Friday, July 28, 2017

Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children

STATEMENT

BY

H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

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

At the Third Committee

Of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

On Agenda  Item 64

“Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children”

New York

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, please allow me to thank the Secretary-General for his recent reports on the rights of children. I would like to further express my appreciation for the report of the

Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Violence Against Children.

Mr. Chairman,

In Afghan tradition, each child is considered to be a blessing. The government of

Afghanistan’s continued efforts to strengthen national policy to promote and protect the rights of children reflect the Afghan value of honouring our children, which is pitted in the very roots of our culture.

Sadly, we continue to face challenges to protecting the rights of Afghan children due to the grave impacts of thirty years of war, destruction and terrorism. Their lives are all too often defined by the ongoing violence and danger, which have been the backdrop of their entire existences. Not only have the children of Afghanistan endured the harsh physical effects of war such as serious injuries, disabilities, hunger, dehydration, lack of medical care, and devastatingly, even death; but they must face the detrimental psychological effects of growing up in wartime, which result from witnessing horrendous acts of violence, losing parents and loved ones, post-traumatic stress, and living in constant fear and poverty.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite all this, the resilience of the children of Afghanistan shines through. The children of our country yearn for their educations. Enrollment rates in schools have increased to 71% this year. Around 37% of the 7 million Afghan students are girls.  Merely ten years ago, under the Taliban, girls were not allowed to go to school and were forbidden from working. Today Afghan boys and girls have equal access to education. 4,500 new schools have been built in the past 8 years, over 22 million textbooks have been delivered, and the number of teachers has grown exponentially. We must continue our efforts to address the gender gap in literacy as well as in education in rural areas and in higher education, but it is certain that we have come a long way toward improving access and gender equality in education.

Afghanistan has made efforts to improve access to healthcare for its children. Basic healthcare in Afghanistan has increased from 9% coverage of the population in 2003 to nearly 90% this year. Polio has been nearly eradicated in Afghanistan, and our national immunization campaign is in full swing. Infant and under five mortality rates have improved significantly in the last year. However, we still have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and 50% of our children remain underweight and under-nourished. Going forward, we must take into account the link between women’s education, maternal health, and children’s health and mortality.

Mr. Chairman,

The issue of children’s rights and well-being are inextricably linked to security. The main challenge to upholding international standards of children’s rights in Afghanistan lies in the danger of those who do not recognize the importance of the rights of children. Hundreds of Afghan schools have been burned or destroyed by terrorist groups.  Disrupting access to schools has been a major element of Taliban strategy. Just a few months ago, deadly nerve gases were released in Afghan schools, poisoning hundreds of innocent students and teachers, and targeting girls.  We believe the Taliban are responsible for these horrendous attacks.  The Taliban’s targeting of young students as well as their use of children for suicide bombings and recruitment of children as listed in the report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict from 13 April 2010, reflects their disregard for international standards of children’s rights, and in fact the tradition of Afghan culture itself which recognizes the preciousness of each and every child’s life.

The government of Afghanistan will continue to assist the Secretary-General’s efforts to protect schools as zones of peace through monitoring and reporting mechanisms for these violations against children.

Mr. Chairman,

In a war-torn country like Afghanistan, a major impediment to protecting children’s rights is the challenge of enforcing rule of law. Issues such as fighting impunity and addressing grave acts of violence, or sexual abuse take time and need the support of the international community in order to maintain security in the country throughout the process.

The government of Afghanistan holds strong to its enduring commitment to protecting the rights of children under our constitution, and by international conventions and agreements to which we are a party, such as Security Council resolutions 1612 and 1882, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols.  We have supported the recent creation of monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and further support UNAMA’s addition of Child Protection Officers on staff, and the inclusion of child protection issues in the mandates of UNAMA and ISAF. We appreciate deeply the generous assistance we have received from the international community in supporting our relentless efforts to promote the protection of children’s rights and needs, as mapped out in our National Strategy on Children at Risk.

I am pleased to report that we have implemented a high-level Steering Committee of all relevant ministries and authorities of the government to interact with the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, to develop an action plan for effective and timely responses to problems faced by children in armed conflict. Furthermore, the government created a Commission to oversee the needs of children and juveniles, and we are currently working with civil society and religious leaders to address sexual violence, which is contrary to both national law and Islamic values.

Mr. Chairman,

The efforts we put forth toward helping children are an investment in the future of our countries and world.  Today, we reaffirm our commitment to creating an environment in which all children can move beyond the struggle to survive violence, overcome poverty, or fight for their health and educational opportunities, and can excel through realizing their human potential.

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 106: International Drug Control 65th General Assembly

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since its inception in 1997, the UNODC has played an instrumental role in leading the global fight against illicit drugs and international crime. For our part, Afghanistan values the indispensible role of UNODC in supporting our efforts to eliminate the threat of narcotic drugs and other forms of organized crime. This support has been provided in various areas, including capacity building of relevant law-enforcement institutions for effective border-control management, drug-demand-reduction and provision of alternative livelihoods.

Mr. Chairman,

Addressing the threat of narcotic drugs on the security and well-being of our society is among the top priorities of the Afghan government. Given its global and transnational character, defeating this menace will be possible only through a concerted international and regional effort.  The problem of narcotics is part of a complicated and sophisticated criminal network, from which the people of Afghanistan continue to suffer immensely on a daily basis.

