Saturday, November 1, 2014

Statement By H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Eleventh Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Landlocked Developing Countries

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, I would like to convey our appreciation to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on assuming the Chairmanship of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries. Our gratitude also goes to Paraguay for its Chairmanship of our group during previous years, and its role in strengthening unity among our members.

Mr. Chairman,

The landlocked developing countries are commonly among the least developing countries.  Sixteen of us, including my own country, are classified with the slowest growth and dependence on a very limited number of commodities for our export income. There is a clear connection between distance and transport costs. High transport costs affect the competitiveness margin of landlocked developing countries, and thereby affect trade volume.

Promoting regional cooperation for the benefit of the surrounding and landlocked countries manifests both challenges and opportunities. Some of the critical challenges which need attention cover geo-political position of Afghanistan and its neighbouring landlocked countries, security and stability of the region, drug trafficking, people smuggling, expensive and time consuming trade and transit because of barriers in trade, transport and transit, out-dated and restrictive trade and transit practices and policies, and infancy of financial markets.

On the other hand, regional cooperation provides opportunities to optimally utilize the resources of the region for the benefit of all the countries and will bring down all such barriers and create borders with human face. Despite the landlocked location of the countries, improved connectivity and development of infrastructure, particularly in the transport and energy sectors, would enhance the energy trade. Lowering of trade and transit costs and time among the land locked countries would enhance the pace of economic development; significantly increase incomes, employment and consumption in the region leading to reduction of incidence of poverty levels. Other areas of cooperation cover removal of barriers: in regional movement of labour; improvements in communication systems; civil aviation, human resources development; health facilities; and other areas of economic interests. Such efforts will be helpful in improving the productivity levels and services delivered to the masses in the countries of the region.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan’s future – whether economically, politically, socially, or culturally – has and always will be deeply intertwined with its region’s future. Indeed, this is why we launched last November, with our regional and wider international partners, the “Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for Afghanistan”. And this is why with collaborated with the Government of Tajikistan earlier this year in organizing the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan. Building on the momentum generated the past twelve months in Istanbul and Dushanbe, as well as related meetings in Chicago, Kabul, and Tokyo, I firmly believe our deliberations today – with their emphasis on practical approaches for sustainable development and lessons from other regions undergoing similar transformations as in Central and South Asia – will be of immense benefit to the Government and People of Afghanistan, as well as our neighbours.

Promoting regional cooperation is a vital principle of cooperation in the Istanbul Heart of Asia Process. This is an emerging policy platform for advancing regional economic and other cooperation priorities among its participating states. Launched on 2 November 2011, the “Istanbul Process” introduces 43 confidence-building measures (CBMs) to enhance stability and regional cooperation between Afghanistan and 15 participating countries, with the support of 12 other country partners and 9 international organizations. Within the participating countries, 5 are Landlocked Developing Countries. Among the group of 43 CBMs, no less than 21 are of an economic nature (for example, trade, transport infrastructure, energy, water management, agriculture, and private investment) and 7 deal with regional cooperation in the area of education. For each of these priority CBMs, an Implementation Framework elaborates on the on-going work undertaken by a range of Afghan Government multilateral and bilateral partners.

Mr. Chairman,

Local trade between Afghanistan and neighbours is very important, even if long distance trade transiting through Afghanistan and neighbours takes longer to develop. Improved transportation links via the development of road corridors to the south and energy exports from landlocked Central Asian countries to the South Asia via Afghanistan would offer alternative means of trade flows and benefit the entire region.

As an over-arching, strategic goal for our regional cooperation projects, a broad-based effort to develop Regional Economic Growth and Resource Corridors can help connect – through Afghanistan – the people of landlocked Central Asia, South, and South-West Asia and their key economic activities, including agriculture, light manufacturing, and mineral extraction, with essential trade, transit, and energy enablers. And in doing so, the technical innovation and capital of the private sector will be unleashed, displacing over time both foreign aid and public sector capital investments. By generating significant returns to growth, jobs, and revenue, Regional Economic Growth and Resource Corridors have the potential to serve as “game changers” and to create a new dynamic for peace and socioeconomic progress across the region.

