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OSCE Asian Contact Group Meeting held at the Hofburg Conference Center

OSCE Asian Contact Group Meeting held at the

Hofburg Conference Center

 

Vienna, May 17, 2016

 

Today, the 2nd OSCE Asian Contact Group Meeting in 2016 was held at the Hofburg, chaired by the Ambassador of Serbia, H.E. Vuk Zugic. The Deputy Director General of the European Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Toshihiro Aiki, made a presentation on “Japan´s Enhanced Contribution to Peace, Security and Stability in Asia”

In a brief intervention, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of Afghanistan, Mr. Hassan Soroosh, made reference to Japan´s role in international efforts in supporting peace and stability and commended Japan as one of Afghanistan’s largest donors, supporting the country with more than USD 5 billion of assistance since 2001. The funds were invested in key areas such as agricultural and rural development; infrastructure; human resources development and education; and health and gender. Mr. Soroosh also expressed his appreciation for the role of Japan in mobilizing international support behind the reconstruction and development process in Afghanistan including through hosting a number of important international conferences on Afghanistan such as the Tokyo Conference on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan held in January 2002 as well as the 2012 Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan co-hosted by the Japanese and Afghan governments, as well as supporting several Afghanistan-focused regional economic co-operation projects.

During the Asian Contact Group Meeting, the German Chairmanship and a number of delegations expressed their sympathy and condolences with regard to the terrorist attack that took place in Kabul on April 19th   this year claiming many lives and injured many others, and also with regard to the victims of the recent earthquake hitting Japan. Mr. Soroosh thanked delegations for their words of sympathy and condolences while highlighting the fact that Afghanistan remains a prime victim of terrorism and that intensified regional and international co-operation is needed to address this menace. In this context he thanked the OSCE for relevant counter-terrorism training and capacity-building opportunities offered for participants from Afghanistan.

The meeting also included briefings by H.E. the Thai Ambassador and the OSCE Secretariat on the ongoing preparations for the 2016 OSCE-Asian Conference, to be held from 6th-7th June, 2016 in Bangkok as well as an overview by the US delegation on a planned side event on cyber security at the Bangkok OSCE-Asian Conference.

 

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Statement as delivered by the Chargé d’Affaires a.i., Mr. Hassan Soroosh in response to the Head of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan at the OSCE 1100th Permanent Council Meeting

DELEGATION OF AFGHANISTAN

S t a t e m e n t

as delivered by the Chargé d’Affaires a.i., Mr. Hassan Soroosh

in response to the Head of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan

OSCE – PC1100

May 12, 2016

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson,

 

I wish to join the previous speakers in welcoming Ambassador Markus Müller, Head of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan back to the Permanent Council and thanking him for his comprehensive report.

The Government of Afghanistan highly appreciates the excellent work carried out by the OSCE Office in Tajikistan, including the OSCE Border Management Staff College (BMSC).

Since its inauguration in 2009, the BMSC has proven to be a highly effective and very visible institution among many other successful OSCE activities.  Last year alone, 122 participants from Afghanistan graduated from the BMSC’s courses. Female participants from Afghanistan also attended the Border Management Staff Course organized exclusively for Women Leaders. Afghanistan is interested in further improving the gender ratio of our participants at the BMSC’s courses, and we also highly value long-term training programs with the objective of sustainable outcomes such as “train-the-trainers” programs.

Looking to the Activity Plan for 2016, we see a large number of significant events during the second half of this year and I wish to seize this opportunity to thank Ambassador Müller, BMSC Director Ms. Dita Nowicka and their colleagues in Dushanbe for their excellent work and continued co-operation.  Let me also thank Tajikistan for hosting all these activities as well as all donors for their contributions.

We appreciate that the BMSC, when developing courses, takes into account the fact that a number of challenges are increasingly of transnational nature and interconnected. Terrorism and illicit drugs, trafficking of human beings as well as of arms and weapons and other types of organized crime pose huge challenges to all of us. The OSCE’s Border Security and Management Concept has proven to be an effective tool in addressing these threats, and the respective training programs remain vital means to prepare us for effectively applying this concept.

Let me also re-emphasize that the Government of Afghanistan is highly interested in further expanding our co-operation with Tajikistan and other Central Asian OSCE participating States, and with the OSCE as a whole, with a view to both addressing our common challenges as well as to unlocking existing potentials for regional economic co-operation. In this context, I am pleased to inform you that this morning the work on the CASA-1000 power project — an important regional project — was inaugurated during a ceremony in Dushanbe in the presence of the heads of governments and states of the concerned countries, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

In closing, I wish to state that we would appreciate being increasingly involved in the activities of the organization including training and capacity-building opportunities.

 

Thank you!

 

 

 

Transcript of His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at European Union Conference

Transcript of His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at European Union Conference

On

“The Way Ahead for Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan”

ARG, Kabul

May 5, 2016

 

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Ambassador Mellbin, Distinguished Ambassador of UK , Mr. Stanekzai, Members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament! Welcome.

Recognition of a problem is the first step toward generation of political will. I welcome you to the Presidential Palace Complex whose resident has been given a mandate to deal with corruption. The people of Afghanistan elected me because I promised them that I’ll tackle corruption seriously. I invited you here to make sure that both our people and your people understand that there is no disagreement between the international community and the government of Afghanistan regarding tackling this serious issue. The presidency, this palace complex, all of the government must be central to their efforts to understand and eliminate corruption.

I don’t want make the moral case because the case is well-made. The absolute majority of the Afghan people welcome reforms. The obstacle is the inherited system and the set of relationships that in the last fourteen years, particularly in the last fifteen years, we have jointly engendered. So instead of talking about generalities, let me address corruption in the coming months and the actions that we are willing to take. Two months ago, I provided an analytic framework to the ambassadors regarding what drives corruption. Simply put, there are the following drivers:

First, there is institutional capture. The system of appointments has been dominated by prevalence of relations over rules, and that in term is engendering rules of the game that vastly differ from the formal rules. We need to specify the core functions of each government organization and hold and create the mechanisms where the people of this country who are our masters hold the government responsible. This is a deep cultural change because we have inherited a culture of false hierarchy. That culture of false hierarchy makes an official dominate and disregard it. We brought a man from civil society made him deputy minister, and the first thing he did was to beat the police because the police was asking him not to use black film in his car. You see, the issue is not just changing the rules, it is changing behavior.

The second aspect of capture is security. We are extremely grateful for the assistance that we have received, but our security forces do not exercise the monopoly or the legitimate monopoly of force, and until we make sure that the security forces are able to function in that manner and first and foremost are accountable themselves as the largest contracts were in the security sector, our generals got diverted to seeing how they would handle contracts rather than how to manage the war. I want to congratulate Minister Stanekzai for the remarkable job he has done in cleaning Ministry of Defense. Over 80 senior generals have been retired and yesterday again I signed a new batch. But, particularly procurement, and I want to thank Minister Farooqi for his immense work in investigating the procurement. Just one example, Mr. Farooqi argued this on theoretical grounds. One contract for fuel just to supply electricity last year was 1.25 billion; this year the same contractor is bidding 100 – 200 million. You see what the margin is. General Davis to whom I’m grateful for attending to this and the CSTC-A’s partnership. We have saved literally tens of billions of Afs just from cleaning up the contracting of Ministry of Defense but the larger issue is that our citizens are threatened with constant use of illegitimate force. It is not only the terrorist, it is irresponsible armed groups, and the language of violence is a key driver of corruption. A judge who gets to be threatened in one district who refuse state-owned land illegally to a commander was beaten to a pulp. I had the man arrested and brought him to Kabul; he is now under trial. But, this is important that insecurity and our failure yet to consolidate legitimate monopoly of force and (eliminate) corruption within security institutions weakens us. Here, what is fundamental is narcotics as a key driver of corruption. Some of our core institutions that were entrusted with safeguarding citizens’ interests actually are being subverted and it is the networks, and these networks need to be understood.

The third form of capture is economy. Land grab is one illustration of it. Over one million Jeribs of land translating roughly to 300,000 hectares have been grabbed and core to this again was corruption of the courts, corruption of the Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice, because there are networks within these. The government lost tens of thousands hectares of land because of collusion, because the government’s case was always argued weakly while private collusion took place to transfer. It is land grab, it is not simply going and grabbing land, it is ensuring that the titles are transferred. Thanks to our reformist Supreme Court Judge, these cases are being reversed and we are going to get back.