Cognizant of this threat, the Afghan government has taken a number of steps at the national, regional, and international levels for addressing this scourge.  We are pleased to state that our efforts have yielded important results. With support and assistance from our international partners, we have succeeded in reducing poppy cultivation by 48% this year. We are pleased to see this reflected in UNODC’s 2010 Afghanistan Opium Survey. Additionally, through a comprehensive set of measures, which include strengthened law-enforcement, agricultural development, interdiction, alternative livelihoods, demand-reduction and public awareness, we have maintained twenty poppy-free provinces and are committed to increasing that figure by next year.

Meanwhile, it has become evident that a successful fight against narcotic drugs requires a comprehensive strategy with more focus on addressing the trafficking and consumption dimension of the narcotics problem. More needs to be done by transit and consuming countries to prevent trafficking of chemical precursors, and reduce demand in foreign markets. In this regard, we call for increased measures by member-states to implement Security Council resolution 1817 on combating deliveries of chemical precursors for drug production in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

The production of illicit drugs is linked to the continuation of terrorist and extremist activity in Afghanistan and our region. The proceeds from narcotic drugs continue to be used as a main source of terrorist funding.  Like terrorism, the narcotics problem is a threat to stability in our region and beyond. Therefore, given the interdependent link between terrorism and narcotics, these twin challenges must be addressed in tandem with one another .

Aside from security implications, narcotic drugs pose a serious threat to the social fabric of Afghan society. Drug abuse in Afghanistan has increased substantially over the past years.  Those affected include both youth and adults.  As indicated in last year’s ‘Drug Use in Afghanistan Survey,’ “[e]asy access to cheap drugs and limited access to drug treatment, combined with three decades of war-related trauma have resulted in problem drug-use among almost one-million Afghans, roughly 8% of the population between 15-64 years old.” Moreover, according to the survey, more than 90% of drug users are in dire need of treatment.  Currently, 40 structured drug-treatment centers are operational in 21 provinces. In this regard, we underscore the need for sustained international assistance in expanding quantity and quality of “drug-treatment centers” throughout the country.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan attaches special importance to effective regional cooperation for addressing the many challenges facing our region. These include terrorism, extremism, narcotic drugs, and organized crime. In this regard, we continue collaboration with regional countries for a viable solution to these problems. We are working to expand cooperation in various fields, including strengthening of relevant law-enforcement agencies, greater intelligence sharing on terrorist threats, and drawing effective mechanisms to curtail trafficking of chemical precursors and narcotic drugs. We continue to hold bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral consultations, and maintain our efforts through other mechanisms and forums, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and South-Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Moreover, in the context of more effective border management, we underscore the need to expedite the recruitment and training of Afghan security forces, including Afghan border and customs police to render a more effective role in preventing the infiltration into Afghan territory of all forms of illegal activity.

Mr. Chairman,

We are thankful to the international community, the UNODC in particular, for its continued support and commitment in addressing the challenges of security, narcotic drugs and organized crime, and achieving a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Together we have come a long way, but much remains to be accomplished.  We look forward to our continued partnership to finish the vision we began nine and a half-years ago.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.

Check Against Delivery

General Assembly Plenary on the humanitarian situation resulting from the floods in Pakistan

Statement of H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin

General Assembly

Plenary on the humanitarian situation resulting from the floods in Pakistan

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to convey the deepest condolences of the Government and people of Afghanistan to the government and people of Pakistan, our neighbors, for their losses during this tragedy, and our full solidarity with them as they recover and rebuild in the coming months and years.

The United Nations as an Organization reminds us constantly that we do not exist in isolation; more than ever we share the joy and pain of our fellow men. I want to assure the Pakistani people that they are not alone in this struggle; that the international community, and this great Organization, including Afghanistan, are here to assist them. Afghanistan and Pakistan share a long border, common languages, religion, culture, and history, and we feel closely the pain and anguish of our brothers and sisters in Pakistan during this tragedy.

Mr. President,

In this regard, I would like to welcome the draft resolution tabled today, and encourage the international community to give generously in order to minimize the suffering of the Pakistani people and speed the recovery process. Afghanistan has already pledged $1mil in aid, despite our own difficult situation, and has sent four helicopters and more than 4 tonnes of medical supplies, along with 48 medical and humanitarian personnel. The international presence in Afghanistan, both ISAF and UNAMA, have also leapt to assist the Pakistani people, both directly and by funneling aid from outside. We will continue to work closely with our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to offer them a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on during this difficult time.

Thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan are also among those suffering, as three refugee camps have been largely destroyed, affecting more than 3000 families. Our Consul General in Peshawar has already distributed a thousand blankets, and is working closely with UNHCR to ensure that these families are cared for.

Mr. President,

None of us can be disinterested in the face of such destruction. More than fourteen million people have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and in many cases their lives. We have a common responsibility, as human beings, to come together and assist the government and people of Pakistan however we can, so that this disaster will not result in further tragedy. It is our hope that the international community will demonstrate its solidarity with the people and government of Pakistan by responding promptly and generously to any request from Pakistan for assistance in their plight.

Again, I reiterate to the Pakistani people and government the full support of my own government and people, and we will assist you further through all available channels.

I thank you, Mr. President.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan