism to verify cross-frontier activities and terrorist operations. Verification of nefarious activities would present our neighbor hard evidence to undercut their ‘plausible deniability’ and blame games, and shift the focus to where it should be—a unified response to countering terrorism.

Mr. President,

At the UN level, consideration of new three-tier measures for a more effective counter-terrorism strategy is needed. At debate level, we ought to address the impact of negative state rivalries and state use of violence in pursuit of political objectives on the growth of terrorism. At operational level, we need to refine and enrich relevant existing resolutions or adopt new resolutions to target the drivers of such policies within state structures. At implementation level, effectively enforcing the counter-terrorism resolutions, including the sanctions regimes on the Taliban, Al-Qaida and Daesh, and those who use state apparatus in nurturing them, can have a significant impact on war and peace in Afghanistan. We want the timely inclusion of select irreconcilable Taliban leaders in the sanctions list and a review of those delisted so far. There is an urgent need for increased and more meaningful interaction between the UN counter terrorism bodies and Afghan security agencies. We welcome the November visit of the Sanctions Committee to Afghanistan, where relevant issues were discussed with the senior leadership.

Mr. President,

Winter is about to start in Afghanistan. In the calendar of the Taliban and that of their supporters in our neighborhood, this usually marks the “official” end of their so-called “fighting season.” Most Taliban militiamen return to the warmth of madrasas in Pakistan for an R&R (rest and recuperation) and to refuel for the next “fighting season.” Often, around this time of the year, the regional orchestrator of violence in our country reverts to the notion of peace talks. Thus their seasonality and tactical use of war and peace continues, leaving little room for genuine peace efforts. Nevertheless, we once again urge all Afghan Taliban groups and their foreign supporters to enter into genuine peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan. In this endeavor we recognize the importance of the role of neighboring countries, in particular Pakistan, and other regional partners.

We have made some progress towards the implementation of the peace agreement signed with Hizb-i-Islami (Hekmatyar) on 29 September. The cessation of violence with former belligerent members of the group has held for nearly three months. Their disarmament and reintegration require careful planning. The agreement presents an opportunity to put the future together, not justify the past. Making the agreement work necessitates collective and careful efforts from all stakeholders, across domestic and international spectrums. Those who want to take advantage of this historic opportunity should refrain from all derogatory, divisive and xenophobic activities. The Government pardon is not a justification of their past violent activities and should neither be misused nor abused. It is noteworthy; the people of Afghanistan have the full right to seek justice, in accordance with their fundamental rights. We expect the implementation of the agreement to improve security, strengthen political stability and national unity of the Afghan people and set a good precedence in the peace process.

Mr. President,

Recently, President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah have displayed a renewed level of consensus in the work of the National Unity Government, in particular in relation to the appointment of new commissioners at the electoral bodies, which marks a decisive step forward to strengthening the credibility, transparency and integrity of our future elections. We expect the Independent Election Commission to announce the date of our up-coming parliamentary and district council elections in the near future. Talks on other subjects are still on-going to strengthen our political stability and democratic process.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan has progressed steadily on the path of economic cooperation, through regional connectivity and tangible development projects. The recent inauguration of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan railway, following the arrival of a cargo train from China and construction of the Iran-Afghanistan railway, together with forthcoming cargo air corridor between Afghanistan and India, are reviving centuries old trade routes that will help revitalize regional economy. However, insecurity presents a primary obstacle to our economic reform and infrastructure building agenda.

The Taliban’s recent statement of support for major development projects has no genuine basis. As mentioned, insecurity created by the Taliban undercuts economic development in the country and challenges regional connectivity. On December 17, the Taliban targeted five female personnel of Kandahar Airport. This is their real nature. Any expression of support will only be deemed legitimate when expressed through deeds such as immediate cessation of violence and their genuine joining of the peace process.

Mr. President,

Compared to previous years, the rate of civilian casualties has gone down marginally in Afghanistan. However, terrorists continue to attack soft targets mercilessly, as manifested by the rising percentage of child casualties this year. The recent targeting of religious gatherings was aimed at stoking ethnic and sectarian tensions among our people. But, let me reiterate that Afghans stand united in the face of such divisive strategies.

The Government of Afghanistan, in collaboration with the UN and other international partners, continue to work on creating equal opportunities for women in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1325. We have also improved workplace conditions for women and strengthened the legal framework for their physical protection. In this regard, the recently revised penal code is but among our other recent achievements.

We are highly determined to bring all human rights violators to justice, including those in the highest positions in the Government. It is important that national and international stakeholders further strengthen the independence of Afghan judiciary without politicizing or ethnicizing the course of justice.

Mr. President,

Over the past 10 months, Afghanistan has witnessed the return of nearly one million of its nationals. Increased policing and uncertainty over their status in Pakistan, including the fear of eviction, has led to a huge surge of returnees. This, along with internal displacements resulting from conflict, might exacerbate the already difficult humanitarian crisis as winter approaches. We invite the international community to support the UN OCHA flash appeal to provide for the immediate life-saving assistance, while we continue to work on a comprehensive solution.

Recently we have initiated a string of consultations with relevant line ministries, UN agencies and other related stakeholders to provide immediate response packages during the winter season to needy returnees and IDPs. In the broader context, we are seeking long-term and viable solutions for these problems. In this context, further assistance by the international community remains of vital importance.

Mr. President,

Our efforts to curb the menace of narcotics and break its link with criminality are ongoing. In October, the Ministry of Counter-narcotics, along with UNODC, released the executive summary of the “Opium Survey Report in Afghanistan”, which noted an increase in poppy production. However, our counter narcotics operations continue unabated with recent unprecedented seizures. One thing is clear; insecurity creates fertile ground for drug production. We maintain the view that a viable solution to narcotics problem must be based on the principal of shared responsibility. A verification regime of cultivation, production, trafficking and demand would probably prove that Afghanistan is the least beneficiary of the drug profits.

Mr. President,

We have reached the end of an eventful year, with key developments, which signify an enormous leap forward for Afghanistan. The regional and international consensus has reached new heights, as reflected in the Warsaw NATO Summit; the Brussels and Heart of Asia Conferences; and the unanimous adoption of the General Assembly resolution on Afghanistan. Together, these events have established a firm foundation to enhance our strategic cooperation into the New Year. This Council and the international community are well aware that terrorism remains a constant threat to the security of all peoples and societies. That said; let us approach the coming year with a new confidence and commitment to secure a stable and self-reliant Afghanistan. We must not forget that our joint partnership is, in fact, a strategic investment for a more safe and prosperous world order.

I Thank You.