Press Releases

       

    SG/SM/8894

        AFG/230

        25 September 2003

         

    OPENING AD HOC MEETING ON AFGHANISTAN, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR POLITICAL PROCESS, SECURITY REFORM, RECONSTRUCTION

     

     

    NEW YORK, 24 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement as delivered today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the high-level ad hoc meeting on Afghanistan:

       

    One year ago, we gathered here for a similar meeting and committed ourselves to supporting Afghanistan’s long journey back from conflict and devastation. Much has been accomplished since then under President Karzai’s leadership. The people of Afghanistan are showing their determination to achieve peace and stability. They are regaining control over their destiny. They are actively engaged in the political transition, and in setting the policies and priorities for the reconstruction of their country. The distinguished ministers and representatives around this table are key partners in this effort, and this meeting, like the donor meeting held last Sunday in Dubai, is a concrete affirmation of the international community’s continuing commitment to a stable, secure Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours.

     

    It is worthwhile recounting just a few of the accomplishments of the past year.

     

    The political transition described by the Bonn process continues to be implemented. State institutions are in the process of being revitalized. A National Development Framework agreed by the Afghan Government and donors guides the reconstruction effort, and the Government is on track to meet its target of increasing domestic revenues to $200 million in this fiscal year. National economic programmes are under way to increase employment and development at the local level. Major roads are being repaired. The new currency has taken hold. Food production is at its highest level in more than two decades. And millions of girls and boys have gone back to school. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission is building up its activities across the country.

     

    The list of accomplishments is long. Yet we must remember that despite these achievements, very significant challenges remain.

     

    Arbitrary rule by local commanders prevails in many areas of the country, blocking the extension of the law and authority of the Government. Too often, human rights are violated with impunity.  Illegal narcotics production has flourished, which in turn finances factional and criminal agendas and undermines legitimate economic activities. In the south and south-east, this insecurity is greatly exacerbated by the activities of suspected Taliban and other insurgents. These forces have increased their deadly attacks against government targets and personnel of both national and international humanitarian agencies.

     

    Such insecurity hampers reconstruction activities and severely threatens political participation across a wide region of the country. It also diminishes the tangible benefits of the peace process and risks increasing public disenchantment and frustration. It is essential that the Afghan Government and international community do not allow this to happen. We must protect the gains we have made.

       

    The next stages of the Bonn process will be the most challenging and far-reaching. In the months ahead, Afghanistan will attempt to move beyond the current transitional phase, and establish the foundations for lasting political and economic stability. I very much hope that the draft constitution will be finalized soon, and that, in December, elected delegates from across the country will agree upon and ratify a new constitution at the Constitutional Loya Jirga. A national registration of voters must also be completed, and elections must be held next summer.

     

    These are critically important undertakings, for which security is a paramount consideration. This means not only security for specific groups of people -– for example, election officers or political party activists -– but an environment of security that is sustained beyond the elections, and that will allow the new Government and its institutions to function effectively, and give the people hope that their aspirations, so long stifled, can at last be fulfilled.

     

    In the long run, of course, security is an Afghan responsibility. The Government has initiated the reform of the Ministry of Defence, which should enable the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of factional forces to start. But for DDR to be carried out successfully, much more is needed. The reform of the Ministry of Defence must be completed in a credible manner. And an equally credible process of reform must be accelerated in the Ministry of Interior and the intelligence services, as a prelude to comprehensive reform of other government departments and the provincial administration. This reform programme will create the space necessary for the new National Army and National Police to develop and prosper.

     

    I commend the work done so far by the lead nations and other donors in helping to build these vital institutions. However, they are still in their early stages of development, and cannot ensure security for the next, critical period. That is why, in the interim, I have called for an expansion of international security assistance beyond Kabul. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams have been a good step in the right direction, and the participating countries are to be commended. But as currently configured and equipped, these teams are likely to be too few, and set up too slowly, to make the difference that is needed now. The recent discussions held within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expansion are therefore very welcome. That expansion must, however, take place in a coordinated way that supports a national agenda of extending the authority of the Government.

     

    Afghanistan will need our continued support in the political process, in security reform and in reconstruction. We need to move ahead on all of these tracks at once. Setbacks on one will mean setbacks on all.

     

    The Government needs your support in funding the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund. In particular, it may be necessary to take another look at reconstruction and development needs beyond the time frame set out in the Bonn agreement. Many of the pledges made last year in Tokyo extended only through the end of the Bonn process. It has become clear since then that the need is even greater than we thought, and likely to last longer. Therefore, it would be useful to hold a conference, early next year, to review reconstruction needs. Indeed, there may be need to expand the scope of such a conference to take stock of what has been -- and what has not been -- achieved since Bonn, and correct the course ahead.

     

    Peace and stability in Afghanistan is a regional and international concern. The commitment of Afghanistan’s neighbours to mutually beneficial relations is of fundamental importance. A noteworthy step in that respect was taken earlier this week in Dubai with the declaration encouraging closer cooperation in trade and investment. I strongly urge Afghanistan’s neighbours to engage in more such productive efforts, and thus make a clear break with the past.

     

    The sustained commitment of the wider international community is no less indispensable. Indeed, we must all do our utmost to help Afghanistan navigate successfully through the critical period ahead.

     

     

     

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