Sunday, May 27, 2018

United Nations Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN
At the Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

Please allow me to begin by congratulating you on your assumption of this month’s Presidency of the Council, and I thank you for convening this meeting. I would also like to congratulate Ms. Leila Zerrougui on her appointment as the new Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict and I wish her the best in her new role. I express our appreciation to Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, for her dedication and leadership on this issue throughout her tenure as Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

Mr. President,

Fifty-three percent of Afghans are under 18 years of age. Tragically, these young people have grown up in an atmosphere of war and violence. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of their upbringing, these young people are full of hope. They represent the future of Afghanistan; they will be the ones to carry forward our vision of a safe and vibrant nation with growing economic opportunities, and equality for its citizens, male and female. My government is committed to ensuring our country’s bright future by protecting our children and fostering their development.

Mr. President,

Children in Afghanistan suffer from the consequences of the terrorism and violence of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and terrorist groups. These groups are responsible for brutal acts against civilians, such as the Taliban attacks targeting girls’ schools in 2012 using poisonous gas. Last year, 1,396 Afghan children were killed or maimed. Seventy-four percent of all child casualties in Afghanistan are caused by the aforementioned armed groups. Therefore, any course of action that seeks to ameliorate the well-being of Afghan children must also focus on diminishing the influence of terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan.

Children are being coerced to serve in armed conflict in Afghanistan, by the very terrorist and extremist groups that continue to commit heinous acts against children. We have experienced devastating situations in which children are forced to carry out suicide attacks or to smuggle weapons across the border. The use of children as a weapon of war is an atrocious crime which must be addressed with firm conviction.

Mr. President,

Just as the challenges for Afghan children need to be recognized, so too does their progress. In Afghanistan, we have seen encouraging progress in our crucial efforts to protect our children and ensure their promising future. Here are some examples of meaningful measures taken by the Government of Afghanistan to protect and address the needs of children in armed conflict:

First, in February 2012, The Ministry of Justice began drafting a comprehensive legal code to protect Afghan children. The Ministry of Justice has consulted closely with UNICEF throughout the process, and we look forward to a product that will truly benefit the wellbeing of Afghan children. We also published our 2012 report on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan, and we look forward to hearing reactions.

Second, the Ministry of Justice has established the General Directorate of Human Rights Protection, which will serve to oversee the upholding of Human Rights in all Government activities.

Third, we have expanded our birth registration system to cover all 34 provinces. Until recently, birth registration was only available in 6 provinces, and the expansion of this system throughout Afghanistan will greatly improve age verification procedures for recruiters so that they can recruit in accordance with the Ministry of the Interior’s age requirement provision.

Mr. President,

We must continue to our efforts to prevent underage recruitment in our armed forces. It is our goal to ensure that 18 years of age is the minimum age for recruitment to participate in police activity. To this end we have acted decisively. In 2011, Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior published an order that mandated, and I quote “in no circumstances shall individuals under 18 or over 35 be recruited or deployed to military services, and if such people are recruited or deployed, officials shall be treated as legal offenders.”

Recruitment into armed forces is indicative of a far greater problem facing children: a lack of opportunity. It is crucial that we reintegrate these young people into society and provide them career opportunities. To this end, we have created training centers for children leaving military service to train for professional and technical careers.

Mr. President,

I am encouraged by the progress made by the international community to protect children in Afghanistan and other countries. In 2011, the Special Representative reported that ten thousand children worldwide were freed from their association with armed groups because of action plans put in place by the United Nations and the parties involved in the conflict.

Mr. President,

Everyone here today knows the trials and tribulations that face a state like Afghanistan, one that has been subjected to multiple prolonged conflicts. In addition to insecurity, many issues threaten children in armed conflict. Tragically, sexual abuse of children still occurs in all parts of the world including Afghanistan. The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, the Martyred and Disabled (MoLSAMD) has been tasked with designing an effective strategy that will coordinate efforts with national and international organizations, including UNICEF, to combat the sexual abuse of children.

Mr. President,

All children deserve the right to live in a safe, secure country that is rich with education and opportunity. Since 2001, The Government of Afghanistan has been implementing policies aimed towards these objectives, but there is obviously still much work to be done. The Afghan Government is fully committed to fostering a domestic environment that will enable all Afghan children to reach their full potential. As I have said in this body before, this is the only way for Afghanistan to end a period of over thirty years of conflict and fully transition into a peaceful, safe country for all.

