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Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Thank you, Mr. President, for convening this important debate. I would also like to thank the representative of OCHA, ICRC and Ms. Ilwad Elman for their briefings.
The protection of civilians is a pressing priority for the Government of Afghanistan. The Afghan people have suffered for over 30 years as a result of war and conflict, and continue to suffer today; this past year was the deadliest year for civilians in Afghanistan since 2001.
The Taliban and other extremist armed groups are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. They directly target civilians with their brutal violent campaigns and utter disregard for human life. They carry out heinous acts of terror on mosques, markets, schools, homes and critical infrastructure and threaten communities by planting improvised explosive devises (IED’s) and launching suicide and complex attacks in public places. They target men, women, children, clergy, tribal elders, government officials, and justice sector employees alike.
Let me be clear, attacks on civilians are a sign of weakness; they are not a sign of strength. They are a serious violation of international humanitarian law and breach the basic tenets of Islam.
The women of Afghanistan have borne the brunt of conflict for over 30 years of war. They have been the biggest victims of violence. This past year in Afghanistan was particularly deadly for women, with 12 percent more women killed and injured than the previous year. Women in Afghanistan, including women in public roles and girls seeking education, are often targeted for all forms of gender-based violence. Even when their lives are not directly at risk, women’s livelihoods are impacted by the negative consequences of violent conflict. When husbands, parents, siblings or guardians die or become handicapped, women are often left as the sole breadwinners in the family. Many lack access to paid work and financial resources, and this impedes their ability to provide for themselves and their families and makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Women displaced by conflict are also economically vulnerable and at heightened risk of exploitation and discrimination.
Mitigating the specific impact of conflict on women is a priority for the government of Afghanistan. In this regard, the government is implementing Security Council resolution 1325 and its subsequent resolutions through Afghanistan’s National Action Plan on 1325 for Women, Peace and Security, which was signed in October 2014 and Afghanistan’s National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA). Moreover, the government recognizes the importance of women’s active participation in ending conflict, and is committed to ensuring that women’s voices are represented in peace, reconciliation and developments efforts in the country.
As armed extremists of Afghanistan launch increasing attacks on civilians around the country, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are engaged in large-scale counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts. It is tragic that Afghan civilians, including women and children, are caught in the crossfire of security operations. However, I would like to emphasize that the Afghan forces are doing their utmost to ensure that the safety of civilians is central to their campaigns and taking all necessary measures to prevent Afghan civilian loss of life. Thousands of Afghan security forces lost their lives fighting armed insurgents; their bravery and sacrifice is a testament to the government’s strong commitment to protect civilians and bring peace and security to the country. In addition, the government is pursing the vigorous implementation of our national counter-IED strategy and facilitating on-going training of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces to conduct counter-IED operations and disposal.
Unfortunately, a number of civilian casualties occur as a result of explosive remnants of war (ERWs). ERWs pose a serious threat to Afghan civilians, particularly children. Indeed, the majority of the casualties caused by ERW have been children. With the sharp rise in kinetic engagements in 2014 and the conclusion of the ISAF mission, the associated risk of ERW to civilian life is at the highest level. In this regard, I would like to highlight the importance of robust efforts to fully support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to mark hazardous areas, ensure clearance of ERW from the battlefield and continue awareness raising programs that educate civilians -particularly children- of the deadly dangers of ERWs.
The cycle of violence that has interrupted the lives of innocent Afghans for over thirty years must stop. To this end, my government is vigorously pursuing a reconciliation agenda with the armed opposition and engagement with countries in the region to move the process forward. With the support of the international community and our neighbors, peace and security can be realized in Afghanistan and all Afghan civilians can live with honor and dignity in a country free from violence.