And the other form is political capture. Politics has become a means of running the three other forms of capture and sets of relationships that prevail this, because the discourse gets to be subverted and directed towards false set of issues and debate rather than the core issues. Key point: the people of Afghanistan wanted a strong state. A strong state to the people of Afghanistan is the state that is their servant. A state that serves them, a state that provides services, a state that generates growth and jobs. There are certain interests in this country that want weak state institutions because weak state institutions are key to drivers’ survival, and unfortunately in the past, international contractors have been also key to desiring a weak state.

Why was this system created? Huge amounts of money came without the right accountabilities and the kind of advice that was provided was superficial. We dealt with the symptoms rather than with the root causes. Conclusion; we need to deal with the system at systemic level and we need to build. What is the good news? The good news is the people- the absolute majority of the citizens of this country, women, men, particularly the youth, and you do recall that we are the youngest country in terms of age, one of the oldest countries in terms of history, but young in terms of age. The young people don’t want corruption. The women don’t want corruption. Our scholars don’t want corruption. Therefore, we have a golden foundation, but we have to mobilize a systematic effort, because resistance, accusations and subversion need to be really taken seriously.

So, where is political will? Political will is at facing these problems; naming and acknowledging that corruption is our national shame, and we need to address it. Without addressing this, we are not going to have dignity and we will not be able to raise our flag in international meetings and take pride in it because there will always be the shadow.  If this diagnosis is correct, and I believe it is, then what do we do?

First, we make the machinery of government function. This both has leadership issues and management issues. Infrastructure ministries. Not a single infrastructure ministry has been taught project and program management skills. Fifteen years of technical assistance, billions of dollars and technical assistance. Show me who has responsibility for which set of projects. I have to go back to my previous days as a facilitator and facilitate this. This is a joint failure. Why is it that people who are paid millions of dollars to design roads failed to design them from satellite imagery and failed to do the ground level reality? We are losing two years in construction because of failure of some of our core partners to do the right supervision. Why is it that eight million dollars are provided for supervision of schools that never got built and yet they were certified as being built? Core functions must be specified partnership, arrangement and accountability really need to be clarified because this is key. We have inherited a system, and some of the rules that are prevalent…We were never an Ottoman colony or from the Ottomans. We have a confusion of rules and regulations. This must be consolidated, and we are very proud that we have focused on consolidation of these rules.

Second, we must end the cycle of impunity. Until now, there has been a perception that anybody in high office has a license to do whatever they want. I am doubling the size of the special crimes task force and they are authorized to investigate both governors, ministers and high-ranking officials. They have a total mandate and right now based on my direct orders they are investigating and we will prosecute. Now they have a prosecutor who has the will to prosecute. Yesterday, a man paid him an enormous compliment, it was the spokesman of Attorney General’s Office; I had a meeting there with all our spokespeople both in the center and the provinces. He said, ‘Mr. Hamidi came alone without an entourage and that’s the type of man we want to come. Welcome Mr. Hamidi, we count on your reforms.

Justice sector is really crucial in this regard. I hope you have seen that now the building blocks of the reforms of the justice sector are in place. First, the Chief Justice, and a second reformist judge was approved by parliament. The third nominee, unfortunately, a brilliant woman, did not make it by votes, but the fourth nominee is the person who runs the narcotic criminal center with total integrity, and I will have a chance to nominate two more people on the Supreme Court and we can assure you that they will be people of integrity and judgment.

The other point that has been taken of course is approval – and I am grateful to parliament – 200 votes of approval for an Attorney General who doesn’t have money or connections. It is a good day for Afghanistan. We hope that this culture becomes more widespread.

Third is, we must stop predatory behavior. Fourth, we have received an inheritance of the past. There are hundreds of files that had been sent to the Attorney General’s Office that had not been acted. We cannot get so busy with the past to forget the now and forget our own accountability. So the Attorney General’s Office and the court system are authorized to classify and make decisions, so a balance between the past and the present and the future, but particularly we are going to be present-oriented. From the day the cabinet and the officials of the government of national unity have been selected, they are accountable and they are prosecutable. And, we must establish this culture, because without that, people will not believe us. I am also willing to submit the presidency to the creation of an ombudsman. If there are any accusations regarding the presidency, I ask the international community to join me to create the best ombudsman office. We do not believe in conflict of interest and because of it, if there are accusations and (these) accusations (are) of part of the anti-reform agenda, let’s have credible mechanisms for dealing with them because it’s important that accusations are dealt with. And, to make sure I invite civil society and the international community to nominate and select an ombudsman.

What have we done so far? I will not give you a laundry list but some key actions. First, we have jailed the two key culprits of the Kabul Bank and Governor Seddiqi who was doing a remarkable job in the bank will tell you not only have we recovered $250 million back the crisis in the banking sector is avoided. Sherlock Holmes; the dog that doesn’t bark needs attention. When I was swearing in, banking could have faced a serious repetition of the previous thing. I personally saw the balance sheet, the ratings, and interviewed every single CEO of the bank and gave them a reform program, and now the Central Bank is seeing this, we believe firmly in the independence of the Central Bank and it is important that the banking sector becomes viable. But, we have avoided crisis now making the banking sector function for the economy rather than for the informal sector is the challenge that governor Seddiqi will preside over.

Second, despite a severe recession bordering on depression, we increased our revenue twenty two percent; that indicates what was the toll that corruption was taking. Twenty five percent of Customs Officers have been fired. The next generation of reforms in the customs are underway, and we hope a series of fundamental changes will occur that will make having a job in customs so undesirable that no one influential would want their kids or their relatives to be placed there, only people with integrity and judgment and in a way to move forward.

Procurement. Mr. Yari has been heading our procurement, and I really want to thank him. He has lost 5 kilos since he took this job while it’s very good for its figure, this is the man who, with a remarkable team, changed the culture of procurement. I have presided over 53 sessions of procurement, I count so. I don’t think in history there is a session that a president and the CEO of a country would have taken this responsibility, seriously. For six months, there was not a single contract that we saw that complied with laws. Now, our sessions are becoming shorter, because compliance is taking place, and I’d like to acknowledge CSTC-A’s contribution and also SIGAR’s and members of parliament; the caucus for integrity are sitting there who are attending as representative, and there is also a representative of the parliament. Result of this; forty five companies have been already blacklisted with at least 11 more in the process of being banned. Interests that are behind these companies. Minister Farooqi did a remarkable job in his investigation of procurement in the Ministry of Defense showing that in most of the contracts, companies that bid actually did not exist. Literally, six companies would bid, four or five of them wouldn’t exist. He traced every single one of these companies, saying is there an office? Is there any establishment? They were (just) names. In other places, there would be post box addresses, but here, thank God, we don’t have post box addresses so they have to have some little room; maybe container.

Third, the Supreme Court. Over 600 judges have been changed. Every single provincial judge in this country was changed. Appellate court judges; 135 that required in the first round my approval, because the Constitution of Afghanistan has a peculiarity; two sets one, theoretically, I am the Chief Judge because it is an Islamic state. So ultimate responsibility comes, that responsibility I delegate to the Chief Judge, but in terms of appointment of top officials, my approval is required. And, secondly another batch came which again over hundred required my approval and three hundred fifty more that required the Chief Justice’s.

The first and second rounds of reforms of the Supreme Court have been completed. Now, we are going to deal with the district level; twenty percent of the prosecutors have been released from their duties. The overwhelming majority of them were graduates of twelfth grade. Can you imagine a country where a significant number of prosecutors who are supposed to know the law and enforce the law are graduates of high school? I interviewed every single judge on the appellate court, and their unanimous judgment was that 80 – 90% of the cases that are submitted to them by prosecutors are legally faulty. And, that’s the job that now Mr. Hamidi and the Chief Justice would deal with.

 

Public Procurement. I brought you the key in culture because this is the key area. Roughly, twenty percent of the GDP is in government procurement. So the implications of this are immense. We have cleared the top which is formal compliance with the law where in the middle Minister Stanekzai has taken the great step, he’s asked 600 mid-level officials in the Ministry of Defense to declare their assets and he has been focused laser sharp on them, but we need to do the same thing with others. Because the entrenched interest in collusions are at the level of implementation.

Our next task. And, this is the failure of our private sector. We do not have functioning companies. It is not only that we have a weak state, we have a weak market. The weakness of the market institutions are a fundamental block to anti-corruption agenda because the culture previously in the infrastructure was that they would secure the contracts then subcontract them and subcontract them… There are as many as six layers of sub-contracting. And, people who had no business for instance (supplied) food; food business for universities. People who got the contracts specialized in their lines. Back and forth because they were selling contracts ….And we are dealing with it.

Government Financial System; the government financial system is being restructured. Minister Hakimi really needs to be complimented not just for raising the revenue but now for the financial management roadmap. The financial management roadmap is one of the best, and I’d like to acknowledge Australian assistance. This is the best type of assistance that we have gotten, because they have no interest in consulting. Their facilitators; other type of people we have had including companies.

When we created the AFMIS, the first thing was you know; for six months, we had the best then the quality of people declined, because these companies have a number of lead people, they go get the business, start it and then it goes down. And unfortunately, supervision is very weak. But, the type of assistance that we have received from core functioning treasuries; Australia, US, UK and others is really an immense assistance. That is the type of assistance that becomes catalytic because what the financial roadmap is doing it is giving us a clear roadmap where our people own the problem and believe it. There was a culture that we needed to write our documents in English and we have to get out of this culture. If we want ownership, we really have to articulate and write in Uzbeki, Pashto and Dari because that’s a dynamic debate. The key model of this is the Citizen’s Charter. Minster Durrani, Minister Zamir, Minister Firoz and their colleagues have done a remarkable job of debating and discussing, and I was really moved to tears the other day with the conception of the Citizen’s Charter. The next generation of Afghan leaders is in front of you, the torture is being passed and I am delighted. The scope of our colleagues is deeply….of course, I need to acknowledge Minsiter Oriakhel and her colleagues, a culture of inter-ministerial collaboration is taking place. Yesterday, the counter-narcotics center, again as an example of this. So, we are going to reorganize the Auditing Office, we had neither auditing standards nor accounting standards literally. So every company that was giving us an audit did it on their own. I had the misfortune of reading all the audit reports of the telecom sector before my very able colleague Ajmal Ahmadi came and released me of all these things. It is a wonderful addition and his integrity and judgment again needs to be appreciated. Most governments hate their watchdogs. We love working with them, and give power to them and I will give them all the authority that they need to investigate us. But, you make a judgment on the effectiveness or otherwise of AO and let us know, and thereby we’ll decide. What is also important is civil society partnership; Afghan civil society needs to be mobilized and you know what the greatest part of Afghan civil society is? The mosque. Every Friday, there is a referendum across this country in the mosques. The mosques hate corruption, and please we need to mobilize them and Ulema of Afghanistan are going to be extraordinarily important asset in this regard as well.

Now, in terms of moving forward. So, I’d like to make some announcements. First is the High Council on governance, rule of law and anti-corruption. This high council will have the same set of authorities similar to National Security Council, National Economic Council; entry of my very able colleagues, Mr. Roshan, Minister Farooqi, and Nargis Nehan whom you know will be assisting us to put this together and move forward.

What have we done to prepare for this? First is a set of investigations. The famous Farooqi report that you are all asking to be released will be decided upon to be released; the Roshan report that you don’t know about airport is going to be released, and we have investigated all the properties that have been rented by the government and it is a scandal. One illustration; one property was rented by a ministry for 35,000 Afs per month to a company, it turned around and rented the property for 35,000 dollars, and it has been going on for 14 years. We are now creating an inventory of all these assets, we have sufficient investigations to be able to make decisions and commission others, so it’d be important step in that regard.

Second, Chief Justice Halimi and Attorney General Hamidi have agreed that before October, each of them will have five key reforms that are going to be driven by them. We want a condition based contract with the donors to support the justice sector on the basis of these reforms. They will be fundamental in that regard.

Third, we have set up a number priority areas for cleanup. For 2016, Ministries of Interior, Transport, Mining, and Education are on top of our list. And, Ministry of Finance has already prepared a comprehensive action program to work with these Ministries. Why these ministries? And why the approach? We have an enormously long tradition of justice, so first we come to rule of law. We have a long tradition… the circle of justice I hope has been explained to you. Muslim theory of governance is based on the foundational notion of justice. Without justice, there cannot be agriculture. Without agriculture, there cannot be commerce. Without commerce and agriculture, there cannot be an army. Without an army there cannot be an administration, and without an army and administration, there cannot be ruling and governance. It is a simple elegant thing. This is what (it is). So the notions of justice in this country is overdeveloped not underdevelopment. It is delivery. Because of this, I am announcing the establishment of a specialized Anti-corruption Justice Center. The anti-narcotics center has been successful, the chief justice and attorney general have approved this in our first preliminary meeting of the high council, and therefore we would like to implement it and move on so that for Warsaw, it’s active. Not that we will announce by Warsaw, I am announcing it today, we need to make it functional by Warsaw.

Let me briefly focus on these ministries. Ministry of Interior is one of the five larger spenders in this country, but more than that, the Ministry of Interior is the face between citizens and the state, so accountability in this ministry in removal of corruption is critical. The other is, you know because of the imposed war and our need to focus all our energies on containing terrorist attacks, we have not done enough on counter-narcotics. Ministry of Interior is absolutely essential both to the counter-narcotics effort and among other things to ensuring urban growth…. (Inaudible) property rights….and the other (thing) is that constitution gives the responsibility for discovery of crimes to the police. No one else has a right to discover. In the past, the courts have been meddling in this, the Attorney General’s Office has been meddling in every anti-corruption organization. Discovery of the crime is the job of the Police. That’s why the special crimes task force needs to work organically with the anti-corruption center to be able to move this forward. But, the other is, it is also our accountability to your citizens and to your treasuries. The funds that come to the Ministry of Interior must be fully accountable. I cannot have imaginary policemen. Every policeperson, man and woman… we are proud that we have a lot of women now, has to be fully documented. Their payment has to be fully electronic etc.

Mining. As Ambassador Mellbin pointed out, we are at risk of the curse of plenty. Curse of resources, today the mining sector is a driver of terrorist networks. Corruption of the past needs to be investigated. I am willing to have a force by ATI, any international group to look at contracts, we will post every single contract in the mining sector on websites. And, we will be willing to examine all the contracts that have been granted. We invite Afghan Civil Society as it has contributed in the past to investigate the mining sector. Acting minister Habibyar will explain to you as well as the principle of the community consultation.

Education. I am particularly wild about the missing funds that were given to communities to build schools. This is not just stealing, this is a criminal offense against our children. My client is the Afghan child. The Ministry of Education is a means, teachers are a means; schools are a means. We cannot commit a crime against our children. So, fortunately, thanks Nargis Nehan and the colleagues from the Ministry of Education. We have looked at all 110 schools in addition to 150 other schools. We have classified them; now we have a system. But international supervision again was extremely weak. And, whoever hire those we call on those donors that funded these to do their duty, otherwise we need to have a mechanism to sue those people who fail to do their internationally provided resources. There has to be an ombudsman, business needs to have another partner. When firms hired by international donors fail to do their job, what do we do? This is an accountability, this is your resources. Do you want them to go ahead and keep designing false roads both or not supervising school construction and others are accepting certifications. So, it is really important in this regard that we move on education, because that quality will be important. Results of our findings will be made public. I believe in transparency, so it’s important to engage in mutual accountability in the sense that we have accepted it. And, as you see, there is no blame game on our part. We just want to make sure that repetition of the past patterns where Afghan government did not own the problem does not recur and that then we are given international advice that is relevant and pertains to the problem.