Thank you.

United Nations Children’s Fund Executive Board Second regular session

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin  Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations  United Nations Children’s Fund Executive Board Second regular session 2012  Regional summaries of midterm reviews of country programs 

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to begin by extending my sincere appreciation to United Nations Children’s Fund and to the international community for its strong commitment for Afghanistan’s development and the protection of women and children.  In particular to Ms. Karin Hulshof, who made it her priority to visit Afghanistan immediately after her appointment as UNICEF Regional Director.  It is an encouraging sign of continued support for and focus on the people of Afghanistan; particularly our children who will be vital in shaping  the future of Afghanistan as the country transitions into a new phase of Afghan ownership and leadership.

Afghanistan’s transformation agenda is not only a time of change but also a time of unprecedented opportunity. The country has the potential to build a better future through investing in its people, and in particular, its children. As such, the government of Afghanistan will continue to work closely with UNICEF and build on the success of the MTR process which was truly a government led process and resulted in a productive and positive Formal MTR meeting chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this year.

Three decades of perpetual war and conflict has led to the destruction of vital infrastructure and social services in Afghanistan, including schools, clinics and health centers. While intensive efforts have been made to re-build these essential services, due to continuing insecurity, more will need to be done to ensure safe access to education, sanitation and healthcare services for all.

Tragically, Afghanistan has one of the worst infant and maternal mortality ratios in the world with 1,400 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, the figures have improved significantly in the last decade and we remain committed to continued improvement in the years to come. The advancement of women and protection of children cannot be separated from our fight for a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan. In conjunction with our international partners, we will continue to work to ensure that the gains we have made in infant health will not be lost to insecurity.

Over the past decade, we have seen that investments made by UNICEF, various UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations in the areas of infrastructure, education and health have paid off. Innovative strategies have achieved positive results in mitigating internal and external challenges. Our UNICEF partners have engaged communities, civil society and relevant government agencies in creating forums for community dialogue.

We welcome the strategic shift made by UNICEF and the partnership arrangement under the National Solidarity Program of Afghanistan to closely align with the priorities of the Government to enable it to deliver programs with measurable results, sustainability and with greater ownership of projects by local communities. Collaborative efforts between the Afghan government and UNICEF have strengthened and engaged Afghan civil society; we endorse the priorities set out by UNICEF for the next country program. Our growing civil society alongside the Afghan Government will play a key role in helping to internalize these priorities to ensure long term success for the protection, health and education of children, particularly in rural areas.

Afghanistan remains committed to eradicating preventable diseases, such as measles and polio through childhood vaccinations. Improvements in water sanitation have also bolstered disease prevention rates. Additionally, Afghanistan’s Minister of Health joined with other Health Ministers around the world to sign a pledge renewing Afghanistan’s commitment to child survival. The pledge supports the ending of preventable child deaths and will help to sharpen Afghanistan’s national plan for child survival, monitor results, and focus greater attention on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

There is an observed positive trend in the education sector as a result of continued efforts toward providing quality access to basic education for all children but particularly in the area of the enrollment of female students in schools across the country.  Despite countless obstacles and security threats more than 2 million girls are now enrolled in schools and pursuing their education. We must continue our partnership with the international community to eliminate the violence and intimidation, utilized by extremist groups and promote the educational development of Afghanistan’s future generations.

Notwithstanding continuing traditionalism and conservative social practices in some areas of the country, we see Afghan women and children in a different situation today than ten years ago. In close cooperation with UNICEF and the international community, we have made real progress towards children rights. It is now time to focus on the prospects that lie ahead.

The government of Afghanistan fully appreciates the assistance provided by UNICEF, its efforts and innovative work in responding to the needs of the Afghan people. We hope that the support provided by UNICEF and the international community will be an indication that they will remain steadfast in their commitments to real change in the status of all Afghans and importantly, children.

Thank you.

 

End Polio Now Dinner

Remarks by H.E. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations at Rotary district 5790’s

End Polio Now Dinner 

Ladies and Gentleman,

It is a pleasure to join you all here this evening at the End Polio Now Dinner. I would like to thank Assistant Governor, Christopher McLucas and his colleagues for inviting me to address you on the topic of eradicating Polio in my country, Afghanistan, and worldwide along with other distinguished speakerssuch as Deputy Consul General Kapur of India, one of our close neighbors. I applaud Rotary International District 5790 for their personal dedication to this very important issue.

