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MPs from Afghanistan participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

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Vienna, 20.02.2015

A high-ranking delegation of MPs from both houses of the National Assembly of Afghanistan participated in the 14th Winter Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, held at Vienna’s Hofburg from 18 to 20 February, 2015.

Delegates from the Upper House (Meshrano Jirga, House of Elders) and the Lower House (Wolesi Jirga, House of the People) actively participated in the meetings and presented statements in General Committee meetings on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, including a special debate on “Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees”; and on Political Affairs and Security, including a special debate on “Transnational Security in the OSCE Area: Confronting Terrorism”. Statements were also made during the two Joint Sessions of the General Committees, including a response to the report by Ms. Hedy Fry, the Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Gender Issues.

Delegates also engaged in a number of bilateral talks with other delegations and OSCE officials at the margins of the conference, and participated in a panel discussion co-organized by ACUNS-Vienna, UNODC and the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan (for details please see separate Press Release).

 

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MPs from Afghanistan addressed a UN panel on the “Parliamentary Perspective on Consolidating Democracy during Afghanistan’s Decade of Transformation”

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Vienna, 18.02.2015

On the occasion of the Vienna visit of a high-ranking parliamentary delegation from Afghanistan, the Permanent Mission, together with UNODC and ACUNS-Vienna Liaison Office, co-organized a panel discussion at the United Nations Office at Vienna today, entitled “A Parliamentary Perspective on Consolidating Democracy during Afghanistan’s Decade of Transformation (2015-2024)”.

On the panel were members of the Lower House (Wolesi Jirga) of the National Assembly of Afghanistan, headed by H.E. Erfanullah Erfan, Deputy Secretary; Mr. Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director of the Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs at UNODC; Mr. Stefan Schocher, journalist with Kurier daily newspaper; Dr. Michael Platzer of ACUNS-Vienna (moderator); and H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani.

Ambassador Erfani welcomed the participants, introduced the panelists and provided a brief overview on the topic. Mr. Erfan then presented his assessment and discussed possible developments, highlighting what has been accomplished over the past thirteen years, but also making reference to remaining challenges and obstacles. The MPs highlighted the evident differences between life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule as compared to today, pointing to specific examples including the increased participation of women and the freedom of the media. Praising the new constitution, they discussed the success and consistent improvements of previous parliamentary, presidential and provincial council elections. They also indicated that 17 of 102 seats in the Upper House and 64 of 249 seats in the Lower House are reserved for women. Looking to the future, Mr. Erfan spoke on the urgency of encouraging electoral reform and providing for entirely fair elections. With 2015 marking the start of Afghanistan’s Decade of Transformation, Mr. Erfan seemed confident that Afghanistan would continue to move in the right direction.

Both Mr. Erfan and Ambassador Erfani responded to the remarks by the panelists before Dr. Platzer opened the Q&A session.

A large audience from various UN offices and Permanent Missions actively participated in a lively debate. In his closing remarks, Ambassador Erfani noted that Afghanistan, after having suffered for decades, had started its journey to democracy thirteen years ago. “The establishment of a democratic system ranks among our biggest achievements,” the Ambassador said.

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Ambassador Erfani addresses the IAEA’s meeting with National Experts

 Ambassador Erfani addresses the IAEA’s meeting with National Experts 

Ambassador Erfani with IAEA experts and the Afghan Delegation

Ambassador Erfani with IAEA experts and the Afghan Delegation

Vienna, 06/02/2015

Ambassador Erfani addressed the organisers and Afghan delegation in Vienna for the IAEA National Experts Meeting to Design and Formulate Technical Cooperation National Projects of Afghanistan for 2016-2017, at the VIC today. The meetings were held from 2-6 February and it was a great opportunity for the delegates to discuss furthering technical cooperation in Afghanistan. Ambassador Erfani addressed the closing session noting the important achievements Afghanistan has made for the past decade, such as the establishment of the Independent Nuclear Energy Commission and how far Afghanistan has come in terms of capacity building in the country, with the assistance of the IAEA, especially in the areas of safety, agricultures and human health. He mentioned that Afghanistan’s priority of strengthening the quality control of X-Ray equipment; radiological monitoring; energy planning; using atomic energy in water, soil and crop improvement; and the Aliabad teaching hospital telemedicine program, among others, are all of great importance as we moved towards improved capabilities and capacities in the country. We appreciate the active cooperation and partnership of the IAEA with Afghanistan in these fields.

Additionally, this week Ambassador Erfani was kept busy with a number of pressing issues: He met with academic Ms. Edit Schlaffer (Women without Borders, Sisters against Violent Extremism) to discuss empowerment of women in Afghanistan, making reference to the successful women’s employment project in Kunduz. They discussed her organisations and possibilities for cooperation with Afghanistan in the future; and the OSCE’s engagement with Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

On Tuesday Ambassador Erfani met with Ambassador Launsky, head of the Austrian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Development Cooperation to discuss Austria’s furture possible involvement for development projects in Afghanistan and they also discussed including the issues related to the Kunduz project on womens empowerment.

