Monday, September 24, 2018

Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflicts Tomorrow

STATEMENT BY Mahmoud Saikal Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

“ Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflicts Tomorrow”

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9 July 2018


Madam President

At the outset, I would like to thank the Secretary-General and his Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Ms. Virginia Gamba for their report. I would also like to thank Swedish Presidency for convening such a timely debate and initiating the resolution on the protection of children in conflict zones, which was adopted today. We are honoured to be a cosponsor for this resolution.

The ever-changing nature of armed conflicts in today’s increasingly complex world pose a serious challenge for the international community to protect civilians’ most defenseless victims, children. As the future of every society, children need to be protected, nourished, educated, and ensured of their fundamental rights. However, today nearly 250 million children are affected by armed conflicts globally. The impact of terrorism and violent extremism on children is devastating – it robs them of their childhood, basic rights such as good health and education and inflicts lasting trauma that hinders their psychosocial development. Above all, it undermines their ability to live peaceful and dignified lives and the chance to prosper and realize their aspirations.

Madam President,

Afghanistan has faced externally imposed conflict for four decades, and our people, including our innocent children, have suffered tremendously from the resulting violence over this period of time. Tragically, in the context of our security challenge, children are among the scores of innocent victims whose precious lives are taken away by terrorist and extremist groups, imposed on us from abroad to prevent our stabilty. As a result of this, last year alone, 3,179 children were reportedly killed and maimed. Moreover, in what amounts to one of the gravest forms of abuse and violation, children have been recruited and brainwashed in religious schools in our region to carry out suicide attacks in their teenage on adult lives. This must be addressed on an urgent basis.

The Afghan Government stands firm in its strong commitment to safeguarding and advancing the rights of all children. To this effect, we have taken tangible measures, including enactment of national legislation, by which we are implementing commitments under various international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and its Optional Protocol.  The Government is also implementing various measures and programs, in line with our national and international commitments aimed at protecting our children from the horrific effects of armed conflict.  Furthermore, we are dedicated to strengthening our concerted efforts with the international community to further the implementation of the Joint Action Plan, a comprehensive framework aimed at ensuring the physical and psychological well-being of Afghan children.

In the last year alone, through the joint action plan, we have taken great strides towards preventing the recruitment of child soldiers and speedily reintegrating delinquent juveniles into Afghan society through vocational training programs. To preserve these gains, we will continue to enforce the new penal code that criminalizes the sexual abuse of children, regulate the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centers, expand the presence of the Child Protection Units in the Afghan National Police recruitment centers and continue our campaign of promoting children rights within the Afghan National Police.  We have had high level meetings with the office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF, and other partners, which have led to increased coordination of our joint efforts to ensure safe, dignified and prosperous lives for Afghan children.

Madam President,

For Afghanistan, the protection of children and the advancement of their rights remains a central focus in the work of the National Unity Government. We are working to build on and consolidate recent progress, knowing that children provide for a stable and prosperous future for our country.

We believe the rights of children can best be protected and promoted in an atmosphere of peace.  To meet this end, we have taken new measure aimed at achieving a lasting settlement to the current conflict imposed on our country. The three-day cease-fire with the Taliban, enforced last month, offered a glimmer of hope that peace can be possible. We are working with regional and international partners for a successful outcome to our peace efforts and hope that the coming months will witness more tangible progress on this front. It is our sincere hope that this time around, we can achieve a sustaining peace for our future generations and create a society where our children can live in peace and free of fear and violence.

In conclusion, Afghanistan reiterates its firm commitment to ensuring the full protection and well-being of all children, world-wide. It is only through our shared values and objectives that we could alleviate the suffering of children and build sustainable, peaceful societies. Let us strive to collectively achieve more tangible progress on this moral imperative.  

I thank you.

Agenda Item 118: UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

Statement at the GA on Agenda Item 118: UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

June 26, 2018


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بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. President,

It gives me great pleasure to address the General Assembly on the occasion of the 6th Review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. We join others in thanking the Permanent Representatives of the Kingdom of Jordan and Finland and their teams for their able efforts in facilitating negotiations on the resolution we have adopted today by consensus.

We welcome the successful outcome of the process, which reaffirms the imperative of a stronger and more effective global response to defeat international terrorism, in light of the evolving nature of this menace, which has only grown in scope and magnitude worldwide.

