Statement by His Excellency Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan
to the United Nations
(Harnessing the Positive Contribution of South-South Cooperation for LDC’s Development)
18-19 February 2011
Please Check Against Delivery
Let me begin by expressing, on behalf of the government and people of Afghanistan, my sincere appreciation to the government of India for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation. We also commend the government of India and the OHRLLS for their collaboration in organizing this meeting. We see this initiative as an important opportunity to strengthen our partnership for advancing the socio-economic advancement of the LDCs. We also look forward to the Fourth UN-LDC Conference in Istanbul, at which we will adopt the Istanbul Program of Action.
Forty-one years have passed since the first group of LDC’s was listed in resolution 2768 of the UN General Assembly. The number of LDC’s has increased from 24 in 1971 to 48 in 2011 – testimony to the fact that development remains a challenge to a significant number of countries. The past three decades have seen a number of important forums in support of LDCs. These include the LDC 2 and 3 Conferences in Paris and Brussels. Nevertheless, despite our efforts, our stated goals have not been realized. This is evident in the fact that only three countries have graduated from among our group.
Afghanistan and its people understand all too well the unique challenges that are faced by LDCs. In our part, we not only understand these issues but experience them on a daily basis. This volatile mix of circumstances, characterized by terrorism, poverty, narcotic drugs and a weak infrastructure pose a serious challenge to our development goals. It is clear that security is a vital pre-condition for socio-economic development. As in our case, the complex security environment, resulting from continued terrorism, has complicated our development efforts.
As a result of the challenging situation, our stated goal of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan has yet to be achieved. A gender-gap in literacy and education; high child and maternal mortality rates, coupled with a worrying poverty rate remain harsh realities in Afghan society. For such reasons, we emphasize the steadfast and continued support of the international community.
Notwithstanding these challenges, we are making steady progress in improving the lives of our citizens. Our national development strategy (ANDS) is the corner-stone of our efforts to meet the security, development and economic needs of our people. In the area of health and education, we have established hundreds of schools and clinics throughout the country. The percentage of the population with access to basic health coverage has increased from 9% to nearly 90% this year. Close to seven million boys and girls are enrolled in schools, investing in a successful future. Economically, we are investing heavily in our agricultural sector and addressing barriers to increased trade and transit. Among other measures, these have enabled us to see a 22.5% growth in our GDP from 2009-2010.
To advance peace, security and development, we are pursuing regional cooperation with our immediate neighbors and other regional partners. In this context, we have committed to a number of important regional development projects. These include the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project; the CASA 1000 project for energy transfer from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the North-Electric Power System (NEPS) project, which will be completed by end of this year. Moreover, progress continues in improving transport infrastructure both within our country and in the region.
We are confident in our potential to become a land-bridge connecting South Asia and Central Asia. As part of our effort to enhance regional connectivity, we have accorded special focus to our national road and railway programs. More than 10,000 kilometers of roads have been constructed so far, linking our main cities; and we are working to implement our national ring road to neighboring countries. Further, our national railway network, many of which are now in the feasibility, design and construction phase, will play a crucial role in connecting our region through trade and strengthening LDC relationships. At the same time, we will maximize use of our untapped natural resources, including recently discovered mineral deposits. This will help us strengthen our economy, facilitate private sector investment, advance infrastructure development, generate jobs for our youth and integrate to regional and global markets.
In the context of advancing progress in LDCs, past experiences demonstrates that the ‘business-as-usual-approach’ will not yield substantial results. We must endeavor to build on the Brussels Program of Action and recognize the persisting challenges that have prevented us from meeting our seven goals. A part of this is the recognition of the important role that South-South cooperation will play in achieving the ambitious but important vision of reducing at least by half the number of LDCs by 2020, in accordance with the Istanbul Program of Action.
Many member states present here, like Afghanistan, are reliant on the support of our development partners, with which we have established strong bonds of cooperation. However, in an increasingly interdependent world, the advantages of South-South cooperation must not be underestimated. South-South cooperation has foundations in trade, investment, technical and technological cooperation between developing countries, but it is more fundamental than that; it is the sharing of knowledge, experiences and policies, of lessons learnt and best practice.
We do not seek to replace the North-South relationships we have fostered; but instead we must endeavor simultaneously to strengthen our ties with those in our regions, sub-regions, and fellow countries who share the common challenges we face.
Lack of financial resources is rightly recognized as one of the main causes for a country to be an LDC. It is in this context that we underscore sustained international support in the form of financial and technical assistance to LDCs. Official Development Assistance remains the main source of financing for development in LDCs. More needs to be done to ensure that such assistance is dispersed on time, aligned with the national development priorities and channeled through core government budgets.
Afghanistan understands the unique challenges that are faced by LDCs and in my country we not only understand these issues but face them in a post-conflict situation. Despite our challenges, we will work diligently to implement our national development strategy and ensure our citizens with peace, security and development. We look forward to the Fourth UN-LDC Conference in Istanbul and express our full support to its successful outcome.