 

When we speak of Polio in the United States, the first thought to come to mind might be American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the disease’s most famous victims. The next most likely topic would be the Polio vaccine and the millions of people worldwide that it has protected. Polio is often discussed as a horrible memory in the distant past, a disease which modern science has triumphed. Rarely, if ever, does the conversation turn to the current state of the virus in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. In these countries and others, Polio does not merely conjure up memories of the past: it is a present day reality. Children in my country are still losing their livelihoods and futures to the virus. It is robbing Afghan children of their lives before they ever begin.

 

We have the unique opportunity to eradicate Polio worldwide. There are very few diseases that are so devastating yet so preventable, and we must take the final steps to ensure that we rid humanity of this terrible virus.All the indicators about the future of our fight against Polio are encouraging. Internationally, the presence of Polio has decreased by 99% since the beginning of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. More recently, we have seen specific countries make historic progress in eradicating Polio. Earlier this year, India was removed from the Polio endemic list. This was accomplished with a comprehensive effort and the tireless dedication of more than two million volunteers over the course of recent years.The time has come to reproduce these efforts in Afghanistan and other countries. The goal is not to continue to shorten the Polio endemic list but to eliminate the list altogether. I believe that the political will exists for this to happen, and I know that we have the necessary technology and organizational capacity; that has already been proven. We can do this. We must do this.

 

Despite our appropriate optimism, we must also be aware that our battle against Polio is liable to experience setbacks. Many public health experts have expressed their concern that carriers of the disease are still present throughout the world, including countries in which the disease has been eradicated. Carriers of Polio can lead to a reemergence of the disease if we are not diligent in our preparation. We cannot allow our vaccination efforts to stall. As encouraged as I am to find only three countries on the Polio Endemic List, I remind you that some states have suffered outbreaks after years of being free of Polio and have consequently found their way back onto the Polio Endemic List.

Afghanistan and Pakistan, in their fight against Polio have the additional challenge of insecurity. The ongoing conflict in our region is a serious impediment to the eradication of Polio; it’s not only the physical lack of access for health workers that poses a problem, it is also extremist groups trying to stop vaccinations in villages and towns as they find the presence of health workers not favorable to their political ideas. The important link between stability and vaccination efforts cannot be ignored.We will need to continue to work with the international community to ensure security, which in turn will ensure that our efforts towards Polio eradicationwill be successful.

 

Polio is an international problem that requires an international solution. As has been discussed tonight, the progress we have made in the last twenty-five years has been made by a coordinated effort of governments, international institutions, and particularly Rotary.

 

We must not think that Polio is an issue only for the developing world, it is a global problem. We will need continued North-South cooperation, South-South cooperation between governments and UN agencies in the fight against Polio. As we have seen with other diseases, such as the recent Cholera outbreak in Haiti, the presence of a disease on one continent can cause an outbreak in another hemisphere. In today’s globalized world, an outbreak of Polio in the Democratic Republic of Congo, like the one that occurred in 2010, is liable to cause a global outbreak. Polio knows no national boundaries, and neither should our work to eradicate it.

 

At the United Nations, my colleagues and I often discuss the idea of sustainability. We focus on sustainability as it relates to the environment, economic development, and numerous other issues. I believe that the time has come to make the concept of sustainability a mainstream issue in our mission to eradicate Polio. Not only do we need to eradicate Polio right now, but we also need to ensure that we can contain and respond to any future outbreaks. We must have a coordinated effort from WHO, UNICEF, and other relevant UN agencies to prepare a comprehensive plan to effectively respond to any future recrudescence. The vaccines and medication must be ready to be sent with volunteers to any site, anywhere in the world, at any time.

 

I am confident that the international community is up to the challenge of eradicating Polio. We all look forward to a world free from Polio which will be marked by two key developments: a blank list of Polio endemic countries, and a corps of volunteers that is ready to mobilize with the necessary resources on moment’s notice to curtail a Polio outbreak anywhere in the world.This definition of success might be ambitious, but I believe that this is what must be done to truly “end Polio” once and for all. The consequences of eradicating Polio will extend far beyond the immediate health benefits. The procedures and tactics used can be a model for combatingmany other public health issues, ranging from Cholera to malaria, and even HIV/AIDS. The End of Polio will also mark the beginning of a new era in global public health.

 

Thank you.

 

 

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan