Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Linking Security, Development and Peace in the Central Asian Region

STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal 

Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

to the United Nations

Arria-Formula Meeting

Partners for Afghanistan: Linking Security, Development and Peace in the Central Asian Region 

(Check against delivery)

27 November 2017

NEW YORK

Introduction

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank the Permanent Missions of Kazakhstan and Germany for co-organizing this very timely Arria-Formula meeting together with us.

 

Let me welcome our good friends, the three guest speakers, Assistant Secretary-General Mr. Miroslav Jenča; Dr. Barnett Rubin of New York University; and Ms. Jasmin Jahanshahi of the Aga Khan Foundation, who have been following Afghanistan closely and will share their assessments with us today.

 

Nexus between peace, security, and development in Afghanistan and the region

Mr. Chairman,

Let’s start by stating the obvious. History has proven time and again that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan would ensure a peaceful and prosperous region as well. No one in this room can disagree with that. Hence there has to be a comprehensive and honest approach from all of us to tackle the main drivers of insecurity in Afghanistan as well as in the wider region.

As stated by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and highlighted by its Goal 16, “There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”. A comprehensive approach is vital for achieving durable peace and prosperity, and this can happen only when we bring together security cooperation, peacebuilding, and development activities.

Strategic location

Despite facing the typical challenges associated with being a landlocked country, Afghanistan, due to its strategic geographical location, can play a crucial role in regional and inter-regional connectivity, and we have been working to make that vision possible. We are fully aware of the importance of adopting a regional approach to solve problems that lie outside the capacities of a single country. Today, we have proven to be a reliable partner in major regional and international processes.

Located at the “heart of Asia”, Afghanistan stands as a point of convergence, a land-bridge and a business hub between Central Asia, South Asia, the Far East, the Middle East, and Eurasia. Our country is fully committed to sharing the benefits of its centrality and excess wealth of resources in support of sustainable development, stability, and peace in the region.

Our potential has already gained momentum and we are very keen to see the region and beyond invest in Afghanistan, adding value and playing a vital role not only for us, but for a more prosperous, peaceful and violence-free region.

Development Platforms

Mr. Chairman,

Our collective efforts can count on the solid foundations we have already built. Since 2005, the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, known as “RECCA” constitutes a prominent platform for regional economic cooperation. The political and security challenges associated with this platform are further complemented by another Afghan-led initiative – the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP). The “heart of Asia” concept constitutes the cornerstone of our work under both frameworks.

Supporting the transition of RECCA into a truly regionally led and owned platform is essential as it will result in strengthened synergies and complementarities between this framework and other regional bodies such as CAREC, ECO, OSCE, SAARC, SCO, UNSPECA, and UNESCAP. Further, it is necessary to highlight the importance of a coordinated approach by UN agencies and structures, improving the effectiveness of the support provided by the UN system.

Projects

Currently, we are engaging in energy, transportation networks, trade and transit facilitation, communication, business to business and labor support projects in the region and beyond, amounting to tens of billions of dollars.

  • Achievements:

Despite the security challenges, our transport and energy sector projects have achieved considerable progress and have the potential to positively contribute to stability and prosperity. This signals the failure of terrorism to undermine development cooperation among states.

For instance, the signing of the historic Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement among Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Turkmenistan at the recent RECCA VII in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, opens up unprecedented possibilities for trade. The Chabahar agreement among Afghanistan, Iran, and India will also facilitate trade by providing access to the markets of Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Eurasia, and beyond. The work for the realization of the Five Nations Railway Corridor – connecting China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Iran is moving forward.

Additionally, beneficial relation exists between RECCA and numerous transit corridors and initiatives in the region, including the Belt and Road Initiative.

With regards to energy, mega regional projects of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA 1000) electricity transmission line are progressing and once completed, will revitalize our energy sector and fulfill domestic and regional energy needs.

  • Challenges:

Along with much progress, we have seen some challenges, especially in the effective implementation of trade and transit agreements; this needs more focused political attention, improved security conditions, and better technical efforts. Our recent accession to WTO and the implementation of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) are examples of the same.

  • Opportunities:

There are new emerging opportunities in business to business initiatives and the rights and proper working conditions for employees.

Solutions:

We need shared diagnosis of successes and challenges and a renewal of regional commitments for combined collective actions, including new concepts for bankable investment projects, attracting investments from diverse private and public sources, including sovereign wealth funds, new regional funds and investment banks. This must be done in conformity with the priorities of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework and our Afghan SDGs. In addition, enormous opportunities exist in our sizable mineral deposits amounting up to 3 trillion dollars. The proposed regional economic corridors are paving the way for our mining industry, which would significantly boost the economy.

Conclusion

Finally, regional economic cooperation offers broad opportunities for growth, strengthens confidence building measures, provides incentives for peace, and, over time, decreases regional and political tensions. Hence, Afghanistan’s economic integration is of paramount importance for the prosperity of the region. The successes achieved so far have given us reason to strengthen our efforts towards advancing our vision. In doing so, we shouldn’t lose sight of the threats of terrorism and violent extremism and thereby develop more coordinated actions to tackle the main drivers of insecurity and imposed conflict, strengthening cooperation in the areas of security, development, and peace.  

 

Thank you.

UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflic

STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal

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

UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

 (Check against delivery)

31 October 2017

NEW YORK

 

Mr. President,

Let me thank the Mission of France for convening this open debate on the urgent issue of Children and Armed Conflict. I would like to extend my gratitude to other distinguished speakers for their statements. I would also like to welcome Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and commend her work on ending the suffering that children face globally due to conflict.

Mr. President,

Children suffer tremendously worldwide due to war, violence, and armed conflict. This is especially true in the case of Afghanistan, where so many childhoods have been compromised and impacted by imposed violence and conflict for almost four decades. But the question remains: why are our children suffering on a daily basis? And for how long we are to avoid the fundamental factors that threaten the lives and well-being of children in armed conflict? Child protection can best be ensured by addressing the root causes of the conflicts. Regardless of what we do, as long as insecurity and violence persist, the physical and psychological well-being of children will always be in danger, as we are experiencing in Afghanistan. Terror, violence, and insecurity in our country are rooted in factors that lie outside Afghanistan, with regional and global dimensions. Hence the goal should be to overcome the structural drivers of conflict and violence worldwide. This Council has a fundamental role to play in that regard, as the main UN body entrusted to maintain international peace and security. We expect the Council to respond appropriately to ensure the protection and well-being of Afghan children, and the world at large.

The Government of Afghanistan, in its own part, is fully committed to working closely with the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict to improve the lives of Afghan children. We also seek to build upon this relationship, as reflected by the constructive and positive meeting between the new Special Representative Ms. Gamba and our National Security Advisor on the sidelines of the UNGA, whereby both sides agreed to facilitate increasing engagement on the issue.

The protection of children and promotion of their rights stand high among the priorities of the Afghan Government. To this end, our efforts for their empowerment continue unabated within the framework of various international instruments, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are implementing various measures and programs, in line with our national and international commitments aimed at ensuring that our children live in peace, security, and dignity.

To that effort, we have adopted a number of policies to ensure that no child is recruited in our national defense and security forces:

  • In 2010, we established an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict.
  • In 2011, that Committee developed a National Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children in our defense and security forces.
  • Among other reforms, we established 21 Child Protection Units with the Afghan National and Local Police recruitment centers that have prevented over one hundred underage voluntary enlistment.
  • We have appointed high level focal points in our National Army to promote child protection.
  • The Prevention Law of Underage Recruitment in Afghan National Security Forces based on Article 79 of the Constitution was signed by the former President of Afghanistan and ratified by the Parliament in November 2014.
  • Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have endorsed a 15-points road-map towards compliance with the support of the UN. Among these measures, the Government has agreed to screen all National and Local Police units to release all underage recruits and establish a system to investigate, prosecute, and take disciplinary action against those responsible for the recruitment of children.
  • On 21 December 2014, “Age Assessment Guidelines to Prevent and Respond to Child Recruitment in the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF)” was adopted by the CAAC Steering Committee in Kabul, which are used for volunteers who want to join the National Army to prevent underage recruitment in the security forces.

Since these new reforms, 35 underage children serving in the armed forces have been reunited with their families, and 289 instances of children recruitment have been prevented within the eight Regional Recruitment Centers. Notably, the directives of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education in 2016, which instructed the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to stop using schools for military purposes is commendable.

The Afghan Government has established a committee to investigate instances of sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the armed forces, and has welcomed the Independent Commission on Human Rights and the office of Attorney General’s investigation of these crimes committed by the Afghan National Police force. Additionally, the Afghan Government has recently renewed the Penal Code and adopted the child protection law in 2016, which also seeks to criminalize various forms of mistreatment and abuse, including the practice of Bacha-Bazi.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan faces tremendous challenges in our effort to secure lasting peace and stability, which inextricably affects the potential of the country’s youth. We will continue to advocate the implementation of current policies so that we can end the practices that put the lives and future of our children at risk. My delegation is thankful to our international partners for supporting us in this endeavor. Afghanistan looks forward to a bright future, away from violence and terror, in which all children live in freedom and in peace.

Thank you.

UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security

STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal

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

UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security

  (Check against delivery)

 27 October 2017

NEW YORK

 

Mr. President,

Let me thank the Mission of France for convening this meeting on Women, Peace and Security.  Let me also thank all the speakers making strong positive references to Afghanistan’s progress with women in general. However, there is no place for complacency; we remain steadfast in our resolve to improve the lives of half of our population. The role of women is inextricable for the promotion of peace and security worldwide.  Experience has also shown that the full involvement and participation of women is not only desirable, but absolutely necessary for advancement of society, as well for preventing and resolving conflicts. 

Today’s meeting is of particular importance for my country Afghanistan – a country that has seen decades of imposed conflict, including terrorism and violent extremism; all of which left our institutions and social fabric in shambles.  

Mr. President,

Afghan women have borne the disproportionate burden of violence and suffering for a long period of time. Their basic rights and fundamental freedoms were completely denied under the Taliban rule, as they had no access to education, healthcare, and employment.  Needless to say, the plight of Afghan women has seen profound improvements since the fall of the Taliban regime, which marked the start of a new era in our modern history.

Since 2001, we have seen tremendous progress across all spectrums of society. Today, the National Unity Government is consolidating gains of the past years. Women’s equality in all spheres remains an important national priority, as we are committed to furthering women’s participation and role in all stages of decision-making, particularly in relation to peace and security issues. Our commitment to women’s empowerment is embedded in a firm resolve to meet our pledges, within the framework of national and international obligations, including the principles of the UN Charter and the international treaties, which we are party to.

To this end, the Government of Afghanistan is sparing no effort to meet the goals of Security Council Resolution 1325.  The Afghanistan National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security remains the overarching framework to implement that hallmark resolution. A key component of our strategy relates to ensuring women’s participation in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, as well as other matters related to peace and security.

Ending the cycle of terror, violence, and conflict in Afghanistan is the surest way to protect and promote the rights of all our citizens, particularly women.  In this respect, women are front and center in our national peace process as members of the High Peace Council; civil society; human rights advocates; members of parliament and Government. Accordingly, the participation of women in peace building efforts is recognized as a prerequisite for peace and reconstruction across the country. In the broader context, there is a common acknowledgement that durable peace and stability in Afghanistan requires the participation of women in all aspects of society: be it social, political or economic.

The National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, spanning the years 2008-2018, commits the Afghan Government to increase women’s representation in the civil service to 30 percent. The Ministries of Interior and National Defense have committed to increase women’s representation in these institutions by 20 percent over the next ten years.  Further, my delegation is pleased to report that at present, over 3,000 female armed service members and police officers are proudly serving in our national security forces for the protection of our citizens, combating international terrorism and preserving law and order.

In the economic domain, the launch of the National Program for Women’s Economic Empowerment marked another important step forward in the advancement of women. This development has supported 67,000 women in agriculture activities and empowered 35,000 women in the livestock sector. Moreover, the program is also recruiting 3,000 female teachers and 900 community midwives and nurses.

The physical protection of women from any form of violence constitutes an integral component of our national efforts to empower women. Numerous national structures have been established to enforce Constitutional and legislative provisions protecting women. These include: The Ministry of Women’s Affairs; Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; Eliminating Violence Against Women Commissions in Kabul and provinces; creation of the post of Deputy Attorney General for the Elimination of Violence Against Women;  and the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Abuse of Women and Children. These national structures are integral to the Government’s promotion and protection of women’s rights and implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325.

Mr. President,

Amidst all our gains, we recognize the imperative of sustaining and enhancing progress on all fronts for women’s empowerment.  We can say with confidence that Afghanistan has entered a new phase in our journey to transform women’s role into a powerful force of change, contributing to the vision of a Self-Reliant nation, that stands in lasting peace, tranquilly and stability.  We are confident in our success, but the support of the international community remains of crucial importance to realize that vision.  Taking this opportunity, we extend a deep debt of gratitude to all friends and partners that have and continue to render an important contribution in our efforts.  We look forward to continuing our collaboration to elevate our progress in the protection and empowerment of Afghan women to new heights.   

Thank You!

 

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan