Friday, October 31, 2014

Statement by H.E. Zarar Ahmad Osmani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Sixty-Ninth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Saturday, 27 September 2014

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to express my sincere congratulations on your well-deserved election as president of the sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly.

We are confident that your wisdom and experience well ensure a constructive and fruitful deliberation on the very important and vital issues before this august Assembly. I would like to assure you of the full cooperation of my delegation towards this end.

I may also express my deep appreciation to your predecessor and my gratitude to the secretary General of the United Nations, H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, for his competent and excellent leadership of the organization.

Mr. President,

I am delighted to report to this assembly that Afghanistan has achieved a significant milestone with the successful conclusion of the presidential election including the important task of recounting the votes. The new president, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzi, will be sworn in on 29 September. Afghanistan is witnessing transfer of power from one elected administration to the next. While Afghanistan faces marked challenges, we are confident that the new government, which enjoys the full backing of a vast majority of Afghans, will strive to bring about political, security and socioeconomic prosperity to Afghanistan and by extension to the region and beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It was over a decade ago when many countries of the world joined the Afghan people in their struggle for peace and fought against the forces of extremism and terrorism. In this regard, we have collectively achieved tangible results, but unfortunately the menace of terrorism and extremism continue to threaten the security, socio-economic development and peace not only in Afghanistan but also in the region. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive response to the threats from terrorism and extremism at regional and international levels.

Today, Afghanistan has credible political institutions, and elected parliament, a constitution and elected provincial council, supported by the brave Afghan National Security Forces. The people of Afghanistan have witnessed many positive achievements in past decade including in the fields of socioeconomic development, education – especially education for our girls – health, communications and information technology, promotion and protection of humans rights including particularly women’s rights. Afghanistan has one of the most dynamic media scenes in the region, which is propelled by the freedom of expression that the Afghan people enjoyed for over a decade. We should underscore the pioneering spirit of our youth who are behind much of the innovativeness and diversity of thought in academia and private sector.

The Afghan people appreciate and are thankful to the international community for their vital support they have given to built security, peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, we are looking forward to a continued mutual cooperation with the international community to protect our achievements and ensure the sustainability of a strong partnership.

Mr. President,

The transfer of security responsibilities from International forces to the Afghan National Security Forces for the whole of Afghanistan that was launched in the summer of 2011 will be achieved by the end of 2014.

As we speak, Afghan forces are providing security independently across the country despite increasing acts of terrorism inside Afghanistan with support from terrorists from beyond our borders. The growing levels of violent extremism and alarming developments in the Middle East and other parts of the world make international support to NATO mission in Afghanistan even more imperative.

Parallel to our ongoing efforts to enhance the capacity and capabilities of our National Security forces, the Afghan Government is also pursuing a dialogue for achieving peace through political means and reconciliation. We have put in place clear conditions to this process to be accepted by the Afghan people:  for instance we demand renunciations of violence and respect for Afghanistan’s Constitution as it guarantees full and equal rights to Afghan men and women, and is the only tool for preservation of our collective achievements of the past decade.

Afghanistan strongly believes in comprehensive, long term, friendly and good-neighborly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and strengthening of peace and stability between two nations and in the region.

At the same time, we would like to express our serious concern over the rocket attacks by Pakistani forces into Afghanistan’s soil. Continuation of such attacks is unacceptable for Afghanistan. We hope that the government of Pakistan, considering our common interests in ensuring peace and stability, put an end to any kind of acts that can endanger the outlook of good neighborly relations and to protect cooperation and trust between our two nations.

Mr. President,

The Afghan government is keen to reduce the negative economic impact of the security transition and to move towards sustainable economic development in at least three ways:

First, by focusing on the development of agriculture and agribusiness sectors where over 70 percent of our population is directly or indirectly engaged with enormous potential for growth and employment generation

Second, Afghanistan is estimated to hold trillions of dollars of natural resources including minerals and hydrocarbons, representing a guaranteed source of wealth and income for generations to come. We already have several state-owned and private companies from China, India, the UK, Canada, Turkey, the UAE, Azerbaijan and other countries in addition to Afghan companies expressing a keen interest in investing billions of dollars.