Public Campaign. I want to acknowledge that we have been very weak in public communication and my reasoning was very simple. I did not want to raise expectations. A war was imposed on us, we were dealing with a lot of crisis, and we were dealing with fundamental drivers. Now, our way has been clear to our future and our international partnerships are very solid. I want to thank all our international partners; people sitting around me and all of you for believing in us. Last year, we were working with total uncertainty. This year, we are having risks but not uncertainty, and it is an immense change so I want to thank all the ambassadors, all the representatives of international organizations, international financial institutions, the security sector partners for believing in us and for creating a medium-term horizon. This medium-term horizon colleagues will enable us to tackle fundamental changes. We will take actions on land, on contracts and particularly I want to acknowledge the immense work of Mr. Paikar, our very able director general of ARAZI and a member of the Cabinet. ARAZI is an organization that really represents the new generation of reform, a fundamental shift is underway to transfer registration of property from the court that was only transferred as temporary measure in 1960s back to ARAZI, and the Turkish system that we have found most relevant to us is being piloted in Herat and Kabul. This will be a very important point.

In conclusion, again let me thank you for holding this conference and particularly for holding … because it shows that we not only share diagnosis and share a problem, (but that) we’re also partners and working and solving this problem. The road ahead of us is difficult. But there will be forks in the road where difficult choices have to be made that that’s what is going to distinguish us in terms of historical actors. Will we make the easy choice or will we make the harder choice? When a fork comes, those who choose the hard road pave the way for generations to come to benefit from the suffering and the consequences of that decision. We’re willing to take the hard road. But, what is fundamental to taking this hard road is our mutual commitment to transparency and accountability. Corruption thrives in the dark. But here also the dilemma of the reforms. The more we talk about corruption and the more we expose it, people think that it is increased, and it’s fine, but let us understand that this is not fraud on a wave, it is deep structures that we are dealing with so we have to balance fundamental issues that will shift the culture of capture and the commitment unconsciously probably or consciously to a weak state system to a culture we believe in stock state system- bound to its citizens by the bond of rule of law- prevails and meet mid-level actions that experts and specialists will believe in, but also those addressing those symptoms where the public will welcome. So in this balancing act as I hope what your deliberation will be, but also the deliberation regarding dealing with the past and the present. I hope that it has been shown that we have not politicized our anti-corruption team. It is not that we’re using anti-corruption to target anyone, we believe deeply in public discourse and in freedom. But, those who talk must also know their records and we ask you as our partners to advise us on this.

How systematically, how deep do you want us to go to the past; advise us, don’t avoid the problem, because it is extremely important. In terms of today and tomorrow, I want to make sure that you understand that we have the full commitment. This is a fight that we have to win. There is no choice. And we are not waiting for tomorrow to begin, we began yesterday, today we are accelerating and every day we will accelerate the speed. I used to run the 10 mile race and also the 50 meters. In 50 meters it is all about strength in one effort; in 10 miles you have to be steady otherwise you drop or get exhausted in the course of it. So, please help us both achieve the strengths with certain targets particularly by Warsaw and Brussels and then in the longer run.

Very last point, Brussels is crucial to us, we do not want to go to Brussels with speeches. So, please come to understanding with our colleagues. What are those core actions that would create credibility among all our international partners that we have taken action and we have not just spoken. Thank you. Long Live Afghanistan (the president says in Pashto, Uzbeki and Dari)

 

 

END

The Message of His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on World Press Freedom Day

Since the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has consistently supported the great achievements of Free Press, and has guaranteed as per the Constitution and Media Law, freedom of expression and free operation of media in the country, understanding the importance of free operation of media and appreciating the value of freedom of expression, protect this great value and support it in the framework of law. The growth of free media and further institutionalization of freedom of expression require cooperation between the government, media workers and the citizens.

It is a tremendous honor that despite unfavorable security situation, Afghanistan has moved higher in the ranking of the World Press Freedom Index this year than regional countries and in the latest instance, one of Afghanistan’s media has earned the Press Freedom Hero Award granted to Lotfulah Najafizada from ToloNews by the Reporters Sans Frontières. At the same time, we reiterate that this is not sufficient, as we expect our media and journalists to strive further through standard and professional work, to lift Afghanistan’s position even higher in the ranking.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with the commitments that it had made during the elections to the media leaders, has taken meaningful steps in support of media and institutionalization of freedom of expression in the country. Passing the law on access to information; developing the statute on founding of private media; developing the procedure on security and safety of journalists and media; and undertaking a review of the cases of killings of journalists are amongst the measures that have been taken in this regard.

The Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan expects the leadership of media to take the ground-breaking steps in implementation of the Statute on Founding of Private Media in support of journalists.

Without a doubt, freedom of press is a foundational pillar in the nascent democracy in our country.  The journalists who come up with accurate and balanced investigative reports have an effective role in solidifying the pillars of democracy in the country. To that end, the government entities are obliged to take constructive measures concerning implementation of the recommendations of investigative reports.

It may not be out of place here to send blessings and prayers to the souls of the martyrs of freedom and journalism, and commend the brave and creative work of our journalists in different areas in the country.

In closing, to further support and strengthen Freedom of Press, on behalf of myself and the First Lady who also serves as patrons of Freedom of Expression, I appoint Mr. Nader Nadery as Ambassador at-large for Freedom of Expression.

Mohammad Ashraf Ghani

President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

END

Opening Remarks by H.E Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Third Meeting of the Afghanistan-U.S. Bilateral Commission

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

The Honorable Secretary of State, John Kerry,

Excellency Ministers,

Distinguished Members of the US and Afghan Delegations,

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Good afternoon!

 

We are delighted to host the Third Meeting of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission at the Presidential Palace. I wish to begin by expressing a very warm welcome to you, Secretary Kerry, and your accompanying delegation to Kabul.

At the outset, please allow me to reiterate that the National Unity Government of Afghanistan is fully committed to the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, as well as to its integral component and implementation mechanism: the Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan.

I would also like to take this opportunity to convey my deep appreciation for the generous assistance, the ultimate sacrifices, and the resolve of the United States and Coalition forces, as they continue to help our brave forces to secure and defend Afghanistan against our two countries’ common enemies: terrorism and extremism.
As we welcome the United States’ security assistance for our forces, I would like to assure our US and international partners that we are working hard to prepare for the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw and the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Brussels, in order to solidify International aid pledges.

At the same time, we would like to assure you that Afghanistan is firmly committed to implementing the objectives of our robust reforms agenda under the agreed terms of the New Development Partnership and the Self-reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF).

In this light, we continue to ensure the ongoing institutionalization and protection of human rights, including the rights of women, while strengthening the rule of law and implementing the necessary electoral reforms for the upcoming Parliamentary elections.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you all know, in the lead-up to our Third Bilateral Commission Meeting this week, three Working Groups (Security and Defense; Democracy and Governance; and Social and Economic Development) met to review the progress made towards the various shared objectives, which were set during the March 2015 visit of H.E. President Ghani and H.E. Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington.

We hope that today’s Meeting will chart the path forward for future bilateral cooperation in the three areas, especially in the area of Security and Defense, while building on the economic and social development gains of the past 15 years in Afghanistan.

Please, allow me to briefly discuss our shared progress in the three areas of ongoing bilateral cooperation overseen by the Commission:

In the area of Defense and Security, the Government of Afghanistan appreciates the delivery of helicopters and aircrafts by the United States to our forces, and we greatly welcome the addition of more attack helicopters before August.

Also, the Train, Advise and Assist support provided by the United States and our international partners continue to strengthen our forces in their daily battles against terrorists. This critical support coupled with institutional and technical capacity building assistance will go a long way in enabling our forces to achieve full operational independence.

On our part, Afghanistan is firmly committed to combating any violations of human rights, while preventing any abusive practices, including those committed by ANDSF.
Both sides agree that the SPA is the most appropriate venue for the continuation of Defense and Security Cooperation. In this light, we too agree that ongoing threat assessment coupled with developing and sustaining of Afghanistan’s defense capabilities is a necessary step forward.

This requires that the Security Consultative Forum under SPA be renewed for joint needs and threat assessments for appropriate bilateral response, ensuring the defense of Afghanistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

This forum under the SPA should not only serve as the security component of the Bilateral Commission framework, but also reaffirm commitment by the United States and Afghanistan to a mutually supportive defense relationship.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Afghan government is making every effort to advance our peace and reconciliation efforts as a measure to achieve a lasting peace for our people. We have invested heavily in this endeavor, and will continue our efforts with strong resolve.

In this respect, we all acknowledge the importance of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group in helping us to achieve our shared goals for lasting peace in Afghanistan. However, we realize that our QCG efforts wouldn’t bear fruit, unless the Taliban groups come to the negotiation table. We believe the international community can help encourage key actors in the region to have the Taliban groups engage in direct talks with the Afghan government.