Unlocking the full potential of Afghanistan’s primary vehicles for economic expansion, employment, and public revenue are the keys to durable stability and financial sustainability across the country.  Investment in Aynak and Hajigak mines require investment in a rail system to efficiently move copper and iron ore to rail links in Central Asia and the ports of South Asia.  Exports of Afghanistan’s world class marble, gemstones, grapes, raisins, almonds, saffron, and pomegranates can only grow through a more favorable regional and global investment.  Small and medium-size enterprise owners – for example, involved in the production of rugs, wool, cashmere, and handicrafts – repeatedly stress the importance of reliable energy resources, alongside the rule of law, as essential to their competitiveness. And with adequate transportation and energy infrastructure, Afghanistan’s central location at the crossroads of Asia means it is poised to serve as a regional trade and transport hub, generating considerable public revenue through transit fees.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan fully supports the commitment of the landlocked countries to accelerate the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action through effective and genuine partnerships between landlocked and transit countries and their development partners, as well as between the public and private sectors at national, regional and global levels.

In conclusion, I reiterate our commitment to work closely with all of you to advance our common interests.

I thank you.

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Annual Coordination Meeting of the OIC

Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for convening today’s annual coordination meeting of the OIC.  Let me first convey the best wishes of the people and Government of Afghanistan to all esteemed participants.  We thank Kazakhstan for its chairmanship of our organization, and reassure you, Mr. Chairman, of our full support in the way forward!

I join previous speakers in expressing pleasure at the presence of H.E. Ekmeleddin Ehsanoghlu, Secretary General of the OIC among us.   And we thank him for his fortitude and commitment to the overall success of our organization.

Mr. Chairman,

We meet at a time in which our Ummah, and the rest of the world, are still faced with a multitude of challenges, threatening our collective well-being.  Over the past year, we have seen armed conflicts escalate; poverty and destitution persist; and humanitarian crises strike at alarming rates.  Regrettably, these challenges have threatened the well-being of millions of our brothers and sisters worldwide.

The gravity of the situation calls for a renewed commitment.  We must work continue to give priority to the implementation of the Ten Year Plan of Action.  Doing so will help us revitalize our organization’s role in the pursuit of a more safe and prosperous world order.  We must harness the true potential in light of our strength as the second largest inter-governmental organization.

As a founding member of the OIC, Afghanistan has always attached high importance to the work of our organization. We have for long and consistently maintained a policy of brotherhood, solidarity and harmony with all members of our organization.  We will continue this path, and stand in support of our brothers and sisters as they venture to realize their national aspirations.

Mr. Chairman,

In relation to the situation in Afghanistan, I have the pleasure to note that, since my address to last year’s annual coordination meeting, Afghanistan has taken epic steps towards securing the vision we set out eleven years ago:  an Afghanistan which is fully stable and prosperous, and able to meet its own needs.   To that effect, the Transition Process, commenced in July of last year, is being implemented steadily.  Stage 3 of the process will be completed by November of this year – by which 75 percent of the Afghan population’s security will be provided by Afghan soldiers and police officers. We are on track to meet our overall goal of full security responsibility by the middle of 2013 and the full implementation of the transition process by the end of 2014.