Third, Afghanistan is now on the eve of transformation decade (2015-2024), which is a multi-dimensional process in security, political and economic fronts. Therefore, the 2012 Tokyo and Chicago Conferences’ pledges will maintain the Afghan government overall socioeconomic efforts. Afghanistan critically needs continuation of this generous support from its international partners over the next few years.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Based on Afghanistan’s Millennium Development Goals report published in late 2013, progress in achieving most of the MDG’s targets in particular related to the health and universal primary education is commendable.

Despite of starting in 2005, Afghanistan is committed to achieve most of the MDGs by 2020. Meanwhile, national consultation is underway to synchronize efforts towards achieving MDGs off track targets considering the outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

As we embark on the important task of crafting the new development agenda for post-2015 at this session, I am happy to inform you that it also coincides with Afghanistan’s transformation decade 2015-2025.  Both are top priorities for Afghanistan’s national development agenda.

We appreciate the work of the United Nations in recognizing the need to reduce the number of the Sustainable Development Goals to an affordable, achievable and realistic number in the post-2015 development agenda. We are of the view that this agenda should leave no one behind, it should be adaptable to both global and local settings and it should have sustainable development and poverty eradication at its center.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our region is blessed with vast resources and opportunities for economic cooperation. An expanded level of regional cooperation can serve both economic and security purposes. The Afghan Government’s regional economic cooperation strategic goal is to establish Regional Economic growth and resource corridors that connect – the Silk Roads through Afghanistan – the people of South and Central Asia, the Middle East and their key economic activities, including agriculture, light manufacturing, and mineral extraction, with essential trade, transit, and energy enablers.

Regional cooperation is one of our priorities. The Heart of Asia- Istanbul process is a significant step towards enhancing stability and regional cooperation between Afghanistan and 12 participating countries, with the support of 12 other country partners and 9 international organizations.

Mr. President,

This year’s General Assembly takes place at a time when the UN has seen a number of conflicts continue, while new ones have taken shape.

My government fully supports the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the establishment of the independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. We strongly condemn illegal actions and violations by the occupying power against the Palestinians as a whole, especially the ongoing disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks on the innocent Palestinian civilians.

We express our grief for the killing of innocent civilians in Syria and support a political resolution, reached through a broad based national dialogue that meets the aspiration of all the Syrians.

With the worsening security situation in IRAQ and Libya, we strongly condemn the actions of the ISIS and its brutality and call for joint efforts to defeat this evil. In this context, I call upon the United Nations to take appropriated actions within its mandate to uphold international peace and security.

My delegation believes that there is urgent need for the international community to pay attention to the resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, while taking into account the situation of civilians.

Mr. President,

In the end, let me assure you that Afghanistan remains committed to its national and international responsibilities and obligations. We reaffirm our strong will for further strengthening of democracy, good governance including, further strengthening rule of law, accountability and transparency, promotion and protection of human rights, particularly woman rights; justice reforms, and the fight against terrorism, narcotic drugs, corruption and eradication of poverty.

Thank you.

H.E. Zarar Ahmad Osmani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly.

H.E. Zarar Ahmad Osmani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly.

19th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development High-Level Segment Roundtable 4 Transportation

Statement By  H.E. Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal

Minister of Economy

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

19th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

High-Level Segment Roundtable 4

Transportation


بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. Chairman,

We align our self with the position of the G77 and China and thank the panelists for their excellent presentations. We also express our appreciation to the Secretary-General for his Report on transportation, which will certainly play an important role for our deliberations Our gratitude also goes  to Bureau of CSD-19  and the organizers of the nineteen-session of the Commission for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Co-chairs,

After more than three decades of conflict, Afghanistan faces steep challenges in the construction and restoration of its transportation sector to promote economic development and improve the living standard of its people.  Afghan transportation, particularly aviation, road, and rail, are central to reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts. Throughout the peacebuilding process and in consideration of both increased population growth and the continued development of urban and rural spaces, Afghanistan’s transportation needs will greatly increase over the next few years.  This growth necessitates the development of an increased infrastructure for transportation options.

The impact of 30 years of conflict on Afghanistan’s transportation infrastructure must not be taken lightly.  Much of the country’s transportation infrastructure has been destroyed, leaving behind damaged roads and structures.  Further, the turmoil has turned away international air carriers and other sectors from investing in or servicing Afghanistan’s transportation needs. In this regard, Afghanistan faces a number of key challenges in the development of our transportation sector.  These challenges include the legacy of destruction and deterioration that has resulted from prolonged conflict, insufficient and unreliable funding for the reconstruction and development of transportation systems, and a poorly developed consulting and contracting industry.