In the area of Democracy and Governance, I would like to reiterate the National Unity Government’s resolve to fight corruption, while doubling our efforts to promote democracy and good governance across Afghanistan, as shown by our recent progress in the electoral reforms process to ensure credible, inclusive, and transparent elections.

Our commitment to defeating corruption is based on our firm belief that good-governance and the rule of law are the answer to our long-term stability and prosperity, and the foundation for progress in any sphere: be it security, development, social or political. To that end, H.E. President Ghani has recently established the “Supreme Council on Countering Corruption” to address the problem systemically.

At the same time, we are committed to protecting human rights, including the equal rights of all citizens, particularly those of the most disenfranchised segments of our society: women, children and persons with disabilities.

A few examples of the National Unity Government’s major reforms include: the signing of the Global Action Call to Action, the promotion of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which will implement UNSCR 1325; and the Anti-sexual Harassment Regulation approved by the Council of Ministers and signed by H.E. President Ghani last September, which is fully enforced in all our institutions.

Additionally, the National Unity Government is working to revise the penal code, develop child protection legislation, and take major steps to implement the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Moreover, led by H.E. President Ghani, various practical initiatives are underway to facilitate the reintegration of Afghan returnees, while providing opportunities for others through the “Jobs for Peace Program” to avoid risky trails to Europe. In this regard, we are grateful to the United States as the largest humanitarian donor for providing us with $213 million in relief aid for the internally displaced persons across Afghanistan.

In the area of Counter Narcotics, we understand that achieving notable progress in this area helps to ensure the well-being of our citizens, strengthen governance and the rule of law; and deny terrorist financing to destabilize Afghanistan.

This past October, we adopted our National Drug Action Plan, which demonstrates our resolve to fight opium poppy cultivation and drug production and trafficking, while highlighting the respective roles and responsibilities of the Afghan Government, and those of our regional and international partners.

In the area of Freedom of Press, Afghanistan has the freest media in the whole region, in accordance with the World Press Freedom Index 2015. To build on this major achievement, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, with the help of private media, has endorsed the Law of Access to Information.

In January, H.E. President Ghani instructed the Attorney General’s office to re-investigate unsolved cases of murdered journalists and instructed key ministries to develop legislation to better regulate the classification of and access to government information.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the area of Economic and Social Development, we realize that human and protective security is intertwined in the Afghan context. Therefore, sustainable development is a major priority of the National Unity Government, as it was discussed during March 2015 visit of H.E. President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington.

So far, the Afghan government has proven our firm commitment to fiscal and financial sector reforms through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Staff Monitored Program.

Furthermore, Afghanistan’s accession to the WTO and our plan to meet the terms for the WTO accession are good examples of the National Unity Government’s determination to achieve self-reliance in economic and social development.

Indeed, for all of these notable gains that need ongoing consolidation, I would like to thank the United States for providing the Afghan Government with $800 million in financial pledge of support to be administered by the World Bank trust fund with a set of benchmarks.

Mr. Secretary,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the numerous achievements by the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, which could have been impossible without the assistance of the United States and our international partners, a lot remains to be done.

Indeed, the Afghan government considers the SPA Bilateral Commission an important forum to ensure strategic communication between our officials. This forum should not only report on our shared achievements but also frankly discuss issues of mutual high concern and interest.

Some of those concerns and interests include our ongoing efforts to eliminate the networks and sanctuaries of support for terrorism and extremism outside of Afghanistan, while enabling us to develop on a sustainable basis through private sector development, integration with regional markets, and implementing regional energy projects such as the CASA-1000, TAPI and others.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we continue consolidating our hard-earned gains of the past 15 years, thanks to the ultimate sacrifices of the American and Afghan forces, I would also like to acknowledge that the people of Afghanistan remain grateful to the American people, and I kindly request my dear colleague and a great friend of Afghanistan, Secretary Kerry, to convey this message of deep gratitude and sincere friendship to the American people from Afghanistan.

Thank You

 

END

Joint Statement by Afghan Foreign Minister Rabbani and U.S. Secretary of State Kerry on the Third Meeting of the Afghanistan-U.S. Bilateral Commission

 

On April 9 in Kabul, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry convened the third meeting of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission to review progress in the bilateral relationship and chart a course for future cooperation.  This meeting, called for by the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, reaffirmed the commitment of both governments to Afghanistan’s future as a strong, stable, democratic, and self-reliant state.

The Bilateral Commission highlighted the continuation of the U.S. security presence beyond 2016 to carry out two important missions:  training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in coordination with international partners; and cooperating bilaterally on shared efforts to counter terrorism.

The Bilateral Commission welcomed the U.S. commitment to provide continued financial support to the ANDSF via NATO’s Afghan National Army Trust Fund and the UN Development Program-managed Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), and to provide significant levels of development assistance during Afghanistan’s Transformation Decade.  The participants looked forward to the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July and the Brussels Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in October as opportunities to solidify these join with the international community in renewing international security and development assistance pledges, respectively.

The Bilateral Commission reaffirmed the reform objectives in the New Development Partnership (NDP) decided in August 2015 and the joint commitments established in the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) launched at the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Kabul in September 2015.  The Commission reiterated the important roles played by civil society including women’s groups in helping to chart a democratic future for Afghanistan and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Recognizing Progress in the Strategic Partnership

The Bilateral Commission discussed cooperation in the areas of defense and security; democracy and governance; and economic and social development.  Ahead of the Bilateral Commission meeting, U.S.-Afghan working groups for these three areas met to review progress on the specific objectives set during the March 2015 visit of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington and to identify goals for the future.  Minister Rabbani and Secretary Kerry welcomed the following specific accomplishments:

Defense and Security

Secretary Kerry and Minister Rabbani acknowledged the sacrifice and resolve of the ANDSF, U.S., and Coalition forces and called for an end to insecurity and violent attacks that resulted in over 11,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2015 alone. To weaken and defeat terrorists, while denying them safe haven, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the security and stability of Afghanistan.

As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the Afghan security forces, the United States announced that 14 MD-530 attack helicopters and eight A-29 aircraft have been successfully integrated into the Afghan security forces.  The addition of 14 more MD-530s before August 2016 will further enhance the operational capabilities of the Afghan Air Force.  U.S. and Afghan officials also noted the completion of the semi-annual Program Management Review to validate our long-term security cooperation partnership and to continue efforts to develop an effective, affordable, and sustainable ANDSF.

The Afghan security institutions are building capacity in systems and processes to staff, equip, and sustain an ANDSF that is capable and combat-ready.  The challenges the ANDSF face are complex.  Train, Advise, and Assist efforts continue to be required to develop the necessary capacity to build institutional knowledge and expertise in the areas of budgeting, force generation, personnel management, maintenance, logistics, and procurement.

The U.S. participants commended Afghanistan’s participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and its active cooperation in developing a strategic trade control system and associated border controls that help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Noting that a negotiated political settlement is the best and surest way to bring peace to Afghanistan, Secretary Kerry and Minster Rabbani welcomed the efforts of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in creating an environment conducive to bringing the Taliban and its affiliates to the negotiation table with the goal of creating a lasting peace in Afghanistan.  Minister Rabbani appreciated the United States’ contribution of $5 million to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for supporting the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) in 2015, as well as the United States’ commitment to provide further support in 2016 for the implementation of the APRP reforms plan.

The United States welcomed Afghanistan’s membership in the 66-nation Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and Afghanistan’s commitment to counter violent extremism and terrorism in partnership with other like-minded countries around the world.  The ANDSF, working closely with the United States, has already made significant progress against the “Islamic State Khorasan Province” (ISKP), Daesh’s affiliate in Afghanistan.

Democracy and Governance

Secretary Kerry commended the Afghan government’s commitment to combat corruption and promote democracy and good governance in Afghanistan.  Both sides welcomed progress on electoral reforms and noted the importance of ensuring credible, inclusive, and transparent elections.  The Afghan side acknowledged that Parliamentary elections are overdue and should take place as soon as possible once necessary electoral reforms have been implemented.

Minister Rabbani emphasized the importance of institutionalizing and enforcing Afghanistan’s constitutional commitment to human rights, including the equal rights of all citizens, with particular attention to women and minorities, and persons with disabilities. He noted the government is revising the penal code, developing child protection legislation, and taking steps to implement the law onElimination of Violence Against Women.