The people of Afghanistan are enthusiastic about our long-term partnership with our international friends.  Alongside the security effort, we are working diligently on the development and governance pillars of Transition. The Tokyo Conference this July put in place a solid framework of cooperation for Afghanistan’s sustainable growth and economic development for years to come.  We are grateful for the participation of a significant number of brotherly countries from the OIC in Tokyo; and we count on the continued support of the organization in the way forward.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan’s reconciliation efforts have gained momentum.  The work of the High Peace Council has been revitalized with the appointment of its new Chair; the Council is busily engaged in comprehensive outreach both inside and outside Afghanistan.  Having concluded its visit to Saudi Arabia, a high-level delegation of the Council, headed by Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, will soon visit Pakistan for result-oriented discussions on ways to move the peace process forward.  We are particularly grateful for the OIC’s support for the success of our reconciliation efforts and call on member states to do whatever they can to help us realize the aspiration and right of the Afghan people for a lasting and just peace.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite our progress on various fronts, the challenges facing Afghanistan are many, and they are daunting.  The people of Afghanistan are still witness to a brutal cycle of violence, orchestrated and carried out by the enemies of peace in our country.  These are elements who cannot tolerate seeing us fulfill our quest for peace and prosperity.  Afghanistan is a proud and resilient nation that has overcome enormous challenges throughout its history.  As part of our experience, we have been at the forefront in the global fight against terrorism for over a decade now.  We have made great sacrifices, and suffered immensely in our struggle – indeed more than any other country in the world. Nonetheless, we are steadfast in our commitment to eliminate terrorism from our society, and renew our call for sincere and practical joint efforts to eliminate this deadly menace from our region and the wider world.

Mr. Chairman,

Far too often, terrorists seek to justify their actions under the pretext of Islam. As a result, terrorism is unjustly associated with our religion. The OIC, as an organization representing our Ummah, must act in unity to combat Islamophobia.  As called for in the OIC’s Ten Year Plan of Action, we must enhance dialogue on ways to better emphasize the core values of Islam, namely peace, tolerance, understanding and co-existence.   Undoubtedly, a successful fight against terrorism will not be achieved without a concerted international effort.  We welcome recent steps taken towards the establishment of the international center on combating terrorism, paving the way for greater international collaboration.

Afghanistan deplores in the strongest terms the production of the recent derogatory film, insulting the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), and the core values of Islam.  We reiterate our long-held position that freedom of speech should, by no means, be interpreted as a green light for defamation of prophets, religions and beliefs.  By the same token, we should not allow such acts to undermine our shared goal of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence among all religions and civilizations.

Mr. Chairman,

The overall situation in the Middle East remains demands our urgent attention.   Achieving a just and peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is long overdue.   Afghanistan stands in full solidarity with the Palestinian people in their quest for their national rights, including the right to an independent Palestinian state.  We also support all efforts of the Palestinian leadership to become a full member of the United Nations family.

With regard to Syria, we are deeply saddened by the untold sufferings brought upon the people of that country by the ongoing cycle of violence.  We are convinced that a more proactive role by the OIC would help achieve a lasting resolution to the Syrian conflict.  The appointment of H.E. Lakhtar Brahimi, as the new Joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, is a timely development, which provides new hope for the restoration of a durable peace in Syria.  It goes without saying that the role of the OIC remains essential in helping to end the conflict in that country.

Meanwhile, in Mali, increased acts of terrorism have led to serious concerns that the situation in that country is deteriorating.  And in Myanmar, we are deeply concerned about the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, who are facing an unjustifiable humanitarian catastrophe.  Rohingya Muslims have for long been rightful citizens of Myanmar, playing an important role in the social, economic and political life of the country.

We must fulfill our moral responsibility as an organization in enabling them to regain their historic and rightful place and legal status in that country.

Mr. Chairman,

In view of the multitude of challenges facing our Ummah, we cannot overemphasize the importance of dialogue, and cooperation for effective solutions in overcoming them.  Afghanistan is convinced that such collaboration, conducted in a spirit of solidarity and harmony, will be an asset in furthering our collective goals.

In that context, we thank, once again, His Majesty King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for his initiative in convening the fourth Islamic Solidarity Summit of the OIC last month in Makkah-Al-Mukkaramah.  Afghanistan was a proud participant at that historic gathering; and we reiterate our full support of the Summit’s outcome, including the adoption of the four resolutions on the situations in Syria, Palestine, Myanmar and Mali.