For us, the task of countering terrorism is one that our people have been engaged in for over two-decades – even before 2001, when the UN adopted a more comprehensive approach to combat this global threat.  In this regard, our struggle has persisted on the basis of our national efforts to defend our territorial integrity and sovereignty, and enable our people to live a life of dignity, in peace and tranquility.

Today, our struggle continues, supported by the international community, against terrorist groups intent on undermining our democracy, disrupting social stability, destroying our infrastructure and above all, preventing us from becoming a peaceful and secure country.

Having said that, today we are a proud nation, defending our people and territory against elements of various terrorist groups that have come from outside our country. Our security forces have braved the challenge of fending off these groups in different parts of Afghanistan, at great sacrifice, despite continued attacks taking place against our people. 

Our fight against terrorism constitutes a core element of our nation-building efforts as we continue to build a democratic and prosperous society, grounded in the rule of law.  In the broader context, as the front-line State in the fight against international terrorism, we are making a notable contribution to the security and defense of all people and nations around the world.

Outside the battlefield, we are taking persistent measures to implement, in full, the many international counter-terrorism conventions and protocols. To that end, we have broadened and enacted new legislation to capture the full scope of various counter-terrorism instruments. We have updated the criminal code to unify our criminal legislation, which also includes terrorism offenses. Our judicial authorities, including the Attorney General’s Office, are prosecuting terrorism cases on a continued basis. We have repatriated a number of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) from our detention centers to their countries of origin, in accordance with provisions of relevant SC resolutions. We have also taken new measures to counter the financing of terrorism, such as curtailing the illegal flow of currency. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has verified our compliance with international standards related to countering the financing of terrorism.

Our holistic approach to countering terrorism and violent extremism also includes the development of a countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy, built on a bottom-up effort in districts, towns, and villages to identify potential sources for radicalization and measures to counter them. Key aspects include empowering the role of religious figures and institutions to condemn terrorism and violent extremism, and to generate confidence in communities by ensuring effective service delivery, on the basis of our National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF).

Our effort to secure peace for our people is another area in which we are making important investments. If successful, this will have a profound and positive impact on countering terrorism, reducing violence, and promote peace-building. We are working closely with regional and international partners, including the UN on this issue and hope to achieve the desired results.

Mr. President,

The Global Strategy on which we meet today is the overarching framework for the international fight against terrorism. It complements important counter-terrorism instruments, including international conventions and General Assembly resolutions on this subject. In this regard, success in our vital endeavor depends on States meeting their international obligations, under international law.  

We hope this year’s resolution will generate more decisive action in countering terrorism based on the zero tolerance approach, as highlighted in the resolution. That also means denying terrorist groups safe havens, freedom of operations, movement and recruitment, and any form of financial, moral, and material support.

Likewise, promoting greater understanding and cooperation among different religions and cultures must gain new impetus globally. New attacks in different regions and continents have proven, again, that terrorism is a threat against human civilization as a whole. Victims of this evil phenomenon are of distinct religious backgrounds, cultures, and strata of society.

Moreover, we must not allow lingering regional and international tensions to undermine a more effective global response in combatting terrorism. More can and should be done to find solutions to common challenges, including preventing new conflicts, and resolving old ones. In short, strengthening the spirit of mutual cooperation in today’s global order can only benefit our counter-terrorism efforts.

Mr. President,

Victims of terrorism are often left traumatized and demoralized after experiencing the worst one can imagine. We are pleased that this year’s resolution projects greater focus to the plight of such victims– people who have been affected physically and emotionally from the evil phenomenon, including bereaved families of those who have lost their precious lives.

Further, the text we have adopted underscores that victims of terrorism must be granted immediate support, in the form of medical, psychosocial, financial, and other forms of assistance. As the initiator of the GA resolution entitled “International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism,” we hope that the imperative of support to victims will continue to gain proper attention in the work of the United Nations.

We welcome the new emphasis given to the imperative of strengthening the UN’s response to combatting terrorism, including its role in helping States to strengthen their operational capacity to address terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. As many have highlighted in the course of this debate, the creation of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism provides an opportunity that must be fully utilized. We believe the new office can benefit from the experience and human resource of States that have been involved in combating terrorism over an extensive period of time, and should also tailor its assistance to priority needs of concerned States.

In conclusion, Afghanistan welcomes the adoption, by consensus, of today’s resolution on the 6th Review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. As ever-before, we remain a committed partner in the broader effort of implementing the Strategy for the benefit of all our citizens and a safer and more secure world for our current and future generations.

