Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Informal SAARC Meeting of Foreign Ministers Delivered by Mr. Daud Yaar
Allow me at the outset to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Maldives for its successful stewardship of our organization.
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and colleagues,
Since SAARC’s inception 26 years ago, the organization proved itself as an effective forum for cooperation among its member-states. However, much more have to be done to address the challenges that our region facing and to advance the goals of our association, and realize the vision of a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.
Afghanistan is pursing regional cooperation as the corner-stone for its overall efforts to secure peace, stability and prosperity. In this regard, we are making steady progress on the implementation of a number of key regional projects.
Afghanistan is convinced that increased intra-SAARC economic cooperation is one of the most efficient ways to achieve prosperity in our sub-continent. Unfortunately, the volume of trade among SAARC members has not reached desired levels. This is mainly due to tariff, non-tariff, and para-tariff barriers, which remain unaddressed. We also appeal for special consideration to least developed and land-locked developing member-states within the SAARC community.
Among the main achievements of SAARC we can name a number of SAARC conventions and agreements on the protection of women and children; combating terrorism, narcotics and organized crime; advancing social and cultural development, and fostering mutual understanding in the region.
Trans-national threats such as terrorism, extremism, poverty, organized crime and natural disasters, still exist. Terrorism is among the dominant challenges in the region. Terrorism, as a common enemy for all, is part of a complex and sophisticated terror network, responsible for attacks across the region. To fight terrorism, we must reinforce our determination and take steps to free our region from this threat. We must also focus more on addressing terrorist safe-havens and sanctuaries in the region, which operate as the life-line for terrorist activities. By the same token, success in defeating terrorism will not be achieved without respect for the principles of good-neighborly relations, and a transparent foreign policy. We stress on increased collaboration within the framework of the SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD).
Widespread poverty and fragile socio-economic conditions are serious challenges that our region faces. The global financial and economic crisis is yet not over and the recovery is uneven and uncertain. We believe that sustainable development could not be achieved without promotion of trade. To tackle the problem of food security and lagging agriculture development, increased efforts at the national and regional levels are required to address the problem as an integral part of the international development agenda. We believe that achieving food security without strengthening and revitalizing the agriculture sector, including through the empowerment of women and rural populations, small and medium scale farmers, is not possible. By the same token, we should consider launching of efficient poverty eradication programs to meet the SAARC Development Goals (SDG’s).
Our region is rich with natural resources, to utilize these resources for better prosperity and well-being of all our citizens, closer collaboration, technical and financial assistance, access to and transfer of technology, capacity building and exchange of knowledge and experience should be enhanced.
Natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes and mudslides are becoming more frequent in the SAARC region. Joint efforts are required in order to further strengthen the capacity of member-states to prepare for and respond to disasters. The recent flooding in Pakistan, which caused tremendous human loss and destruction of property, is a clear example of the dangers that we all face. I take this opportunity to restate the condolences and sympathies of the people and government of Afghanistan to our Pakistani brothers and sisters over the loss of life resulting from this tragic disaster.
Just two-days ago we witnessed the convening of the UN High Level Meeting on Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases held at the United Nation Headquarters in New York and the adoption of its political declaration. In this regard, we call on SAARC members to strengthening cooperation among themselves in the area of public health. SAARC members as well should coordinate their policies for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which will be held in Brazil in 2012. We also emphasize on the importance of sustainable forest management for sustainable development and poverty eradication.
In conclusion, let me repeat Afghanistan’s strong commitment to advancing the goals of our association.