The participants welcomed the Afghan government’s continued commitment to women’s rights, the signing of the Global Call to Action, and the June unveiling of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which will implement UNSCR 1325.  The commission also applauded the anti-sexual harassment regulation approved by the Council of Ministers and signed by President Ghani in September, as well as efforts to remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment and participation.

The United States is the largest single contributor of humanitarian aid to Afghans displaced within Afghanistan and across the region, providing nearly $213 million in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to date.  A key priority for the U.S. and Afghan governments is facilitating the integration of Afghan returnees into development programs.

The participants acknowledged that drug production and trafficking is driven by global demand for narcotics, which transnational organized criminal networks produce in permissive environments like that of Afghanistan, undermining governance, security, and public health throughout the world. Hence, both sides emphasized the importance of increased multilateral cooperation in support of Afghanistan’s efforts to address the global challenge of drug production and trafficking, under the provisions of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1817 (2008) and 2195 (2014).

Both sides highlighted the recently released Afghan National Drug Action Plan, which offers a balanced, comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable approach to combatting illegal drug production, trade, and use through 2019.

The participants welcomed the ranking of Afghanistan by the World Press Freedom Index 2015 as having the freest media in the region, and noted important progress on the protection of journalists and access to information. In January, President Ghani instructed the Attorney General’s office to re-investigate unsolved cases of murdered journalists and instructed key ministries to develop legislation to better regulate the classification of and access to government information.  The Afghan government also created the Mass Media Commission, to support freedom of speech and rights of journalists.

Economic and Social Development

Secretary Kerry and Minister Rabbani underscored the fundamental importance of economic and social development to future stability and security in Afghanistan.

Since the March 2015 visit of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington, the United States and Afghanistan have collaborated on a private sector driven by economic development agenda.  Our New Development Partnership was established to incentivize reforms and provide up to $800 million in funding to the Afghan government via a World Bank-administered trust fund.  The Afghan government achieved key benchmarks and received the $180 million of the total $200 million available in 2015.

The Afghan government demonstrated its commitment to fiscal and financial sector reforms through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff Monitored Program (SMP), which concluded in March, and development of the Public Financial Management Roadmap II and its implementation plan. Afghanistan also demonstrated its commitment to self-reliance by achieving record revenue collections in 2015, facilitated in part by the introduction of electronic payments for customs in Kabul.  These gains can be expanded through additional improvements in tax compliance and an economic expansion.  The commission participants also praised the Afghan government for substantially increasing mobile payments of government salaries.

Technical advisors from the U.S. Department of Treasury are working with Afghan counterparts to improve financial management, combat financial crimes, and strengthen banking supervision.  Treasury completed a consultation on managing government revenue collection with the Afghan Revenue Department in March 2016 that identified key areas for technical assistance.

The U.S. government congratulated Afghanistan on the approval of its application for WTO membership at the Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on December 17, 2015.  The U.S. and Afghan governments stressed the importance of Afghanistan accomplishing its legislative agenda to meet the terms for WTO accession by June 30, 2016.  The U.S. and Afghan governments also reviewed the progress of their bilateral Energy Working Group, established as an outcome of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah’s 2015 visit to Washington.  This group, which met twice, once in November and once in January, serves as an effective forum for discussion and cooperation on Afghanistan’s energy priorities, including developing domestic energy production and technical capacity, expanding and securing energy infrastructure, and facilitating greater regional energy integration.

The United States also fulfilled its commitment to nearly double the number of Afghan scholars pursuing graduate-level studies in the United States through the Fulbright and Junior Faculty Development exchanges, increasing Afghanistan’s capacity in higher education and key professional sectors.

Charting the Way Forward

Minister Rabbani and Secretary Kerry discussed avenues for future cooperation to continue to build effective and professional Afghan security forces, to make progress in advancing democracy and improving governance   and to build on economic and social development gains.

Defense and Security

Secretary Kerry and Minister Rabbani emphasized the importance of the continued development of Afghan security forces that are able to defend the territorial integrity of Afghanistan, provide security for the Afghan populace and operate consistently with Afghanistan’s international human rights obligations and commitments.  The United States welcomed Afghan commitments to continue combatting gross violations of human rights and to prevent abusive practices.–

To help counter the continuing threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the United States and Afghanistan decided to develop a strategy to build upon existing IED exploitation efforts; consider ways to improve information-sharing related to exploitation of IED components; and conduct an assessment of the current public awareness program and expand it as appropriate.

The planned resumption of the Security Consultative Forum in 2016 with the U.S. Secretary of Defense and Afghan Ministers of Defense and Interior will further these strategic goals and serve as the security component of the Bilateral Commission framework, reaffirming the U.S. and Afghan commitment to a mutually supportive defense relationship.

Democracy and Governance

The commission participants concurred that over the coming months, the United States will support Afghan efforts to advance electoral reforms.  They also concluded that strengthening sub-national governance, combatting corruption, and ensuring effective delivery of services to the population were crucial to peace and stability.

The Afghan government noted that its efforts to improve human rights will include implementation of the Afghan government’s plan to eliminate torture and a commitment to safeguard freedom of the press, including combating violence against journalists.

Rule of law reforms will include a focus on completing and implementing the ongoing penal code revision, as well as continued cooperation to advance gains achieved through counter-narcotics initiatives.

Economic and Social Development

The United States and Afghanistan will continue to focus on policies that support trade and revenue generation, strengthen the Afghan economy, nurture robust private sector development, promote integration in regional markets, and develop domestic energy production, all of which will lessen Afghan reliance on donor assistance.  The two governments noted that the New Development Partnership would continue, and achievement of reform benchmarks could result in additional funding for Afghanistan.  The U.S. side welcomed continuing discussions on Afghanistan’s progress in meeting SMAF goals, establishing a new IMF program, improving its business and investment climate, and fostering conditions for long-term economic growth and fiscal sustainability, including the aggressive scale up of mobile salary payments and further roll-out of e-payments for customs.

The United States and Afghanistan remain committed to the implementation of the CASA-1000 project and other regional energy projects which expand regional cooperation in energy markets and promote economic growth in Afghanistan and in neighboring countries.

Both governments acknowledged the interdependency between economic growth, health, agriculture, and education and plan to collaborate in all these areas.  The two governments reaffirmed their support for increased access to quality education throughout the country at all levels, with an emphasis on quality higher education, technical and vocational training, and continued expansion of educational access, including community-based learning.  They also recognized the importance of Afghanistan preserving its rich cultural heritage, emphasizing that the country’s economic development must include protecting cultural heritage sites of significant national and international historical value.

Secretary Kerry welcomed the recent initiative by the Afghan government to launch a “Jobs for Peace Program,” which intends to provide short- to medium-term employment opportunities for Afghanistan’s youthful population.

Conclusion

Minister Rabbani and Secretary Kerry reaffirmed their resolve to advance the Afghan people’s desire for a stable, secure, and sovereign Afghanistan, governed on the basis of the Afghan Constitution, including respect for human rights, the rule of law, and democratic values. They underscored that cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States continues to be based on mutual respect and shared interests, and affirmed their intent to continue these high-level bilateral consultations to further strengthen our partnership on the basis of the Strategic Partnership Agreement. To that end, they agreed to announce the specific date for convening the Fourth Meeting of the Afghanistan-U.S. Bilateral Commission in Washington-DC as soon as possible, while the three Working Groups should regularly meet throughout the year to ensure consistent cooperation and coordination.

 

END

Embassy and Permanent Mission of Afghanistan in Vienna Participates in UN Nowruz Celebration Event

Vienna, 24.03.2016

On March 24, 2016, the Embassy and Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan participated in a Nowruz Celebration Event at the United Nations in Vienna. The event gave an opportunity for countries that celebrate Nowruz to demonstrate the richness of their cultures through displaying handicrafts, traditional clothing and by serving a variety of traditional food. During the event, two Afghan musicians, Mr. Sobeir Bachtiar and Mr. Karimi, played traditional Robab and Tabla. The Embassy and Permanent Mission of Afghanistan displayed handicrafts including rugs, traditional clothing, and jewelry amongst other items to demonstrate the richness of the art and culture of Afghanistan. In addition to this, several popular Afghan food dishes were served, such as Qabuli Palaw, which received much praise from those attending the event.