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

June 26, 2018


 (Please check against delivery)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. President,

Let me begin by congratulating the Russian Federation on its Presidency of the Council for June and for organizing this debate. I would like to express our appreciation for their flexibility in adjusting the date of the debate to our request. I welcome the presence of my good friend SRSG Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto; Under-Secretary General Vladimir Voronkov and UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov here today, and we thank them for their briefings and presentations.

Since the last deliberation of the Council on Afghanistan, we experienced a mix of apprehensions accompanied with hope. The Taliban’s so-called spring offensive, yet again, caused more deaths and injuries throughout the country. But their attacks faced prompt, and at times, preemptive action from our national security forces and hence were futile in achieving their objectives. In contrast, we reiterated our commitment to peace and ending violence, offering the Taliban a historic chance to prove their willingness to choose a path away from conflict and destruction, with a key role played by our Islamic clerics, peace marchers and international partners. We also witnessed notable developments in the regional context, particularly with respect to Afghanistan-Pakistan cooperation.

Further, international support to secure and safeguard our country against violent attacks remains high. We completed the 4th year review of our National Security Strategy at the NATO Ministerial Visit, where the security situation in Afghanistan and our reform measures were discussed. As a key outcome of the gathering, NATO partners renewed commitments to help fund our security forces for the coming years with annual financial support. In this regard, we look forward to new pledges of support at the July NATO Summit in Brussels and potential contribution of other international partners. In line with our unremitting commitment to the security of Afghanistan and the wider region, we have moved to double the size of our commando forces and strengthen our air force, which will enhance the overall capability of our national defense and security forces. Reforming our Defense and Interior ministries also remains a priority, where measures are already underway to bring to leadership positions a new generation of highly educated and capable officer corps in our defense and security institutions.

Mr. President,

This Council is well aware of our firm desire for an end to the senseless violence which has been taking scores of innocent lives each and every day. Earlier this month, the leadership of the National Unity Government took another historic and bold step to achieve lasting peace by announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban for the end of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr holiday. Our announcement responded to a call by a grand gathering of around 2,500 Islamic clerics that met in Kabul from 34 provinces, which condemned acts of terror and violent extremism as contrary to Islamic tenets and principles. These developments complement our revitalized peace strategy, which was unveiled at the Kabul Process 2 Conference, and reaffirmed in Tashkent.

The initiative once again demonstrated our willingness to make a difficult and selfless decision towards peace for our people. The ceasefire was mutually observed during the three days of Eid. At the expiration of this period, we extended it for an additional 10 days. Regrettably, the Taliban failed to reciprocate, and carried out terrorist attacks on a number of occasions. We thank this Council and every one of you for joining our call to the Taliban to re-engage in the ceasefire and take part in peace talks without preconditions. We appreciate efforts from within our region and beyond in helping to create a conducive environment for the ceasefire during the religious holiday. During the ceasefire, our security forces acted to defend our territorial integrity, and continued operations against elements of foreign terrorist groups, including Daesh, Al-Qaeda, among others. They played a major role in the elimination of Mullah Fazlullah, head of the TTP terrorist group. This was an important development, which reaffirms our long-standing policy of combating terrorist groups with equal measure and focus, and without any distinction.

Mr. President,

The success of the peace process will depend on a number of factors: we need to further strengthen our unity, continue to keep our people informed and involved at all stages of the process, ensure effective management of future ceasefires and potential negotiations, ensure genuine implementation of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity; and work to further improve regional and global consensus on the international effort in Afghanistan.

It is imperative that our zeal for peace should be based on the political, social and diplomatic efforts, coupled with security considerations, which should only aim to strengthen our unity and stability. We must make sure that opportunities for peace are seized, not lost or turned into new challenges. This will only be possible by ensuring that the overall outcome conforms to the wishes and expectations of all Afghans, across the full spectrum of society. To that end, ensuring transparency in all stages of the peace process and preventing any degree of misuse will remain important. It is also essential that peace efforts serve to complement and reinforce social cohesion and consensus on other national issues, including the consolidation of democracy, by virtue of forthcoming elections. Furthermore, preserving fundamental human rights, particularly of women, and ensuring justice for victims remain of paramount importance. 

