His Excellency Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and personally Dr. Sima Samar for inviting me to speak at this important conference. I listened attentively to your points on the UN role in international efforts to ensure the rights of victims of terrorism and share your ideas.
We are here to commemorate the first International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, which takes place on 21 August.
I would like to pay tribute to the Government of Afghanistan for its leadership on the General Assembly resolution that established this annual international day to honour and support the victims of terrorism.
I bring you the warm greetings of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, who is fully committed to lifting up the voices of the victims and survivors of acts of terrorism.
He remembers well his visit to Kabul last year to express solidarity with the Afghan people during the holy month of Ramadan.
He sat in a tent in one of the internal displacement camps around Kabul and heard from some of the victims of terrorism. Their houses had been destroyed and members of their families had been killed. They had lost everything.
But they told him of their will to return home, to rebuild their lives, and get their children back into school, as soon as peace and security returned.
Like him, I have enormous admiration for the courage and resilience of the Afghan people in the face of such adversity.
Unfortunately, violence continues to destroy the lives and livelihoods of people across Afghanistan.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, in the first six months of this year there were 5,122 civilian casualties, including 1,692 deaths and 3,430 injured. These are terrible statistics!
Conflict related violence has continued to erode the rights of Afghan children to education, healthcare, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights.
Afghanistan is not alone in suffering from terrorist violence and bloodshed.
Terrorism remains a persistent and evolving global menace. It undermines international peace and security, destroys societies and destabilizes entire regions.
No country is immune to this threat. Terrorism transcends cultures and geographical boundaries and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, gender or ethnic group.
The military defeat of Da’esh in Iraq and Syria last year means foreign terrorist fighters are on the move, returning home or relocating to old and new theatres of conflict, including Afghanistan.
As conflicts have increased in intensity and number in recent years, terrorist attacks have continued to shatter communities and societies around the world.
After each heinous terrorist attack, we often hear about those who carried it out. Their names may be broadcast; their pictures and videos are published on the internet; their stories are told.
But we rarely hear about those who were killed and injured. Ordinary women, men, girls and boys, going about their daily lives, attending a wedding or a game of cricket, or waiting to vote, when their lives are ended or changed forever.
We also rarely hear about their families, friends and communities, who bear the burden of terrorism for their entire lives.
I hope the first International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism will be an opportunity to highlight the tragic human cost of terrorism.
We must never forget the tens of thousands of people that have been injured, traumatized or lost their lives during terrorist attacks.
It is time to stop and listen to the victims of terrorism. It is time to raise up their voices and recognize the impact terrorism has on their lives.
These victims include the children of foreign terrorist fighters, who will have to live with this stigma as they grow up.
I try to listen to the victims of terrorism whenever I travel in this job, whether it is to Maiduguri, Fallujah, Timbuktu or Paris.
Victims are extremely powerful and credible messengers. Their experiences put a human face to the impact of terrorism and help to counter the warped narratives of terrorists and violent extremists.
I thank the survivors who are willing to speak out against terrorism. Their bravery is an inspiration to us all.
As well as listening to the victims of terrorism, we also need to take action.
We need to provide victims with long-term practical assistance, including financial, legal, medical and psychosocial support, so they can rebuild their lives as best they can.
Investment in the rehabilitation and reintegration of victims helps to build more resilient and inclusive societies.
We also have an obligation to respect and uphold the rights of terrorism victims.
This means to support calls from victims for transparent investigations, information, criminal processes and for justice.
These are the sort of concrete steps that demonstrate that terrorists will be held accountable and brought to justice.
When we lift up the victims of terrorism, listen to their voices, respect their rights and provide them with support and justice, we are reducing the lasting damage done by terrorists to individuals, families and communities.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The United Nations is fully committed to standing in solidarity with the victims of terrorism.
We held an international conference to raise awareness of the human rights of victims in February 2016.
We have established a UN Victims of Terrorism Support Portal to provide practical information and resources for victims. So far, over 300,000 users have accessed this much-needed portal.
The Office of Counter-Terrorism, which I am the head of, leads a United Nations inter-agency working group to ensure that there is coordinated support across the organization for the victims of terrorism.
We provide capacity-building support and technical assistance to Member States including:
- Building the capacity of victims to put forward counter narratives to those used by terrorists;
- Strengthening mechanisms to provide practical resources to victims, through the United Nations Victims of Terrorism Support Portal; and
- Building the capacity of victims’ associations and Member States to better support and assist victims of terrorism.
We recently launched a Handbook of Good Practices to Support Victims Associations in the Middle East and Africa.
We are also producing a documentary series profiling victims and the impact of terrorism on their lives, including one on Afghan victims of terrorism.
My office is actively engaging with Member States to mobilize additional resources to meet the demand from countries around the world to support the victims of terrorism.
There is much more we need to do. And that is also why I am here today.
I am keen to hear from you - Ministers, government officials, civil society, religious scholars, foreign diplomats and first of all those affected by terrorism - on how the United Nations can help address the needs of Afghanistan in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism, including support to victims.
Terrorism is a transnational threat. It needs a concerted multilateral response at global, regional and national levels.
That is why the United Nations Secretary-General convened the first-ever United Nations High-level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States in New York in June, under the theme of “Strengthening international cooperation to combat the evolving threat of terrorism”.
I was pleased that His Excellency Mr. Wais Ahmad Barmak, Minister of Interior, was able to attend the High-level Conference and highlight Afghan priorities in tackling terrorism, including the needs of victims.
We would like to learn from Member States and civil society organizations about their experiences and good practices in supporting victims of terrorism.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, thank you for holding today’s conference to raise awareness of the needs and rights of victims of terrorism.
I am delighted that 33 other provinces across Afghanistan will hold similar events to mark the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism.
The Government of Afghanistan is also helping to organize an event in the United Nations in New York later this week to commemorate this important international day.
Both the Secretary-General and I will attend this event, along with victims from Afghanistan, Belgium, Iraq, Nigeria and the United States.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The second half of this year is a pivotal moment for Afghanistan.
Despite the continued violence, there remains genuine hope and optimism for peace, as shown by the temporary ceasefire during Eid al-Fitr and the emergence of a civic peace movement.
I hope that the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, hosted by the United Nations in Geneva in November, can build on these promising developments.
We look forward to continuing to work with all of you to help ensure a safe and secure future for the people of Afghanistan.