On Wednesday, Ambassador Erfani attended a brainstorming session at the OSCE to prepare for a Security Days discussion on how the OSCE could enhance its efforts to promote tolerance and non-discrimination, as one way to help to prevent the growing challenge of religious related violence in the OSCE region and expressed Afghanistan’s position. Ambassador Erfani noted the importance of the sensitisation of all people to religious diversity and promotion of tolerance and respect for all people. At the meeting he condemned the brutal killing of the Jordanian pilot this week at the hands of extremists.

On Friday, Ambassador Erfani met with the head of the UNODC Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) and his team, to discuss UNODC projects in Afghanistan and how the UNODC can be more actively implement these projects in the country. They exchanged views on the future of cooperation and the mandate of the UNODC and Afghanistan’s National Priority Programs. He thanked the UNODC’s continued participation in  Afghanistan’s stabilisation process.

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National Ulema Council expresses support and solidarity with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)

Afghanistan’s National Security Forces (ANSF) received overarching support and expressions of solidarity from the country’s largest religious body, the National Ulema Council on Thursday.  This comes as a significant step for the ANSF, as decisions taken by the Council are honoured across the nation. Over 5,000 religious scholars from across the country gathered in Kabul for the declaration, udner the slogan ‘Long live Afghan Forces’.

Concurrently, Afghanistan’s Youth Union also came forward in an ever increasing trend of national support for the ANSF, signing an agreement with the Ministry of Defence, to encourage Afghan youth to join the ranks of the security forces.

Similar expressions of support were given by both houses of Parliament and women’s’ organizations. Following the drawdown of the NATO led ISAF, the Afghan ANSF are responsible for the country’s security. The ANSF has demonstrated their capability for the task ahead over the past year and it is this trust of the Afghan people which remains essential to them succeeding at their mission.

 

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Ambassador Erfani attends the New Year’s Reception hosted by President Dr. Heinz Fischer

Vienna, 12.01.2015     

H.E. Ambassador Erfani today attended the New Year’s Reception for the diplomatic corps in Vienna, hosted by the Federal President of the Republic of Austria, H.E. Dr. Heinz Fischer.

The Ambassador had the opportunity to briefly discuss a number of issues with the Federal President, including the completed transition process in Afghanistan and the opportunities and challenges in the upcoming Decade of Transformation (2015-2024) in Afghanistan. Mr. Ambassador also informed the President about the cabinet nominations presented to the Afghan parliament.

Ambassador Erfani expressed his gratitude for the continued generous support from Austria, both on the bilateral level and through European Union and other multilateral channels.

Ambassador Erfani also conveyed the best wishes to the Federal President and to the people of Austria from the President of Afghanistan, H.E. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.

President Fischer delivered a comprehensive speech, analyzing current global developments and making reference to Austrian policies:  “Also in this New Year, we will strive to contribute to a positive and peaceful development in the international realm.” The President also condemned in strongest terms the barbaric murders in Paris and commended the response given by France calling it “absolutely impressive and convincing”.

Ambassador Erfani was accompanied by the Deputy Head of Mission, Minister-Counsellor Mr. Abdul Wahab Arian, and by the Second Secretary Mrs. Fatima Frozish.

 

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Ambassador Erfani opens the 3rd International Congress of Afghan Refugees

Ambassador Erfani opens the 3rd International Congress of Afghan Refugees 

 

Ambassador Erfani at the conference.

Ambassador Erfani at the conference.

 

 

 

Vienna, 14 December 2014

 

Today, H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani opened the 3rd International Congress of Afghan Refugees, held in Vienna, discussing the situation of Afghan refugees, migrants and naturalized citizens, in support of the programmes of the newly established National Unity Government of Afghanistan for the upcoming Decade of Transformation (2015-2024) in the country. The event was co-organized by the Vienna-based Afghan Cultural Association AKIS and the Association of International Afghan Refugees.

The focus of the congress was to emphasize the role of Afghan refugees in the reconstruction of their country. Participants from Afghanistan, Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and other European countries included heads of Afghan associations, members of the Afghan parliament, Afghan government officials, civil society representatives and the media. All participants actively contributed to the work of the congress.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Erfani welcomed all participants to Vienna and briefed them about the current situation in Afghanistan: “We have come a long way over the past thirteen years, the people of Afghanistan with the support from our international friends has accomplished enormous progress, yet we also encountered missed opportunities and we still have a number of remaining challenges in front of us”, the Ambassador stated. He added “that the successfully concluded process of transition as well as the strong demonstration by the Afghan people during the 2014 elections sent a clear message of the Afghans’ commitment to democracy and Afghanistan’s upcoming Decade of Transformation (2015-2024): the people of Afghanistan want peace, security, democracy and prosperity.”

Ambassador Erfani emphasized that all participants have deep understanding of the Afghanistan’s history at their disposal. He also underscored that while participants are encouraged to articulate different views, analyses and ideas, the congress would also offer a great opportunity to build consensus and to find compromise in order to enable a positive discussion. This is the time to find ways and means to build up on previous achievements, to learn from past mistakes, and to deliver better in the future for the people of Afghanistan. “In order to achieve the vision of the Decade of Transformation for a better future of our country, we will have to work together, spurred by the values of unity and solidarity”, Mr. Ambassador said.

The government of Afghanistan is committed to facilitate everything that is needed both abroad and at home and throughout all spheres of society for the people of Afghanistan to be able to actively contribute to the advancement of their country. One focus will be put on the creation of opportunities for business and investment. Ambassador Erfani called the Afghans abroad a huge asset for Afghanistan and asked the participants to “play an active role in the sense of shared responsibility in helping those in particular need, which unfortunately are still many of the war-stricken Afghan people who had to suffer for such a long time.” The Ambassador continued by inviting all participants to pro-actively engage in contributing to the implementation of the programmes of the National Unity Government, launched at the London Conference on Afghanistan earlier this month.

Ambassador Erfani also took part in the closing session of the congress where he commended the organizers for the hard work they had put in, and all participants for their readiness to take part and for their pledges to help the Afghan people, also through lobbying for continued cooperation between Afghanistan and its partners in the international community and by contributing to the implementation of the programmes of the National Unity Government, in terms of investments, economic opportunities, cultural work, civil society and media activities.

In conclusion, the Ambassador once again thanked the organizers and all participants for their contributions and encouraged everyone to actively engage in the creation of a better future for Afghanistan.

 

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Ambassador Erfani addressed the participants at the Power Breakfast on the “Small Arms Survey 2014 Yearbook: Women and Guns” and the “Expert Group Meeting on Violence against Women and Comprehensive Security” at the OSCE

 

This morning, Ambassador Erfani participated in a Power Breakfast session on Women and Guns where he shared Afghanistan’s experiences, achievements, challenges and future prospects on this important matter. He also participated in the expert group meeting on violence against women and comprehensive security. The discussion focused on the understanding of the gender perspective of personal security in the OSCE participating states and partners for cooperation.

The panel consisted of experts from various fields and organizations, including, representatives from the OSCE Gender section and the OSCE academy in Bishkek, the country representative of UN Women in Albania, the EU FRA and civil society.

Ambassador Erfani expressed his gratitude to the partners of Afghanistan for their help during the stabilization process in the country for the last 13 years, with the empowerment of women being one important aspect. He referred to the need for a comprehensive approach that takes into account the physical security of women and girls, the prime victims of decade-long conflict, as well as women’s rights, poverty eradication, the creation of job opportunities and access to education and health. He emphasized that Afghanistan is committed to this important issue as one of the main national priorities and needs the international communities’ continuous and effective support.

“The impact of gender-based violence is enormous and has ripple effects throughout our society. Afghanistan has taken a number of legal, social, educational and financial steps to improve the situation of women, but we must acknowledge that violence against girls and women still persists, to a degree that is unacceptable. Afghanistan has become a much better place for women, but there is a long way to go to eliminate all forms of violence against them and to accomplish comprehensive security in the country.”

Ambassador Erfani emphasized that Afghanistan is continuing its efforts in improving the situation of women in the country. He stressed the commitment to implement comprehensive new security mechanisms to ensure that their rights are upheld in Afghanistan.

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Ambassador Erfani headed the Afghan delegation at the 21st meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel

Ambassador Erfani headed the Afghan delegation at the

21st meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel

 

Basel

Basel/Switzerland, 05.12.2014

H.E. Ambassador Erfani headed the delegation of Afghanistan at the 21st OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel/Switzerland (4-5 December 2014).

 

The Ambassador delivered statements to the plenary session and during a special session on terrorism. He also held a number of bilateral meetings with other heads of delegations, including several Foreign Ministers, among them the Swiss Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office for 2014, H.E. Didier Burkhalter (photo).

 

Mr. Ambassador during the plenary session highlighted the achievements which enabled Afghanistan’s transition to the upcoming transformation decade and referred to OSCE’s role during stabilization process in Afghanistan. He underscored that for the first time in Afghanistan a democratic transfer of power from one to another elected President took place and that the National Unity Government is making practical steps to implement its programmes, in line with Afghanistan’s National Priority Programmes (NPPs) and the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.

