The South Asia Channel
Building on the past, securing the future
On the tenth anniversary of thehistoric Bonn Agreement that laid the foundation for the post- Talibandemocracy in Afghanistan, the Afghan Government and the international communitywill once again gather in the same venue today to assess the achievements andchallenges of a decade-long joint journey and to reiterate theirmutual commitment to working together on the path forward. ...
On the tenth anniversary of thehistoric Bonn Agreement that laid the foundation for the post- Talibandemocracy in Afghanistan, the Afghan Government and the international communitywill once again gather in the same venue today to assess the achievements andchallenges of a decade-long joint journey and to reiterate theirmutual commitment to working together on the path forward.
The past ten years have been marked bycontinued efforts and sacrifices by Afghans and our international friendstowards peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, the region, and the wider world.
Thanks to the support and commitment ofthe international community, particularly the United States of America, this commonjourney has so far resulted in remarkable progress in various areas.
To lay and consolidate the foundationsof our young democracy, we have been able to adopt a new constitution, hold sixsuccessful elections, establish a new parliament, create an increasingly enablingenvironment for women, and foster the freest media in our neighborhood and agrowing civil society.
In the area of economic growth, ourgains are promising. Our incomeper capita has grown from $150 in 2002 to over $530 today; we had aforeign reserve of just $180 million in 2001, today it stands at nearly $6billion. And while our GDP per capita is still relatively low, our growth rateis one of the highest in the world.
In the areas of education and health,our achievements are historic. Under the Taliban there were less than onemillion students in school — all of them boys. Today almost 8 million Afghanchildren attend school, 39 percent of whom are girls.
In the health sector, as a most recent nationalsurvey (the Afghanistan Mortality Survey) shows, our efforts to increase access tobasic health services have resulted in remarkable improvement in healthindicators. Afghanistan has experienced dramatic declines in infant and under-5mortality rates. Six out of ten women are now receiving prenatal care, andassistance during childbirth by a trained care provider has more than doubled –rising from 14 percent in 2003 to 34 percent today. As a result, far fewerwomen are dying from pregnancy-related causes than they did just a decade ago,and life expectancy at birth has risen to about 62 years, up some 18 years fromprevious estimates.
Additionally, a recent survey conductedby the Asia Foundation shows that there is an increasing level of publicsatisfaction with access to education, drinking water, and health services inthe country. The survey is also indicative of increased public confidence inthe government, including the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.
Looking to the future, however, we havea long and challenging way ahead to secure a stable, democratic, self-reliant,and prosperous Afghanistan. Our experiences show that security and peace cannotbe achieved through fighting only, but rather require a holistic approach thatincludes, among other things, a political approach. Despite severe setbacks,the Afghan Government is committed to pursuing the challenging process of reconciliation based on the non-negotiableprinciples set for those willing to join the peace process, namely, the renunciationof violence, the cutting of ties with international terrorism, and respect forthe Afghan constitution. As we have long argued, continued international andregional support, particularly the sincere and results-oriented cooperation werequire from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is crucial to the success of ourreconciliation efforts.
More importantly, this year we haveembarked on taking over security responsibility from our international partnersin a gradual and phased manner, and have agreed to complete the process by2014.
Security transition is an importantpillar of a broader process of transformation that is about moving from aid-dependencyto self-reliance, from assistance to investment, from military to civilian,and from the international community aid to our Afghan partners, including theprivate sector and civil society.
The process of transformation takesa long time and requires a mutual commitment for a long-term partnershipbetween Afghanistan and the international community.
The most recent World Bank report showsthat the drawdown of the international troops will have a huge impact on theAfghan economy, and that Afghanistan will continue to face a fiscal gap for severalyears after 2014.
The Government of Afghanistan iscommitted to making the necessary reforms to strengthen public financialmanagement systems, foster anti-corruption activities, improve budget executionas well as to increase revenue collection and create an increasingly enablingenvironment for private sector investment to finance our National PriorityPrograms in the key areas of agriculture, extractive industries and infrastructurethat are expected to create jobs and generate income for the country. The AfghanGovernment is also committed to developing strategies to gradually reducesecurity costs and to build a professional and highly effective NationalSecurity Forces in the long-term.
Afghanistan, at the heart of its region,is also committed to sharing the benefits of its location as a regionalland-bridge and as a transit hub in support of regional transit, trade, and connectivity.
We believe that such efforts andcommitments on the part of Afghanistan will allow us to gradually reduce ourdependency on international assistance. Until then, however, Afghanistan willneed continued international assistance to mitigate the economic impact of thetransition in mid-term and to address the fiscal gap for funding both for securityand non-security sectors in the long-term.
We are delighted to see that thefoundation of long-term political, economic and security partnerships between Afghanistanand our regional and international friends are already being laid andconsolidated.
We particularly value our strategicpartnership with the United States, and believe that a strategic partnershipagreement between the two countries will serve the long-term interests of theAfghan and American peoples, and the stability and prosperity of our entireregion.
As we are looking ahead towards thefuture, we envision a future where Afghanistan stands as a stable, democraticand self-sufficient country serving as a crucial pillar of regional and globalsecurity and prosperity, and in pursuing such a challenging goal, we count on continuedsupport from our friends across the international community and in particularthe United States.
Today’s conference in Bonn is anopportunity to support such a vision for Afghanistan: a country that is thepeaceful home of all Afghans and a force for regional and global peace andcooperation. Also today, we are laying dawn the foundation for a strong partnershipbetween Afghanistan and the international community based on our shared goalsand values.
Eklil Hakimi is Afghanistan’sAmbassador to the United States.