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Delegation of Afghanistan Attends the 59th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Vienna, 22.03.2016

From March 14 – 22, 2016, the delegation of Afghanistan attended the 59th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. During the opening of the Special Segment on UNGASS 2016, the Head of the Delegation, H.E. Mrs. Salamat Azimi, Minister of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan, delivered a statement on the progress made and the challenges remaining in Afghanistan in counter narcotics efforts. It was noted that, despite security threats, in 2015 the poppy cultivating areas were reduced by 19%, with a 48% reduction in opium production as well as a 40% increase in the eradication of poppy cultivation compared to the previous year. Increased regional and international cooperation was called for, along with increased support for the counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan under the National Drug Action Plan, so that this truly global problem can be better addressed. Also in attendance to the 59th Session of the CND, were H.E. Mr. Baz Mohammad Ahmadi, Deputy Minister for Counter Narcotics from the Ministry of Interior, and Dr. Osman Frotan, Director General of Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Counter Narcotics, and Ms. Iran Saihoon, Director of the Research and Studies Department at the Ministry of Counter Narcotics.

CND side eventDuring the week, the delegation of Afghanistan held several bilateral meetings, including with UNODC Executive Secretary Mr. Yury Fedotov; the Director of the Transnational Threats Department of the OSCE, Mr. Alexey Lyzhenkov; and the President of INCB, Mr. Werner Sipp. In addition to this, bilateral meetings were held with the heads of the delegations of the USA, Peru, and Tajikistan.

On March 16th, the government of Afghanistan and the UNODC Statistics and Surveys Section held a side event at the 59th Commission on Narcotic Drugs titled “Afghanistan Socioeconomic Survey of Opium Cultivation 2015 and the Implications for Alternative Development”. The session was chaired by Mr. Hassan Soroosh, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of Afghanistan in Vienna. H.E. Minister Azimi delivered a statement where she noted the need for an integrated approach that takes in to account security aspects and socio-economic factors including poverty and unemployment in order to make sustainable progress in the fight against narcotics. The key findings of the report were presented by Dr. Osman Frotan, and by Ms. Angela Me, Chief of the UNODC Statistics and Surveys Section, which noted the decrease in poppy cultivation and aspects on what drive poppy cultivation, and called for the investment of building infrastructure. The conclusions from the report found that there is a need for job creation and skill training for rural workers and a stronger inclusion of women in counter narcotics efforts. After the presentation of the report, a question and answer session was held with the audience.

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Welcoming Remarks by H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Opening Session of the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of g7+ 23 March 2016, Kabul

Kabul, 23.03.2016

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani,

Excellencies,

Honorable Delegates of the g7plus

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you all to the 4th Ministerial meeting of the g7+ countries here in Kabul. We are delighted to host this important gathering, which is of particular importance to the people and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and signifies our steadfast commitment to advancing the important goals of our group.

Your presence here under the theme of “from Dili to Kabul and Beyond: Pathways Toward Resilience” expresses a strong sense of solidarity and commitment towards maintaining the momentum which the g7plus envisioned in 2010.

Since its inception, the g7plus has evolved into one of the most important cross-regional fragile state groupings in the realm of international relations and development.  It provides a unique platform for genuine cooperation between fragile States and more broadly, with our international development partners to overcome the many challenges that confront us in the security, social and developmentspheres.

We will have His Excellency President Ghani deliver the keynote address, in which he will outline various aspects of the policies and strategies that we have initiated to achieve our peace-building and State-building goals (PSGs).

I will, therefore, be brief in highlighting the overall context of our state-building efforts.

Excellencies, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although the constituting members of g7plus belong to diverse regions from Asia to Africa and from Middle East to Latin America, our experiences in peace building and development are common and so are our challenges. Dealing with these decades of challenges has made us realize the importance of coming together.

It is also pertinent to mention that 18 out of the 20 members of the g7plus group are also Least Developed Countries (LDCs) including Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a country that has experienced a myriad of challenges ranging from armed conflicts and combating terrorism and extremism, to developing viable institutions, and rehabilitating the social fabric of our society, which was decimated as a result of the decades-long conflict.

Yet, over the past fifteen years – with the generous assistance from international partners – we have made considerable progress in various domains that helped put us on the path to achieve a new Afghanistan.

Despite these gains, we are far from where we want to be.  We fully understand that our security and stability ultimately rests on our ability to make steady and substantial progress on the goals that we, in the g7+ grouping, are collectively seeking to achieve.

That includes improving security and promoting peace; strengthening governance and the rule of law; enhancing capacity and transparency in our institutions for effective service delivery; as well as building our infrastructure and increasing private sector investment to spur economic activity and lift our people out of poverty.

In this context, the Government of Afghanistan is adamantly focused on implementing our reform agenda, which we presented at the international London Conference on Afghanistan in November 2014. As we move forward, we (are) pleased that the international community will continue to stand beside us as a committed partner, in support of our state-building efforts.

To our many international partners represented here today:  we deeply appreciate the important work that you continue to render, in support of our peace and stability.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Afghanistan believes that the adoption of the New Deal marked a truly momentous occasion in the development of a more effective result-oriented partnership between fragile and conflict-effected States, with our development partners.

With this initiative, the nature of North-South cooperation has changed for the better, whereby the international community is increasingly channeling greater portions of official development assistance, in accordance with the national development strategies and priorities of fragile states.

Needless to say, challenges remain.  We, therefore, must remain vigilant and increase our collaboration. Let us benefit from each other’s experience, and work to ensure that levels of development aid-delivery are proportionate with the assistance needs of concerned countries.

Equally important, it remains imperative that the donor community channels its assistance in a manner that will also reinforce the principle of national ownership, and strengthen national capacities of state and non-State actors, including civil society and the business community.

Afghanistan welcomes the increased number of feasibility assessments conducted by the members of our group. Conducted at the country level, these assessments feature a concise and detailed analysis of the underlying sources of conflict and stability in fragile settings.

For our part, Afghanistan has been actively engaged in the implementation of the New Deal since 2011,with the Ministry of Finance taking the lead on this important issue.

My esteemed colleague, Finance Minister Hakimi, will present the findings of our New Deal Fragility Assessment, entitled: “Afghanistan’s Pathway Towards Stability and Resilience.”  We are sure that it will be of great interest to you all.

Excellencies, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last September in New York, at the Summit Meeting of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the international community adopted the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The integration of the Peace and State-building goals in the 2030 development agenda was a welcoming event that will serve to benefit the g7+ grouping.  Nevertheless, we must (NOT) lose focus on the task at hand.

The onus is on us (to) undertake every effort to increase our coordination and collaboration, and leverage the full range of resources to implement the five peace-building and state-building goals,as a central component of our overall efforts to meeting the MDG’s and SDG’s.

We are convinced that so long as we stand firm in our shared commitment, we will succeed in our“transition from fragility to resiliency,” and transform the slogan of “Goodbye Conflict – Welcome Development”  into reality!

To conclude, let me state that Afghanistan stands fully committed to working closely with all members of our group to advance our common peace and development agenda.   We look forward to adoption of our Strategic Road Map for 2016-2017 at the conclusion of our meeting!

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now my honor to invite His Excellency the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to deliver the keynote address.

Thank you!

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Transcript of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Opening Remarks at the G7+ Ministerial Meeting

Kabul, 24.03.2016

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In the name of Allah the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate

Your Excellencies. Minister Marah, my colleague His Excellency Xanana Gusmao, Minister Tadjidinne, Minister Konneh, Special Envoy Pires, friends and colleagues on this remarkable shared adventure.

Welcome to Afghanistan! I am so glad that on this beautiful springtime day you can see firsthand the gap between the media perception of forbidding Afghanistan and the reality of our beautiful and hospitable country.

And welcome to this meeting of the G7+ group of nations.

I would like to personally thank you all for forming this group of like-minded leaders who are committed to reinventing aid.  Never has there been a time when international partnerships are more needed. And never has there been a system more in need of reform.

Let us begin with a statement of the problem. Global stability rests in the hands of states under threat.  Fourteen years ago state-building was not considered to be a crucial issue of world interest. Today the question of how to build stable, successful states is the pre-eminent question of our time. Building states and building peace are now goals shared by the entire world.

