Statement of Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, on the 99th Independence Day of Afghanistan
September 4, 2018, New York
Excellencies Ambassadors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN. Tonight, we gather to celebrate the 99th Independence Day of Afghanistan.
This occasion is an opportunity to celebrate our rich culture and traditions, but more broadly, it is a time to pay tribute to the strength, perseverance, fortitude, and resilience that the heroic people of Afghanistan have exhibited time and again during different phases of our nation’s proud history.
At the gateway between Asia and Europe, and at the crossroad of Central Asia, South Asia, the Far East, and the Middle East, Afghanistan has seen many foreign conquerors trying their fortune, from Alexander to Genghis Khan to the British and Soviet empire. On the 19th of August 1919, we regained our hard won independence from British rule.
We have been tested unlike few nations to protect our sovereignty and be self-reliant. Despite all the challenges faced in the past century, Afghans have always espoused to live in a free country. History has demonstrated our triumph against numerous aggressive foreign powers over time to the benefit of the world.
Today’s occasion is a fitting opportunity to highlight our major achievements in the course of our history, including those made since the fall of the brutal Taliban regime in 2001, in close cooperation with the international community, for which we are truly grateful.
We saw a new light and a path forward in 1919 when King Amanullah Khan ushered in the independence of Afghanistan. His ambitious social, political, and economic reforms transformed the country and elevated it at the forefront of newly independent nations striving to achieve self reliance and solidify their place in the world. This period saw major advancements in various sectors, including education, science, and technology. Kabul was a much sought after destination, often called the Paris of the east.
Afghanistan emerged as the food basket of the region; known for intricate handicrafts, carpets, fresh and dry fruits, and the famed Afghan hospitality and generosity of spirit, our diverse culture epitomized our strength as one nation.
Later, our position of non-alignment was well documented for decades including during WW II, which is still in vogue as we have framed our foreign policy on the backdrop of being a platform of cordiality for all. We have never allowed our soil to be a proxy zone for other nations to play out their negative rivalry and geo-strategic interests. On the contrary, we have strived to facilitate ties of friendship, solidarity, and mutual cooperation across different regions of the world.
During the first 60 years of independence we were in relative peace, making steady progress in various domains. However, in the past 40 years of imposed conflicts, we have suffered tremendously.
In 2001, the global community joined our long-standing fight against terrorism, used as proxy, and we began a new chapter in our modern history. Together with the support of the United Nations and many other international partners, mandated by the UN Security Council, in the past 17 years, we have witnessed steady progress and major developments in all sectors of Afghanistan.
In 2004, our democratic constitution was revised and adopted based on the broad consensus and desire of the Afghan people. That was the very foundation upon which broader state-building efforts took place later. Accordingly, we have made tremendous strides in education, healthcare, promoting human rights for all, increasing gender parity in Government, and ensuring livelihood to our people. These are – by all accounts – common achievements we all can take pride in.
We have substantially elevated our standing in the international arena, including here at the United Nations. Afghanistan is a nation firmly committed to promoting and advancing the ideals and principles of the UN Charter. We are making a proactive contribution to various issues on the UN agenda in the form of new resolutions, and have increased our presence in UN forums and entities.
Our chairmanship of the Third Committee of the General Assembly begins in a couple of weeks. Last year, we were elected to the Human Rights Council. We are also a member of the ECOSOC, and serving as Vice-Chair of the General Assembly. We will continue in this trajectory to further enhance our role in promoting international peace, stability, and development.
This evening I would like to reiterate our gratitude to the international community, the United Nations in particular, and all partner countries around the world for their friendship and support, as we continue our journey towards lasting peace, stability, and self-reliance. We look forward to continuing this strategic partnership to achieve our common goals and objectives. As we do so, complacency is out of the question. Hostile forces in our region, challenging our advances through violent proxies, should take a lesson from our history. We will always prevail!
So today, on our 99th Independence Day, we must look towards the future and learn from the past. As we celebrate Afghanistan’s rich history, culture, accomplishments, and people, let us be reminded of our common destination of freedom, peace, and prosperity and our common sacrifices to achieve them.