 

During the special session on terrorism, Ambassador Erfani called on all countries to reinforce collective efforts in the spirit of shared responsibility and to take a comprehensive approach in fighting this terrible scourge: “We must take a holistic approach that covers both a response from our security forces to terrorism, as well as economic development , engagement with the civil society to counter violent extremism and radicalization that can be conducive to terrorism”, Mr. Ambassador said.

 

The Ministerial Council discussed current crisis and protracted conflicts in the OSCE area including the crisis in and around Ukraine, conflicts in Transdniestria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Georgia. Delegates engaged in constructive deliberations on broader Eurasian security matters and adopted a number of important documents including the Ministerial Declaration on Co-operation with the Asian Partners, with OSCE’s commitment to continue its support for Afghanistan’s transformation decade.

 

Ambassador concluded by stating the readiness of the Afghan Government to further intensify co-operation with the OSCE under the 2015 Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE Asian Contact Group, and under the incoming Serbian Chairmanship of the OSCE, whom he wished every success.

 

Afghanistan is one of five OSCE Partners for Co-operation in Asia, since 2003.

 

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Afghanistan co-hosts Colloquium “Afghanistan – a Country in Transformation: Promoting Peace and Development through Art”

Afghanistan co-hosts Colloquium “Afghanistan – a Country in Transformation: Promoting Peace and Development through Art”

Darya event

From left: Gillian Murray, UNODC; Ambassador Erfani; Moderator Michael Platzer, ACUNS; Mr Farhad Darya; Ana Lukatella, OSCE; Veronika Eschbacher, Wiener Zeitung.

 

Vienna, 01.12.2014

 

Today, the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan co-hosted a colloquium regarding the role of art in the promotion of peace and development. The event was jointly organized with UNODC and ACUNS and took place at the Vienna International Center. The event was very well attended by UN staff, diplomats and NGOs.

H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani opened the event by introducing the popular Afghan singer, Mr. Farhad Darya. “Mr. Farhad Darya is one of the most prominent and beloved contemporary singers and composers from Afghanistan of our days and enjoys particular popularity among our young generation.”

“Today, we will highlight a beautiful side of Afghanistan: its rich culture and how it positively contributes to the development of the country, in the context of the stabilization and democratization efforts during our Decade of Transformation 2015-2024”, noted Ambassador Erfani.

Ambassador Erfani’s statement was followed by the keynote speech by Mr. Darya. He talked about the fact that the media only focuses on negative news about Afghanistan. Positive aspects, such as music and art, play a crucial role in transformation by giving hope to the people and thus cannot be neglected. He stressed the importance of art in showing the world that war is not the only option for Afghanistan.

After a second welcoming statement by ACUNS Vienna liaison officer Dr. Michael Platzer, panelist Ms. Ana Lukatela, an advisor on gender issues at the OSCE, took the floor.  She emphasized the importance of art in the peace building process as well as access of both men and women to art and media.

 

Ms. Lukatela was followed by Ms. Eschbacher, a journalist from the Wiener Zeitung, who has made many trips to Afghanistan and writes about political and social issues in the country. Ms. Eschbacher stressed the importance of art in post-conflict societies and called for a reevaluation of cultural traditions in Afghanistan.

 

Finally Ms. Murray, Deputy Director of UNODC, thanked Mr. Darya for his efforts as a good will Ambassador for UNDP and UNODC. All panelists came up with insightful observations, remarks as well as questions for Mr. Darya.

 

This was followed by a lively Q & A session, in which many in the audience participated. Both guests and panelists expressed their gratitude towards Mr. Darya for his great contribution in promoting peace and development in Afghanistan.

 

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Ambassador Erfani responds to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon at the OSCE

 

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. Ban Ki-moon addressed a special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council today. Ambassador Erfani warmly welcomed the UNSG to Vienna, and thanked him for his comprehensive presentation.

Mr. Ambassador then referred to the journey which Afghanistan has made since 2001, the accomplishments and the sacrifices which have been made by the Afghan people, the UN and Afghanistan’s bilateral partners in the road towards stability and democracy.

“The United Nations has played an instrumental and central coordinating role of international community’s civilian efforts in this stabilization, democratization and transition process, to help Afghanistan for a better future”, the Ambassador noted.

Ambassador Erfani expressed his gratitude to the Secretary-General for being a firm friend of Afghanistan and reiterated the commitment of the Government of National Unity to address Afghanistan’s remaining challenges during the Decade of Transformation. He also seized the opportunity to thank once again the outgoing UN representative in Afghanistan, Ambassador Ján Kubiš, for his excellent work.

“We are grateful for the continued support of our friends and partners in the international community and we will never forget their sacrifices and friendship for supporting Afghanistan for a better future”, Mr. Ambassador concluded.

 

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