Mr President,

With regards to regional cooperation, a number of high-level reciprocal visits between Kabul and Islamabad have led to a new framework in the form of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity. The seven agreed principles cover a number of important areas, including counter-terrorism cooperation and Pakistan’s support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.  Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited Kabul on the 12th of June, and important discussions were held with Afghan leadership, focusing on the sincere, effective and timely implementation of the Action Plan, through concrete measures. Last week, a Senior Afghan delegation visited Islamabad again, to generate positive momentum on the Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity. The framework has the conceptual ingredients to shift dynamics towards greater trust, confidence and mutual cooperation, but an agreement is only as good as the will to implement it. And we, for our part, cannot overstate our commitment to its terms in letter and spirit and expect Pakistan to do the same. 

In the broader context, we have expanded dialogue for greater cooperation with a number of countries – including those in our immediate region, as well as our Central Asian partners. The past three months have also witnessed developments which we hope will strengthen regional consensus in support of the joint strategy of Afghanistan and our international partners. To that end, we wish to reaffirm our overriding commitment to ensuring Afghanistan’s centrality as a platform for cordiality and win-win cooperation for all.

Earlier this month, President Ghani attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, China. Together with SCO member and observer states, we reiterated our position that expanding regional connectivity and overcoming the nexus of transnational crime and terrorism are fundamental for stability and prosperity in the wider region. With the revitalized SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, we look forward to increased cooperation with that important forum.

Mr. President,

Four months from now, we are scheduled to hold our parliamentary and district council elections. Preparations are underway for these, along with presidential elections next year. So far, more than 7.3 million citizens have registered to vote, demonstrating their firm conviction that democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law are the bedrock of our stable future.  Our hope and expectation is to ensure that these elections will be transparent, credible, and inclusive, in accordance with our people’s demands. We are pleased that a number of young talented figures have stepped up as candidates.  To that end, reform measures are underway in the Independent Electoral Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission.  Moreover, a list of new nominees for the position of Chief of the IEC Secretariat, was presented to the leadership for consideration and approval.

Ensuring security for the elections is another important priority, and I am pleased to inform that comprehensive security arrangements have been put in place for this purpose. As a final note on this issue, we reiterate that the successful completion of the electoral processes is of vital importance for our unity and political stability.

Mr. President,

The next main international event in the political calendar concerns the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, which will be jointly hosted by Afghanistan and the United Nations in Geneva in November. We look forward to presenting the highlights of progress against key benchmarks from the Brussels Conference, based on our National Peace and Development Framework. These include progress in the areas of governance, public sector reform, local governance, economic growth, and promoting and protecting human rights.  We look to international partners to recommit new support over the coming years for our stability and prosperity. We look forward to high-level participation from our regional and international partners. The Conference comes at an important time, where the level of regional and international consensus on Afghanistan, particularly on the imperative of peace, is at its highest point since 2001.

Mr. President,

Looking ahead, we will remain focused on other pressing priorities, such as the looming effects of the drought, with prospect of displacing half a million people. This situation warrants immediate international attention. I strongly call upon the international community to fully fund Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Response Plan covering 2018-2021. We thank UNHCR, OCHA, and other UN agencies for their tireless efforts on the ground and call on the broader donor community to join the relief efforts.

By the same token, we will remain engaged in implementing our national strategy to address the lingering problem of narcotics, in all its aspects. We hope to do so with a greater degree of collaboration with regional and international partners. This year, we continued to work on multiple fronts to combat this threat as a key priority in the work of the National Unity Government. This included eradication, law enforcement and alternative livelihood measures. In the first 6 months alone, our counter-narcotics police force carried out 1,688 operations nationwide, seizing over 112,500 tons of illicit drugs and destroying a significant number of drug processing laboratories.

We hope to witness more tangible progress in this effort, which is only possible with greater cooperation among regional and international actors, including in curtailing driving factors such as the trafficking of precursors and reducing demand. We appreciate UNODC’s support role in this effort, and thank the Executive Director for leading the agencies’ work in Afghanistan. 

Mr. President,

We are looking to the future with a degree of optimism, in light of recent developments concerning our peace efforts, including the announcement of the cease-fire, and a possible shift in regional dynamics in support of peace.  Moreover, our progress towards economic integration in the wider region, through various mega economic and infrastructure projects continues unabated in a positive trajectory. The institutional reforms will remain a key component of our strategy for the promotion of the rule of law and our stability. In the broader perspective, we believe these gains can best be solidified in an atmosphere in which all partners work together, in unison and cooperation for a strategic objective that is vital to us all.

Thank You Mr. President.



Permanent Mission of Afghanistan