commemorative meeting of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Women
Statement by HE Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Chairman of Asian Group for the month of March
on behalf of Asian Group
to the commemorative meeting of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Women
First and foremost, on behalf of the Asian group, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to Chile. We wish the Chilean people a speedy recovery and we admire their strength during these tragic times.
On behalf of Asian Group, it is an honor for me to address this historic gathering commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration.
In September 1995 we gathered in Beijing for the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on women. Today, fifteen years later, we come together again to commemorate the occasion, acknowledge progress made and challenges ahead, and pay tribute to the ideals embodied in the Beijing Platform of Action. In Beijing we unequivocally declared our shared determination to advance the goals of equality, development, and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity; we recognized the persistent inequalities between men and women and the repercussions they have on societies; and we acknowledged that the situation is exacerbated by the abject poverty that affects the lives of many of the worlds people, in particular woman and children. We concluded by dedicating ourselves to addressing these constraints and obstacles, and, perhaps more importantly, we recognized the urgency of this endeavor and the need for collective determination and cooperation for the tasks ahead.
In assessing our progress in implementing the commitments we made to the world’s women in Beijing, we realize much progress has been made, but considerable obstacles remain that hobble and dehumanize women throughout the world.
Women’s rights are progressive and evolving. Since the Beijing conference men and women throughout the world have become ever more aware of the inequities that women endure, and they have spoken up to demand change. It is that demand that has brought about the improving recognition of women’s rights in each countryâ€™s legal system and here at the United Nations.
Furthermore, the Beijing Conference cemented the notion that it is unacceptable to differentiate women’s rights from human rights. But still in many countries around the world women are not safe from the threats of domestic violence, continued discrimination, and wide-ranging socio-economic barriers. We must continue our efforts toward the implementation of Beijing Declaration.
But progress has been made through a concerted effort of the international community, national governments, and in part through the action of women and girls themselves. According to the World Bank, women in South Asia now live longer than men for the first time. This improvement in womenâ€™s longevity is an indicator of better treatment of women and girls and a valued outcome identified in the Beijing Platform for Action. In addition, high economic growth has led to significant reduction in gender gaps in the labor markets of Asian and Pacific nations.
In the political realm, Asia, where, according to the World Bank, women political leaders are more prevalent than anywhere else, has certainly made progress through the introduction of quota systems to increase womenâ€™s representation in political governance structures. For example, in Afghanistan where the misogynistic Taliban once ruled and women were deprived of their very basic human rights, now constitutional law stipulates that 27% of all seats in parliament must be filled by women.
Undoubtedly, because of our actions over the past three decades, womenâ€™s issues have gained prominence on the international and national development agendas. Attention has gone not only to the plight of poor and disenfranchised women in developing countries, but also to the unfinished gender agenda in more developed countries, such as addressing womenâ€™s representation in higher-paying jobs and management positions and reducing the prevalence of gender-based violence.
We gather here today to commemorate this special occasion, to celebrate a cause, to celebrate progress, but more importantly to realize that our job is not finished – to realize that there are remaining and arising new challenges. We have come a long way since the conference in Beijing; we shall be ruthlessly unyielding in our pursuit to ensure that our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, are treated with equality, respect, and dignity.
I thank you, Mr. President.
Afghanistan is headed towards a new beginning in its history. The elections due to take place in just a few weeks will not only determine the fate of the country for the next five years, but will also establish its future and the future of its people for a long time to come.
Our first democratic elections five years ago marked a symbolic end to decades of bloody struggles that have scarred Afghanistan over the past decades, and looked towards a secure and hopeful prospect for the country. This second election will determine the viability of that hope. The tomorrow of Afghanistan is at stake.
The international community is deeply appreciative of the amazing progress Afghanistan has made in the last eight years. However, it is also concerned about the sustainability of what we have achieved, and whether a strong and prosperous Afghanistan will emerge from these elections and over the course of the next few years. Afghanistan has rightly been placed in the international spotlight in past years, and this is especially evident due to the attention of recent weeks: the UN Secretary General’s report, to the 30 June Security Council debate, to the Security Council Presidential Statement, together with a number of national foreign policy statements, have all given particular emphasis on the need for Afghanistan’s elections to run smoothly. All of this focus has been directed towards the importance of successful elections to bring Afghans together into a unity of understanding, actions, and of responsibility for the nation.
In this effort, UNAMA has proven to be a crucial link between members of the international community and Afghans on the ground. It was worked diligently, not to run the elections, but to coordinate efforts and ascertain that all parties are playing by the rules of the game. Without their help and that of the international community, the elections could not be carried out successfully. The international community is involved in the process of conducting the Afghan elections because it recognizes that the future of Afghanistan is trembling in the balance, and that if the election process is not legitimate and if the outcome is not considered valid by all, the future of the nation will be undermined. However, it intends to play only a supporting role in pushing these efforts forward, through the assistance of soldiers, monitors from over 40 countries, and through the financing of the elections. It recognizes that the outcome is a purely Afghan issue, and that Afghans must choose their leaders as they desire. As Kai Eide, the Secretary General’s Special Representative to Afghanistan, has rightly asserted, a level playing field is essential at the onset, but the responsibility of the successful elections also lies in the hands of the candidates themselves, as well as to the Afghan voters.
The success of these elections will allow Afghanistan to move away from continued international military efforts, and toward becoming a self-sustained nation. It is essential that the elections are a success, because what happens in Afghanistan will also affect the stability of the region and the world. By the end of August, Afghanistan will hopefully be unified and strengthened, rather than fragmented and weakened. Unfortunately, elections are often divisive; but it is the duty of all Afghans to ascertain that this divisiveness will be a result of a democratic right of difference of opinion, rather than due to the coercion that has determined Afghan decisions over the past decades of occupation and oppression. All Afghans, both in the country and abroad, have a duty to help Afghanistan and to celebrate the opportunity to exercise their right to democracy and self-governance.
The promise of Afghanistan’s recent progress cannot serve as an excuse for a relaxation of our dedication to the country. Afghanistan needs the support of its citizens and the unwavering commitment of the international community now more than ever before. The international community is looking to Afghanistan to prove that democracy and freedom can emerge from dire and desolate circumstances. Afghanistan must show that a phoenix can truly rise from the ashes. For the sake of nations and peoples across the world, Afghanistan must set the example of free, fair, legitimate, secure, and transparent elections.
The elections must maintain rule of law and give Afghanistan the chance to build on the progress of the last years. They provide the greatest opportunity to unite its people, strengthen and render sustainable its institutions, and provide a strong foundation for continuing efforts towards a secure, strong, and independent Afghanistan. We look to the candidates, to the voters, to the Independent Electoral Commission, the Electoral Complaints Commission, the Media Commission, the Afghan National Army and Police, UNAMA and the Special Representative to the Secretary General, and ultimately to Afghanistan as a whole to ensure, through their dignity of action and respect for the democratic process, that the elections create and perpetuate an Afghanistan we can be proud of, for all of our sakes.
By Dr Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations.