I believe that Mark Sedwill is a highly qualified, smart guy. But the following comesas a big surprise. Don’t know what frame of mind he was in
KABUL (Reuters) – Children are probably safer growing up in Afghanistan’s major cities, including the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, than in London, New York, or Glasgow, NATO’s top civilian envoy to Afghanistan has said.
Mark Sedwill’s comments were made during an interview to be aired on Monday on Children’s BBC Newsround, a popular British daily current affairs program aimed at children.
“Here and in Kabul and the other big cities, actually, there are very few of those bombs,” he said.
“The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York or Glasgow or many other cities,” he said.
“It’s a very family-orientated society, so it is a little bit like a city of villages,” he said.
His remarks, which feature in a two-part series exploring the lives of children in Afghanistan, were rejected as misleading by an official from the aid group Save the Children.
“One in five children die before they get to the age of five. So to say it’s safer than to live in London, New York or Glasgow is daft,” said the representative from Save the Children, who requested anonymity so he could speak freely.
According to New York Times, Mr. Sedwill tried to claim that his remarks were aired out of context. But the best thing would have been just to apologize and move on with it. Here is the NYT quote from his email:
“I was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan,” he said. “In cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many Western children would experience. For most Afghans, the biggest challenges are from poverty — the absence of clean water, open sewers, malnutrition, disease — and many more children are at risk from those problems than from the insurgency.”
Another telling quote from the NYT article:
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says such episodes [violence against children] are increasingly common. A new report by the commission noted what it said was a worrying increase in violence against children as well as child labor in all Afghan provinces.
“Mr. Sedwill should come to the Human Rights Commission and consider the reports we receive on a daily basis,” said Hussein Mushrat, the report’s author. “Children are not safer here.”
Al Jazeera would like to remind Mr. Sedwill of what he misses to see in his time in Kabul: