Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Statement By H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan At the 47th Munich Security Conference (MSC)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of the almighty and most merciful Allah

Mr. Chairman,

Ambassador Ischinger,

Vice Chancellor Westerwelle,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is a great pleasure for me today Ambassador Ischinger to be here invited by you- my third actually- and thank you very much for giving Afghanistan the importance to be spoken about in a gathering distinguished as we see today. As I referred to earlier, last year, I spoke about a new phase for Afghanistan’s partnership with the international community. I am pleased to state that since then we have together made significant progress. Afghan security forces have benefited from an unprecedented surge, adding 70,000 members this year. In close collaboration with ISAF forces, we have regained the initiative in the fight against Al Qaeda. During my trips across the country and daily consultations with people of all walks of life I now here from them that security in the country is better than it was the year before or the year before that. So hope for Afghanistan is improving and the Afghan people and is on the rise.

Of course, these gains have been achieved at the cost of considerable blood and treasure. Let me therefore thank our partners in the international community for the sacrifices that they have endured in Afghanistan, given in Afghanistan and for the very valuable taxpayer money that all of you have spent in Afghanistan. Afghan civilians, who continue to bear the destruction of their lives and assets with dignity, deserve to be honored with the gift of sustainable peace and prosperity. I also want to express the gratitude of our people to the governments of the United States, to the government of Germany and other partners who have contributed to Afghanistan’s security and stability in times of economic difficulties.

We are now agreed on the goal of Afghan responsibility for security across the country by 2014. The Kabul and Lisbon conferences last year provided the basis for the development of an orderly, irreversible and collaborative process to reach this goal. The Afghan Transition Commission and the Joint Board with ISAF have made substantial progress on both the institutional and spatial dimensions of the process. We are determined to demonstrate Afghan leadership and ownership of the transition process. I will announce the first phase of transition on the Afghan New Year, which is on the 21 of March.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Goethe once argued that “we must always change, renew and rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” Securing the world’s future from terrorism and other unconventional threats requires us to change our inherited mental models, renew our will to master the threats facing our interdependent world, and rejuvenate the national and international organizations.

Afghanistan suffers from a confluence of regional and global threats. Al Qaeda distorts the tolerant message of Islam and is a reaction to our globalized world. Narcotics and other forms of trafficking are the manifestation of the ugly side of globalization, as their vicious profit chain is made possible by world-wide financial and transportation networks. Al Qaeda, knowing that over a billion Muslims reject its message of hate, is dedicated to the destruction of the very fabric of our inter-connected societies. Our joint success in Afghanistan threatens their narrative, depriving them of their raison d’être. Hence their vicious efforts to subvert the idea of a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Commitment to, and investment in Securing Afghanistan’s future, therefore, is central to both national and global security.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The focus on transition in Afghanistan has clarified our vision of the future. The Afghanistan of 2015 will be characterized by an effective state bound by binding agreements with the United States and a long-term partnership with NATO and Europe. It will be a state participating actively in regional security and development.

Together we have invested heavily in the expansion of the Afghan security. The bill for our security forces is currently around $8 billion a year, (that is for the Afghan security forces) while the United States alone is spending over $100 billion per annum on its forces in our country. The security transition, therefore, is going to require transformation both by us and by ISAF-NATO, with more of a focus and investment in training and equipping. As we take the lead, NATO forces have to become catalysts for strengthening Afghan systems and capabilities. This in turn requires medium to long-term commitments to the financial costs of the security sector, to channeling resources through Afghan government systems, and to focusing on the quality and resilience of our institutions. A binding agreement between the United States and Afghanistan and a long-term partnership with NATO will ensure that investments made will lead to sustainable outcomes.

Simultaneously, we need to remind ourselves that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Without concurrent investment in the creation of opportunities for the poor- the absolute majority of whom are under 20 years of age, and women- Afghanistan will continue to face difficult problems. These citizens must be given a sense of upward social mobility. They can then become stakeholders in a stable order and a society governed by the rule of law, rather than by being intimidated into submission by the use of force.

