H.E. DR. ZAHIR TANIN
OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN
TO THE UNITED NATIONS
AT THE THEMATIC DEBATE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
“RECOGNIZING THE ACHIEVEMENTS, ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES AND GETTING BACK ON TRACK TO ACHIEVE THE MDGs BY 2015 ”
I would like to express the appreciation of my delegation for organizing this important debate on the progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have been a powerful mobilizing force for greater focus on global and national actions to improve the well-being of people around the world. This meeting provides the opportunity to review and discuss the implementation of the MDGs and pave the ground for a successful convening of the High Level Meeting on MDGs in September 2008. In my remarks today, I would like to share Afghanistan’s experience towards fulfilling the MDGs.
In 2000, when the Member States adopted the Millennium Declaration and committed themselves to endorse the MDGs in a time-bound manner, Afghanistan was embroiled in armed conflict. In March 2004, my Government committed itself to achieve the MDGs within a time bound period. As a late entrant to global development efforts, the Afghan Government has extended its MDGs timeline from 2015 to 2020 due to quarter of a century of conflict and our inability to join this global effort in 2000. Lack of available data has posed unique problems in preventing reliable baselines from which to set targets. Therefore most of the global targets have been “Afghanized”, which means that they have been revised to make them more relevant to Afghanistan. Moreover, in recognition of the interdependency of development and security a ninth goal of ‘enhancing security’ has been added to the MDGs.
The development policy framework of Afghanistan, which was established at the London Conference in January 2006, is aimed at enabling the achievement of the MDGs. At the London Conference, we launched our National MDGs Report, presented our interim National Development Strategy (i-ANDS) and adopted the Afghanistan Compact.
Notwithstanding progress towards the MDGs, many challenges still remain in the implementation of our goals. Allow me to highlight some of them:
Poverty and Hunger (MDG1). Since 2001, economic growth has not only been significant but also generated better livelihoods; GDP per capita has increased 53% in the last five years. However, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 22 million Afghans – representing 70% of the population – living in poverty especially high in rural areas. Poverty and unemployment, both of which have contributed to the increase of the terrorist activities in the country, can jeopardize the gains made in the last 6 years. We have prioritized addressing both in a sustainable and timely manner.
Education (MDG2). Since 2001, nearly 7 million children have returned to schools – one third of whom are girls. More than 3,500 schools have been built and new curriculum 2
and textbooks have been developed for primary education. In addition, the number of teachers has increased seven-fold. However, a great number of children, particularly those living in rural areas, continue to face difficulties in accessing educational institutions. It is also important to mention that the Taliban and Al-Qaida, during their campaign of terror, have attacked and intimidated teachers, students and burned out a large number of schools.
Gender (MDG3). Significant progress has been achieved to empower women in the political, economic and social areas. Women play an important role in the development and peace process in Afghanistan. However, many women still face obstacles. Among them are low rates of literacy and life expectancy, coupled with pregnancy related complications, unemployment and insufficient access to education and health services.
Reduce child mortality, Improve Maternal Health and Combat Diseases (MDGs 4, 5, 6). Today 85% of the Afghan population has access to basic health services and access to diagnostic and curative services has increased from almost none in 2002 to more than 40 % in 2008. The rate of infant and maternal mortality has been reduced by 85,000 and 40,000 annually. We have created our National AIDS Control Program (NACP) in 2004 to collect systematic data on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. However, close to 900 children under the age of five die daily and more than 60 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications. Malaria is prevalent in more than 60% of the country and Afghanistan is the 12th highest tuberculosis burdened country in the world and the highest in South Asia.
Environment (MDG7). In 2007, 343 community water points were constructed in the drought hit and conflict-affected parts of southern Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan has taken numerous initiatives to prevent environmental degradation. However, only 23 % of the entire population has access to safe drinking water and most of the diseases are caused by lack of drinkable water.
Security (MDG9). The lack of security caused by the Taliban and Al-Qaida in the southern parts of Afghanistan is a major obstacle to economic and social development. Achieving our MDGs solely depends on providing security to our people. Afghanistan has added this new goal which includes targets related to disarmament, de-mining and counter narcotics. We would like to place emphasis on the need for technical and financial assistance to our security institutions to contribute to the rule of law, and advance the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process (DDR) and the counter narcotics efforts.
Develop a Global Partnership for Development (MDG8). The main part of Afghanistan’s national development resources are currently provided by the international community. Therefore, the partnership with the donor community is key to ensuring the implementation of our National Development Strategy, including the MDGs. In this
regard, it is important to mention that the delivery and effectiveness of aid to Afghanistan is faced with the following constraints:
The overall volume of aid delivered to Afghanistan is less in comparison to other post conflict settings.
There is a growing gap of billions of dollars between amounts pledged and amounts disbursed which undermines the ability of our government to undertake long-term fiscal planning.
Nearly three quarters of the aid is disbursed outside our national budget which creates a parallel system that undermines our government’s ownership, involves multiple levels of contractors that inflate cost and fail to build Afghan national capacity.
The proportion of “tied” aid is three times more than “untied” aid which affects our capability to plan and effectively implement our national development strategy.
By adopting the Afghanistan Compact, the international community committed itself to improve aid effectiveness in Afghanistan, to provide resources and support for the implementation of our development strategy including the MDGs. We would like to seize this opportunity to remind the donor community to fulfill its commitment under the Afghanistan Compact and to:
Increase the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA), particularly to countries emerging from conflict.
Translate pledges into commitments and therefore provide more predictable and multi-year funding commitments.
Provide its financial support through our national budget in order to reduce the duplication, transactions costs, strengthen the national ownership.
Deliver “untied” aid whenever possible and provide assistance within the framework of the Afghan National Development Strategy.
Afghanistan is currently at the crucial stage of finalizing its National Development Strategy (ANDS) and entering into its implementation phase. The Afghanistan National Development Strategy will be launched during the International Conference on Afghanistan to be held in Paris in June 2008. The Paris Conference represents an opportunity for our international partners to renew their political and financial commitment for the implementation of ANDS and the achievement of our MDGs. In Paris Conference, we expect that the international community will continue its political and financial support to Afghanistan so as to enable us to improve the lives of our people and stand on our own feet.
Thank you for your attention.