Friends of Afghanistan,
Ladies and gentlemen,
This international donors’ conference is titled “partnership for prosperity and peace”, and I am delighted to say that the result is highly encouraging as we embark on a new phase of Afghan development and progress aimed at paving the way for long-term self-sustenance.
On behalf of every peace and progress-loving Afghan man, woman and child, I thank all participating delegations, your governments and peoples, the United Nations and major international organization represented here for standing by the Afghan people at this crucial moment.
I want to express my deepest appreciation to the Government of Belgium for providing excellent facilitations in the vibrant city of Brussels and, in particular, to the leadership of the Europe Union for their warm hospitality and partnership during this conference, and their steadfast support provided to Afghanistan for more than 15 years.
As we saw, the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan would not have been complete without the active participation of many other stakeholders, regional representatives and non-government organizations, including women and youth, whose discussions and input enriched our deliberations and outlook into the future.
I am particularly struck by the quality of the preparatory work since London 2014. I welcome the ideas and recommendations shared by policy, technical and professional groups that have played a positive role in this regard, including civil society and the private sector.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since President Ghani addressed our achievements this morning, as well as the challenges we are facing since we last met at the London Conference in 2014, I will dwell on a few key themes and priorities that need to guide our efforts over the next few years given the results derived from this conference.
I am heartened to see the international community and donor nations treat Afghanistan as a multi-year and long-term aid partner, knowing full well, that we are very much focused on self-reliance. This pragmatic approach makes sense, and will help us all with better planning, coordination and implementation.
The pledges made over the past few hours are very impressive and encouraging. They send a very clear message of hope and support to the Afghan people. At a time when many in our country worry about security threats, economic hardship, political challenges and regional uncertainty mixed with destructive meddling, this is very welcome news from our friends and allies who are also preoccupied by several other global hotspots and demands made on scarce resources.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday, we held two important side events. The one on women’s rights and empowerment highlighted our shared commitment in this area. The National Unity Government is determined to improve women’s participation in the legislative, judiciary and executive branches. Donor projects such as PROMOTE and others will help us empower thousands of Afghan women over the next decade in the public and private sectors.
However, we are fully sensitive to the plight of women and the challenges they face in society, especially in rural areas. We will do everything possible to protect women by addressing violence and high illiteracy rates.
As you may know we are a candidate to the UN Human Rights Council for 2018-2020. We hope your support of our candidacy will consolidate our human rights gains and allow us to share our experience with the rest of the world too.
Yesterday’s other side event, regional integration, is a top foreign policy objective for us, seeking to galvanize political will and support for better regional integration and cooperation. Projects such as CASA1000, TAPI, TUTAP, and Chabahar are examples of our commitment for regional cooperation, trust-building and prosperity.
I have just come from an important forum with civil society organizations. We are proud of the constructive role civil society has and continues to play, which we view as a bridge between our people and their elected government.
As an example, in the Chief Executive’s office, my colleagues, that I am proud to and I meet hundreds of people from all walks of life and every corner of Afghanistan on a weekly basis, including members of our civil society, to learn from them and to listen to their views and make use of them in policy decisions.
The formation of Afghan National Unity Government was a landmark achievement in our political history. It derived its legitimacy from two rounds of voting. We are now aiming to broaden the scope of inclusivity and governance by stressing on competency and merit for the remainder of our term.
The political accord that established the National Unity Government is our “social contract”, as we are determined to uphold and implement it per our pledge to the Afghan people and the endorsement of the international community.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The end of the era of big spending and little oversight is behind us. As part of the new realities, the Afghan economy underwent major readjustments, combined with years of corrupt practices that have produced severe hardship for our people.
If you add the security risks and terrorist threats facing our people to the mix, many Afghans have been forced to leave. We are trying, with your understanding, to mitigate this challenge, and offer better prospects to our young and educated. We will work on fair and pragmatic repatriation schemes, but we expect and are aiming for the kind of planning that can prevent migration in the first place.
While we are talking of migration, I here draw your attention to the scale of humanitarian issues faced by Afghanistan as it is both receiving returning Afghans at a scale not seen in the last decade and having to better address needs of displaced people.
We cannot underestimate the burden this places on the Afghan economy, the brunt of which is borne by the Afghan people themselves who generously host displaced and returnees a like. I am concerned that this generosity and capacity to support should not be over extended. We need to ensure that they do not fall into poverty themselves and no longer can afford to host. We have to be aware of increasing levels of poverty and vulnerability of the displaced and returnees as well as the hosting communities.
We must avoid a situation where vulnerable groups continue to remain in unacceptable living condition.
We welcome that EU and all others have expressed the need for a systematic approach to these issues.
The President and I have recognized that this vulnerable population must be addressed as a matter of urgency and as part of an approach in dealing with poverty in Afghanistan.
Continuing on challenges, the illicit production and trafficking of narcotics still remains a national, regional and international challenge. It not only poses threat to individuals and societies but more importantly it funds terrorism. The government of Afghanistan is fully committed to fight this evil with all available means at its disposal. However, to succeed in this front quicker we must boost our joint efforts through relevant local and regional frameworks.
As you are aware, Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework which is in line with Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, is our development roadmap for the next five years. We will ensure that the framework provides equal development opportunity across all provinces through national priority programs that work and are result-oriented.
As far as our mutual commitments and deliverables through the Self-reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF), I want to stress on electoral reforms – as I have for many years - and holding of fair and transparent elections as integral to our “social contract”, which can assure and preserve political stability in the country.
But I also believe that political stability is contingent upon improved economic performance, job creation, provision of services and fighting a corrupt system built over the years in an environment besieged by impunity and lack of accountability.
While we are resolved to fight all forms of terrorism and radicalism, to protect our nation, its values and our constitutional order by Our and Resolute Support brave and committed forces, we are also committed to keeping all viable doors open to enter into dialogue with those who continue to use violence against Afghans for their own narrow interests or at the behest of external powers. Peace is our people’s wish, but it has to be organic, just and in accordance to our nation’s wishes.
The President and I will be going back to Afghanistan with very good news from the Brussels Conference. It’s not all about monetary pledges or technical assistances that are very much welcomed; It’s about a journey that started 15 years ago. A long and arduous journey where many have, and continue, to pay the ultimate price, at times painful and made difficult by destructive forces, at times full of hope and inspiration; at times experiencing missed opportunities, and at times grasping opportunities. All in all, a journey that has yet to reach its defining moment. The journey is not only ours. Its success will be historic and will reverberate globally. We believe that it is attainable, and we very much appreciate your contributions and commitments toward making this a worthwhile journey.
Thank you very much