We have been clear all along that force alone will not bring peace. Afghanistan does not present a danger or a threat to any of our neighbors, near or far. Moreover, with the rise of the continental powers of China, India and Russia, it is our location and mineral wealth that will be of central importance to the Asian continental economy.  They provide the possibility for our country to become a new Asian roundabout. It is time that the 19th century politics of spheres of influence and destabilization are replaced by a 21st century politics of engagement, collective security and economic development. Indeed, the greatest beneficiaries of peace after the end of conflict in any country are its neighbors. We need, therefore, to muster our imagination and design cooperative security and economic arrangements for Afghanistan and its neighbors that would allow us- collectively- to lift our people from poverty to prosperity. The Peace Jirga of June 2010 expressed our national consensus on Peace and Reconciliation, setting the enabling framework for proceeding further. We request the support of our neighbors and international partners to help us speed up this vital process and I am grateful to Vice-chancellor Westerwelle for dwelling in detail on the peace process and for backing for it from the German people.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Achieving our 2015 vision depends on our total national commitment to building an effective state and an inclusive economic, social and political order. While our international partners have been generous with their assistance, our efforts have not always been goal oriented, coordinated or reinforced across the security, governance and development domains. We have both made mistakes. As the success of the security transition depends upon building the institutions of a state bound by rule of law, we must judge all our efforts by whether they are enhancing the capability and effectiveness of the Afghan state, or if they are actually reducing its capability.

On our side, to achieve this aim we must take stock of our constitutional structures and of the mechanisms of international assistance. By law, we are a unitary Presidential system. We are undertaking an intensive examination of municipal, district and provincial level governance. A false choice between centralization and decentralization, however, must be rejected. The issue is alignment between the levels and functions of government and the delivery of services to the citizenry. Accountability is imperative in this regard through checks and balances across the three branches of government. In addition, therefore, we are committed to enacting laws that will ensure that our constitution is institutionalized through daily practices and that the state is able to guarantee law and order.

Excellencies!

We have fashioned the concept of national programs and the results- in areas ranging from health and rural development to telecoms- have been very impressive. We are now committed to designing a new set of national programs across other areas of governance functionality in support of an effective state and a good economy. At the same time, our bureaucracy, both because of its inherited structures and ill-coordinated technical assistance from our partners, has become a patchwork of different approaches to governance. A clear and consistent reform of the civil service and investment in higher education in our country must underpin new systems. And here, I would particularly request all those countries helping Afghanistan with rebuilding of the civil service and the delivery of the good governance to help us to bring to Afghanistan a civil service that is efficient, modern and apolitical, a task I am engaged in rather every week in our cabinet meetings.

Realization of this agenda on your side requires a fundamental shift away from reliance on parallel organizations and mechanisms that bypass the state. The global lessons are clear- these substitution-systems undermine the capacity of the state rather than building it. I have asked the UN agencies to create a “one UN system”. At the London and Kabul conferences we obtained a commitment that fifty percent of international funds must be channeled within two years through the Afghan budget and that eighty percent of foreign assistance must be aligned with the objectives of Afghan people. These commitments must be honored.

When I spoke of parallel structures, ladies and gentlemen, those who are involved in Afghanistan know what I mean. By parallel structures I mean, private security firms, by parallel structures, I mean PRT’s, by parallel structures, I mean direct delivery of money and support to provincial officers, and by parallel structures, I mean contractual mechanisms and the spending of resources through channels other than the afghan government. We have seen in the past ten years that they don’t produce the desired results rather they are contributing to weakened afghan government and to impediments to the growth of the afghan state structures and good governance.

Such an approach would allow us to make governance operational and measurable. Good governance is too important to be left as a slogan. Making it operational needs efforts to tackle the root causes rather than symptoms of graft. We have identified the drivers of corruption, and find a complex inter-linkage between domestic and international factors that produce a crooked playing field.

This year, we intend to focus on the drivers of corruption. This includes developing urban land management programs that ensure firm property and transaction rights, and put in place public-private and community partnerships for housing development. We will continue to simplify the process of interaction between the citizens and the government which means reducing procedures and improving laws and regulations to make work easier for our people.