The general outline of what will bring success  — national leadership, regional coordination, and building up core country systems — is also now clearly understood and broadly accepted, in large part thanks to the untiring efforts of this group to open up the world’s eyes to the challenge of state-building.

But if these global goals are now agreed, the processes that will lead us to achieving them are still barely identified, much less turned into a specific disciplined, set of programs for action.

In my opening remarks this morning I would like to confront two of the challenges that this G7+ sisterhood of nations must address.

The first issue is the challenge of state fragmentation. The relationship between state weakness and fragmentation by now is so widely accepted as to be practically a commonplace statement rather than an insight into the drivers of fragility.  And yet if we frame overcoming fragility from the perspective of distinguishing between what is desirable from what in practice is credible or feasible given the current terms of aid partnership, it becomes instantly clear that the aid system perpetuates rather than overcomes fragmentation.

Current aid practices make state fragmentation inevitable. And while there have been some reforms over the past decades, the promises made in Paris, Seoul, Accra and elsewhere are not yet backed up by sufficient credible actions. Too many aid practices continue to prevent reformist leaders from negotiating strategy, consolidating their budget, and managing their economy in self-reliant ways.  Too often aid partnerships mean that our ministries become speckled with specially created project units that magically appear and never go away. Our ministries and our civil society groups lose their talent to high-paying consultancies that are then sent to build the capacity that they just drained away. Our budgets become assemblages of donor projects that cannot be restructured or re-positioned to tackle new needs.

Not all aid works this way. When leadership can conceptualize its reforms then the aid community can help facilitate and catalyze the kinds of change that build capacity, which is again a lesson on why our leaders must drive reform rather than wait for it to happen.

But if aid still poses the external constraint, we ourselves must address more credibly the problems within us. How many of our countries remain trapped in the bottom-most rungs of the Transparency International rankings?  We cannot continue to ignore this fact or to blame others for not solving this problem that eats our countries alive from within.

Our grasp of corruption remains weak, trapped in the realm of definitions and denunciations but still lacking the framework that will let us define its contours and domains of action. Our discourse on corruption ends up describing bribe paying and bribe-taking as individual transactions that must be brought to an end rather than as the inevitable result of deep sociopolitical processes that must be understood and addressed from within.

State corruption can be analyzed as a fourfold process of elite capture. In many countries that have experienced war and social conflict, capture begins with the perversion of the security sector. Powerful individuals can use the security sector to make enormous amounts of illicit money. Their use of the public security forces ensures impunity. A first breakdown of trust in government quickly follows. Corruption in the security sector allows the threat of force to stifle the development of the rule of law. Economic policy making also erodes in the face of special interests. A stifled economy is further pressured to grab rents rather than build up productivity, further choking growth.

Government institutions often then become the means to perpetuate corrupt behavior rather than the tool for building development.  Oversight systems themselves become captured or emasculated. Without controls, high-level corruption subverts sectoral institutions and entire ministries can become corruption machines. Further down, corrupt officials could control access to positions, contacts, and payments to contractors and other service providers. Public procurement became the means to reward bribe-payers rather than the mechanism for government to obtain value for money.

Finally, political capture drives political leaders to reward followers rather than promoting the national interest. With capture, government reform efforts are blocked if they bring to an end privileged access, and internal organizational reforms will be subverted by political pressure to appoint followers throughout the system.

If this fourfold process of state capture can be easily described and to some extent measured, the remedies that get brought to bear by the aid system not only provide little help in addressing them, but all too often become part of the problem that we are trying to solve. The solution to fragmented and captured states is never going to be more consultants, anti-corruption plans, or good governance projects. Reform will come when reformist leadership is fully equipped with the tools it needs to rebuild core state systems, above all an ability to recruit like-minded reformers into the system and to have the flexibility to use reform to deliver results.

What do state leaders need? In my remaining time I can only touch upon three core areas that in my experience will define the success or failure of the state-building effort here in Afghanistan.

First, reformist leaders need to be able to control their budgets. None of us can spend money. The symptoms of constipated budget management are pervasive. In almost every developing country the recurrent budget keeps rising while large amounts of the development budget remain unspent. And not spending money well means not implementing policy. We need to make public financial management reform and the repair of the budget process a central focus of attention. Poorly formulated budgets, inflexible budgets fragmented by aid projects and their PMUs, budget management by consultant — these are recurrent symptoms of what the aid agency should be helping us overcome. Instead they perpetuate them. I can only advise my G7 colleagues to take inspiration, as we have done, in the path breaking work done by His Excellency Xanana Guomao and Special Envoy Emilia Pires to take back control of their budget and use it to execute policy.

Second, our countries need to understand that across our countries there is a critical role for the state to build price-setting, resource-allocating markets. The past decade has seen the total failure of neoliberal ideology. After two decades of donors preaching to us about dismantling the state and removing it from all economic functioning, when their own real estate, banking, and automobile industries imploded in 2008, every single one of them turned to state-driven solutions. Clearly we do not want to return to centrally planned and managed economies, but defining the role for smart, efficient state in building markets, defining economic strategies, and providing incentives needs to be re-thought.

Third, if state-building rebuilds the ability of our states to carry out their core functions, peace-building must provide a charter of citizenship rights for both women and men that restores a belief that we are all part of one nation. Peace must consist of a program to build citizenship, both at the symbolic level of creating what the late scholar Benedict Anderson called an “imaginary community” and at a practical level of trust that citizen’s engagements with state agents is on the basis of clear rules and transparent rights and obligations. Development can then become not the trickle down form of compensation that it often is, but a citizen-driven agenda whose outcome is a trusted, credible state that works on behalf of the common good. Here in Afghanistan we will soon be launching a nationwide Citizen’s Charter that will not just provide the development rights guaranteed by our constitution, but be the foundation for a renewed partnership between our citizenry and our state.

We have chosen a formidable task. But it is a task on which global peace, stability and prosperity depend. Yesterday’s tragic events amidst our European brothers and sisters transcend any divide between developed and developing countries and shows that we are all in this boat together.

This conference must produce a vision of hope, possibility, and solidarity. But before I close I would like to express my wish that we G-7+ members think through what we want this G7+ process to be. Reading through the documents this morning I was struck by how many of them sound just like the consultancy reports that each day I get fed by the international agencies.

Aid is seductive. Development is not just a practice. It is a mindset. Aid agencies will leap to insert their language, mentalities, and procedures into our thinking and we will respond like Pavlov’s dogs to the ringing bell of technical assistance. And who wouldn’t since that entire world of fragility assessments, country assessments, fiduciary assessments, performance metrics and so on that we continually need to be feeding the aid community in the name of partnership are so time-consuming and distracting for our people to prepare? And so we gratefully accept the assistance and dutifully produce the reports.

I do not think we should go much further down this path. The G7+ is a way to use our common experience to push back against the hegemony of the aid industry.   Our purpose is to substitute aid practices with the kinds of rules, tools, and partnerships that will help our leaders carry out their national agendas. We should not take in aTrojan horse filled with consultancies, studies, and reports to reproduce some “global consensus” on what the donor agencies need.

Our purpose in this network of shared needs is to articulate an agenda to re-negotiate those rules.  Our guiding principle should be whether we — the national leaders who not only believe in reform but have been entrusted to carry it out — really need all of these expensive, time-consuming studies and reports.

We must use these meetings and our network to propose a wholly new set of flexible, effective partnerships that strip away whole levels of stuffy, time-consuming and in the end largely ineffective procedures that grew up over decades of mentored development.

And we must learn to do this work ourselves. We see every day that our countries are increasingly filled with bright, well-educated young people eager to rebuild their countries. They are our greatest resource. We as leaders must build them the career paths, mentorships, and high level coaching not that they need but which weneed so that we can replace the shadow army of global consultancies with a new generation drawn and developed from within our own knowledge institutions.

State-building, peace-building, and market-building are the critical foundations for successful development. Our citizens, and the citizens of the world, are counting us to bring to pass a new model for prosperity, stability, and a future for their children. This process will be long. We  who are gathered here in Kabul today are taking small sips from a broad river. But our countries have much wisdom within them. May your discussions be fruitful.

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