Mr. Chairman,

I wish to also reiterate Afghanistan’s appreciation to the OIC for its solidarity with and support for Afghanistan as we continue our journey towards self-reliance, a lasting peace and prosperity.

I thank you!

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul Minister of Foreign Affairs at the High Level Side Event on New Deal:

Statement by H.E.  Dr. Zalmai Rassoul Minister of Foreign Affairs  at the High Level Side Event on New Deal:

g7+ Perspectives and Experience

67th United General Assembly

 

Opening Remarks

Excellencies,

On behalf of the Government of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan as the co-host, it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to the High Level Side Event on The New Deal: g7+ perspectives and experiences. It is a pleasure to see the level of support and the momentum which the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States is gaining after it was endorsed in November 2011 during the 4th High Level forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Bussan last year. This global recognition is indeed a result of the efforts of the g7+ countries and their partners.

Arena setting

Ladies and gentlemen, Afghanistan has received generous support over the past decade for its development and reconstruction. There have been noteworthy achievements in the areas of security and economic development since 2001, when we started our journey towards a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. We started this journey with weak institutions, poor infrastructure and with almost no formal economy. But despite all these hardships and challenges, we are now equipped with trained national security forces; access to basic health care services has improved; national highways and roads have been rebuilt; and telecoms and other hard and soft infrastructure facilities have been established. Of equal importance, our institutional and public sector reforms have advanced. This was indeed possible with the generous financial and technical support of our development partners.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, despite the tremendous achievements we have had, Afghanistan is one of the g7+ member countries which is lagging behind the goal of  materialization of MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). Despite sizable development aid invested in governance and capacity building, we continue to depend on external technical assistance. We can only cover some 60% of our operating expenditures through our domestic revenue. Our private sector is yet to realize its potential to become the engine of growth and absorb an emerging workforce. Our security sector needs to be further strengthened to take over the responsibility of protecting our people after 2014. In view of the perceived reduction in development aid during the decade of transformation, we have taken steps to bolster our domestic revenues and provide essential services to our citizens.

 

Longer and sustainable partnership:

Excellencies, sustained international engagement in development of g7+ countries is a necessity. But this engagement shall aim to support nationally owned and nationally led agenda for development. We presented our vision in the “Towards Self Reliance” strategy paper at the International Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in July 2012. To fulfill this vision, we have developed our partnership agenda “The Aid Management Policy” in consultation with our development partners and reaffirmed our commitment to implementing critical reforms and promote accountability and transparency in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.  However, the key milestone of success in our partnership will be the extent to which our partners are willing and able to align their development efforts to our shared strategy. Being mindful of our budding institutional capacity, our partnership needs to be based on mutual trust which could involve sharing the burden of managing development aid and sharing the risks of engagement in fragile and conflict affected environments.  This is the only way to reach our common goals.  There is, therefore, a need for bold and mutual decisions by all our partners.

g7+ countries and post 2015

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

We are on the verge of 2015, when we will be reviewing our millennium development agenda. The progress made so far across the g7+ countries in terms of achievement of the millennium goals should be an important part of our review agenda and will be crucial in formulating our next steps. Since 2000, and despite the investment of nearly 30% of all development aid in conflict affected countries, we still have a long way to go.  These countries are still threatened by conflict, violence and poverty and suffer from humanitarian crises. The next phase of the millennium development agenda should focus more on strengthening the very core of functional foundations which are the pillars of Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. Only then, will we be able to observe the result of our efforts. Drawing upon the context of the g7+ countries, the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding goals should be fabricated in the next phase of our global development agenda.

Excellencies, I would like to conclude by thanking you all for your support for the vision of the g7+ which has been articulated in the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. We are confident that with the realization of the New Deal, we can reach a brighter future through our shared efforts.

Thank you