The two areas that require joint action in terms of corruption are contract management and the regulation of key imports. ISAF is the largest contractor in Afghanistan, and its contracts have had unintended consequences. With US and NATO we are overhauling the system to make contracting an instrument of good- rather than bad- governance. Regulation of the imports of fuels, food, construction materials and pharmaceuticals- commodities on which the poor depend- also requires partnership with the global and regional public and private sectors. Dealing with narcotics necessitates efforts to transform Afghanistan’s agriculture through access to regional and global markets.

Together, we have created a platform for a security transition and for a broader, sustainable political and economic transformation in Afghanistan. Clarity of vision and agreement on a collaborative process of partnership will lead to a tolerant Muslim country firmly anchored in a regional framework of peace and security and bound by enduring ties to the United States, Europe and Japan, which can act as a responsible stakeholder in regional peace and prosperity as well.

Our ambitious goal and the determined efforts of our enemies require that we continually evaluate our efforts. Previously, Germany hosted the Bonn and Berlin Conferences that initiated and sustained the new phase of our democratic history. The government of Germany is now partnering with us on a further event in Bonn at the end of this year. This will be a conference where Afghans drive the process, and together with the international community, take stock of our partnership during 2011. It will also allow us the opportunity to calibrate our objectives for 2012, 2013 and 2014. and here once again, I would like to the government of Germany for being with us all along in the past ten years, of course providing Afghanistan every opportunity of progress towards the betterment of the Afghan people. Thank you very much Mr. Vice-chancellor for that.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The threats that our shared objectives face in Afghanistan and the region are the ones that deserve our attention all along and across all areas of activity. The sacrifices that your members of your countries have paid, men and women, the money you have spent has produced a lot of good for the Afghan people. Some of the journey is left and that journey will not be easy, but is a journey worth taking and the steps we are all taking together will definitely make us reach our final objective, which is a secure, stable and properly governed Afghanistan in a better region and partner with the international community with a lot of gratitude from the afghan people.

Thank you.

Forests for people, United Nations Forum on Forests

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Round table 1: Forests for people

9th Session, United Nations Forum on Forests

Mr. Chairman,

I thank you for convening this meeting early in 2011, our International Year of Forests and I would also like to indicate Afghanistan’s desire for active participation in relevant forums and activities in conjunction with the International year.

The pictures of arid and barren landscapes of Afghanistan we see today make it difficult for us to imagine that the country once had much more extensive forests, with cedars, firs and pines in high-alpine areas and coniferous mountain forests, as well as pistachios and almonds in dry woodlands. As a result of the absence of forest management and poor agricultural practices amongst other contributing factors due to decades of conflict and instability, forests cover less than 3% of total land area in Afghanistan today. UN Environmental Protection experts predict that at the current rate of deforestation, Afghanistan’s forests will disappear within 30 years if collective action is not taken to reverse the destruction. As a consequence of thirty years of war, around 50-60% of pistachio forests were destroyed. The provinces of Paktya, Khost and Paktika once had 450,000 hectares of forest, nearly 70% of which has been destroyed.  Most of the destruction in these Eastern provinces is due to illegal logging, even though this practice has been banned since 2006.

Healthy, functioning forests are the primary energy source in the form of fuelwood for rural communities, which make up 80% of our total population. Non-timber forest products, particularly fruits, supplement rural income. However, current rates of deforestation are threatening the existence of our remaining woodlands, and thereby indirectly threatening the livelihoods of our people.

Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan has taken steps to prevent further destruction of forests. An approach based on a national plan has been adopted by the government, including policies such as a Reintegration Program in 5 provinces of Afghanistan, the announcement of 9 national protection areas, rehabilitation of pistachio forests, community based natural resource management, the prevention of illegal logging and a new legislation for the management of forests. Among major challenges are security, lack of expertise, smuggling of timbers to neighboring countries and lack of donor interests to support forest related projects.

Afforestation projects represent valuable opportunities in reducing the level of poverty by generating employment, as well as providing products that will improve local economic conditions and diversify Afghanistan’s potential commodities for export. The key concerns of energy and food security in rural communities are also addressed in participatory afforestation programs. The return of forest and vegetation to our landscape is also crucial in our efforts to combat desertification. Vital ecosystem services provided by forests can also reduce the water stress Afghanistan faces, and sequester carbon in addressing the global problem of climate change.

Forests and sustainable forest management can contribute significantly to Afghanistan’s efforts in pursuing sustainable development, poverty eradication and the achievement of internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals. Together with our development partners, Afghanistan is ready to facilitate knowledge sharing and improve our human and institutional capacity for sustainable forest management.

Thank you

A year-long celebration of vital role of world’s forests

Recognizing the role that forests play in everything from mitigating climate change to providing wood, medicines and livelihoods for people worldwide, the United Nations today kicked off a year-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of this important resource.

“Forests for People” is the main theme of the International Year of Forests, which was launched at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York attended by world leaders, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and forest experts.

The General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, on which at least 1.6 billion people depend for their daily livelihoods and subsistence needs. Forests are also home to over 60 million people, mainly members of indigenous and local communities, who reside in forests.

“By declaring 2011 as the International Year of Forests, the United Nations General Assembly has created an important platform to educate the global community about the great value of forests – and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them,” noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Today’s launch ceremony, presided over by General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, is part of the high-level segment of the UN Forum on Forests, an intergovernmental policy forum dealing with forest-related issues. “Every one of us, all seven billion people on earth, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to the health of our forest ecosystems,” noted Jan McAlpine, the Director of the Forum’s Secretariat. “Throughout 2011, we will celebrate this intricate, interdependent relationship between forests and people,” she said.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), also noted that forests represent many things to many people including spiritual, aesthetic and cultural dimensions that are, in many ways, priceless. “But they are also cornerstones of our economies, whose real value has all too often been invisible in national accounts of profit and loss,” he added.

Forests cover about 31 per cent of total land area, amounting to just under 4 billion hectares, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which today released its “State of the World’s Forests” report.

The report, which is published every two years, stresses that the forest industry forms an important part of a “greener” economy and wood products have environmental attributes that would appeal to people.

The industry is responding to numerous environmental and social concerns by improving sustainability of resource use, using more waste materials to make products, increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. For example, 37 per cent of total forest production in 2010 came from recovered paper, wood waste and non-wood fibres, a figure that is likely to grow to up to 45 per cent in 2030, with much of that growth from China and India.

“What we need during the International Year of Forests is to emphasize the connection between people and forests, and the benefits that can accrue when forests are managed by local people in sustainable and innovative ways,” said Eduardo Rojas, FAO’s Forestry Director.

Ms. Maathai noted in her address at the launch, as well as in a briefing to reporters, that the value of the International Year is the opportunity to “explore the value of the trees, the forests and the environment, as well as the value of the environmental services that these resources give us.”

She added that too often forests and the services they provide are taken for granted and seen as resources that are unlimited. “But we all know now that we are facing situations where these forests are disappearing,” she told reporters.

As part of the launch, international filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand will premiere his short film “FOREST.” The ceremony also featured clips from winning films from the International Forest Film Festival which was organised by the UN Forum on Forest Secretariat in collaboration with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

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On Behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ambassador Zahir Tanin spoke at a round table session on “Forests for People.”  He described the dramatic changes in the Afghan forest coverage over the last thirty years.  “As a result of the absence of forest management and poor agricultural practices amongst other contributing factors due to decades of conflict and instability,” he said, “forests cover less than 3% of total land area in Afghanistan today.” Ambassador Tanin explained the necessity of preserving forests in order to serve as a primary energy source as well as for their non-timber products.

According to Ambassador Tanin, “UN Environmental Protection experts predict that at the current rate of deforestation, Afghanistan’s forests will disappear within 30 years if collective action is not taken to reverse the destruction.”  The government of Afghanistan, he explained, is working to address the issue through the adoption of a national plan to improve policies in relation to forests.