Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
“What’s New in the Field of Humanitarian De-mining?”
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,
At the outset, I’d like to thank the United Nations Mine Action Service for their organization of today’s event and we are pleased to co-chair this event with the Permanent Mission of Poland. I am pleased to be here on this panel today with my distinguished colleagues, H.E. Boguslaw Winid, H.E. Maria Emma Mejia Velez, eeand Director Agnes Marcaillou. I am grateful for their commitment to eliminating mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). The elimination of thousands of mines in my country has only been possible with the support of donor countries such as those that my fellow panelists represent, as well as the commendable work of the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan (MAPA) and its 50 national and international entities including NGOs, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan, and the Government’s Department of Mine Clearance.
My country was mined heavily during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, as well as in the subsequent civil wars of the 1990s, and still today by the Taliban and other illegal armed groups. Mines have been used strategically to protect supply routes, airfields, frontlines, and military posts. They have been used to terrify communities and innocent civilians. After three decades of conflict in Afghanistan, tragically, over one million people have lost their lives or have been disabled as a result of landmines. Afghanistan is today the most landmine and ERW impacted country in the world. Approximately half a million Afghan civilians live within 500 meters of landmine contaminated areas. Since the commencement of MAPA, 80 percent of mine contamination has been addressed. However, 4,266 minefields and battlefields in thousands of villages still need to be cleared.
The consequence of landmine and ERW contamination extends beyond the humanitarian space and impedes progress in economics and agriculture as well. Mines and ERWs obstruct access to basic services, facilities and infrastructure. They render land impossible to use for schools, crops, and other productive activities. The country is still littered with hazardous explosive devices, meaning that even in areas where conflict has ceased, civilians risk death or injury from landmines, ERWs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In December of 2012, Afghanistan submitted a request to the States Parties of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty to extend the deadline by which all antipersonnel mines would be removed from Afghan territory, by ten years. As part of the extension request, Afghanistan submitted a 10 year work plan which will bring mine free status to the country by 2023.
The presence of Improvised Explosive Devices is another big threat to the lives of civilians. Indiscriminate use of IEDs is a common tactic among the Taliban and other terrorist groups. In 2014 alone, approximately 3,000 civilians were victims of injuries caused by IEDs in Afghanistan.
As we approach the year 2023, together with our partners, Afghanistan is confident we will see a mine free nation. This will be a monumental achievement for our country, a result of the hard work and dedication of the thousands of Afghan de-miners who risk their lives on a daily basis to ensure security for their fellow citizens. This past Saturday, 12 de-miners working for HALO trust, a partner of MAPA, were kidnapped from Logar province. On Monday, all but six were safely freed. We must continue working to ensure the safety and security for these brave men and women.
As we strive for the day when Afghanistan is completely mine free, the continuing support of the international community along with UNMAS, will ensure de-mining activities are conducted safely, efficiently, and effectively. With the end of the transition period and the beginning of the transformation decade, defined by national ownership and leadership, we are entering into a new phase of partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, including the UN. Now, the Government of Afghanistan is engaged in a comprehensive reexamination of the role and activities of all UN entities in our country aimed at strengthening our collaboration and partnerships with the UN. This process will allow the government of Afghanistan to assume its central coordination role in development and humanitarian activities, including de-mining. We look forward to continuing our close work with UNMAS and other organizations involved in mine clearance. For the success of our de-mining efforts, we call on the international community to continue financial assistance. We also, appreciate the support of member states for the General Assembly Resolution on Assistance in Mine Action, of which we are a co-sponsor. Together, we all seek the noble objective of an Afghanistan free of mines and explosive remnants of war, where our people will live without fear of these senseless weapons.