REMARKS BY H.E. DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH CHCNR AT THE HIGH LEVEL SIDE MEETING ON AFGHANISTAN UNDER THE TITLE OF: 'HUMANITARIAN AID, INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PEACE PROCESS'
REMARKS BY H.E. DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH CHCNR AT THE HIGH LEVEL SIDE MEETING ON AFGHANISTAN UNDER THE TITLE OF:
'HUMANITARIAN AID, INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PEACE PROCESS'
GENEVA 2020 CONFERENCE ON AFGHANISTAN
Ladies and gentlemen,
My appreciation to all organizers and institutions – governmental and non-governmental – for hosting this important side-meeting focusing on humanitarian assistance, international humanitarian law and protection of civilians in the framework of the peace process, in the margins of the 2020 Afghanistan Conference.
Undoubtedly, a face-to-face encounter would have been more productive, but given the risks involved with the resurgence of the pandemic, we need to make the most out of these virtual gatherings, knowing all well that eventually, ideas and recommendations would need to be translated into tangible actions, policy directives and change to improve the overall situation, no matter how and where we meet. We count on this session accomplishing its goals beyond words.
I want to take this moment to remember those humanitarian workers and volunteers who have paid the ultimate price in all conflict zones while performing their duties to help others. They are heroes and we will never forget their contributions to humankind. I also express my gratitude to all of you and numerous others around the world and in Afghanistan for the tremendous work that is being carried out, under the circumstances, whether in refugee and IDP camps, in hospitals and clinics, prisons, educational facilities, as deminers or in other capacities . You are a critical part of the global effort to help, rescue and give hope to millions who suffer and face challenging conditions.
Today, fighting pandemics such as covid-19 and diseases such as polio, are not just local and regional concerns, but they transcend boundaries and can very quickly threaten millions among us. It is imperative that not only we build resilience but also mechanisms to cope and mitigate.
As Chair of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, I would like to see a comprehensive end to hostilities and restoration of peace across the country based on the wishes and needs of our people. However, I am reminded every day that peace-building is a process, and as a first step towards peace, all sides to the conflict have a legal and moral obligation, whether based on civil, international or religious law, to draw a line delineating civilians from combatants, soft civilian targets from military installations and humanitarian organizations and personnel from others.
Going a step further and echoing the Secretary General of the United Nation’s call for a global humanitarian ceasefire, I firmly believe that when dealing with conflict and non-state actors, we need to refocus our attention on how to adopt practical and politically feasible measures to build confidence and trust with smaller steps that can lead to our larger stated goals and aspirations at the local, regional, national and global levels.
Let us admit that given the tragic statistics on losses and casualties, and the relentless attacks that harm civilians and damage installations and infrastructure across Afghanistan, we are facing precarious conditions that need immediate remedies. This means thinking outside the box, seeking short-cuts and engaging beyond the norm to open new avenues for solutions and preventative measures through parallel talks and negotiations leading to results that aim to protect civilians and can enable humanitarian action in all affected areas.
We face stark realities that can no longer be ignored: nobody is spared by the hostilities: women, children & men of all ages continue to be affected in large numbers as we remain the deadliest country for civilians. During the first nine months of 2020, the UN recorded nearly 6,000 civilian casualties. Inclusion of child protection into the peace talks must be prioritized, with 45% of Afghanistan’s population below 15 years old.
We need to agree that as long as the armed conflict continues – regardless of peace talks - all parties need to respect International Humanitarian Law principles to protect civilians.
We need to agree on trust building issues such as the evacuation of the wounded; the transfer of human remains; respect for the medical mission and access to education.
Furthermore, dealing with those missing in action, the protection of medical facilities and staff and the conditions of detainees from both sides can and should be part of our dialogue.
Learning from the past, we need to acknowledge the harm caused to victims, and to address their rights to truth, justice, compensation, and reparation in addition to ensuring the rights of the victims’ families.
Friends and colleagues,
We are following very closely over the past few hours the reports coming out from Australia about the admissions that defense forces were involved in extra judicial killings during their service in Afghanistan.
I thank the Government of Australia for following and investigating these incidents, and taking the right steps to prosecute the suspects. These are shocking instances that have taken place during the war. Our expectation is that such incidents do not take place at all. If so, then they should be thoroughly investigated, and the individuals responsible must be brought to justice. Such steps, of course, will increase the trust of the Afghan people, and their bond with our partners.
Today, as a humanitarian citizen, in a spirit of Islamic goodwill, I call on the Taliban and those who support them, to agree to a foundational dialogue between our teams on reducing civilian losses, protecting soft targets and humanitarian activities addressing and resolving issues pertaining to assistance, laws and protection in the framework of the peace process.
This would be a good start toward political talks and a comprehensive ceasefire. If there is need for an impartial and expert third party to initiate this dialogue, then we are ready to discuss that as well.
There is a national and political will component that needs to be complemented by an international effort to keep us on course and help us use all our abilities and capacities to overcome the challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While the country’s political leaders grapple with questions about what they want for the future, we need continued solidarity from the international community to keep people alive and ensure no one is left behind. Unfortunately the unmet needs in 2020 due to underfunding, contributed to a growing number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021 up to 18.4 million people – that’s almost half the population.
Afghans look forward to a day when the country is prosperous and safe, and people no longer require assistance from the international community to survive.
My thanks again to all of you and looking forward to the panel discussions as well as your professional recommendations.