The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s strategic vision and goal for the transport sector is to have a safe, integrated transportation network that ensures connectivity and that enables low-cost and reliable movement of people and goods domestically as well as to and from foreign destinations. This will give impetus to economic growth and employment generation and help integrate Afghanistan into the global economy. A high priority is to have in place an efficient and viable road transportation network for achieving economic growth and poverty reduction, particularly in rural areas.

In addition, economic growth is a fundamental requirement for peacebuilding and stability in Afghanistan, which is only possible through the strategic development of the Afghan transportation sector.  Currently, the government of Afghanistan is working to develop and complete a network of regional roads to connect to neighboring countries, the coordination of funding for the implementation of projects, quality control and the development of a sustained operation and maintenance of roads, organizational strengthening and capacity building of technical staff, and strengthening the role and relation of private sector in road construction and maintenance.  In this pursuit, Afghanistan would greatly benefit from increased support from the international community including the transfer of technology and capacity building, especially in pursuit of sustainable transportation systems.

  1. I. Roads,

Afghanistan’s road network is comprised of 3442 km of regional highways, 4802 km of national highways, 9600 km of provincial roads and 17000 km of rural roads.

  1. The regional highways network largely consist of our ring road (Kabul – Kandahar –Heart –Faryab Mazar-e-sharif – Kabul) and the regional link roads which foster trade and economic linkages between Afghanistan and the neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  2. National highways connect regional highways to provincial capitals. These roads are vital, as they provide trade and commerce linkages and contribution to stability and economic growth of the country. About 2989 km has been completed and 1813 km still remains to be built.
  3. Provincial roads connect district headquarters with respective provincial capitals, and cover 9600 km. So far, 9528 km of these roads have been constructed.

Key priority of the sector:

  • Road network development and completion of our ring road and regional highways to connect Afghanistan with all our neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  • Design of the priority projects and coordinate funding from various donors for implementation of the projects.
  • Quality control and development of a sustained operation and maintenance of the roads.
  • Organization strengthening and capacity building of our technical staff.
  • Strengthening the role of the private sector in road construction and maintenance.

The country faces the following major challenges:

Insufficient and unreliable funding for the reconstruction and development of the transport system

  • A poorly developed consulting and contracting industry;
  • War – damaged roads and structures and significant deterioration due to lack of maintenance;

Future investment plan;

Our ministry of public works has prepared a Road Sector Strategy which is cost USD 5.2 billion. This strategy envisions increasing the regional highways, national highways and provincial roads to 9000 km. mean while a special focus will give to quality control, institutional capacity development and maintenance of the roads.

  1. II. Railways network;

Railways Survey and Design: The feasibility study of 1225 km of railways has been conducted of which;

  • 124 km railway link Iran border to Heart  is in progress about 61 km is almost completed
  • 75 km railway which links Hiratan to Mazar-e-sharif 95% construction has been completed.
  • Contract between government of Afghanistan and Chinese Company contracted the Aynak cooper mine has been signed to conduct the feasibility study of an estimated 930 km railway line linking central Asian countries with south Asian countries.

Planned railways projects: (total 3379 km railways)

  • Kunduz – Herat railway 1117 km
  • Kunduz – Kabul – Jalalabad railway 930 km
  • Jalalabad – Torkham railway 85 km
  • Kandahar – Chaman – Spinboldak railway 107 km
  • Herat – Farah – Lashkargh – Kandahar railway 1140 km
  • Nemroz – Delaram – Zarange 264 km

The Afghan government is also striving to build trade facilities and infrastructure in order to foster regional trade and economic linkages between Afghanistan and neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The government of Afghanistan has now established modernized custom facilities to mentioned neighbor countries.

In addition, significant progress has been made toward the simplification and harmonization of laws and regulation regarding transportation and trade.  Particularly, 27 customs procedures have been simplified and streamlined in order to facilitate trade.

  1. Civil aviation;

There are 47 airports. Approximately 10 of these have paved runways.

* Kabul International Airport (3500 m runway) is the nation’s largest airport and the primary hub for international civilian flights.

* Kandahar International Airport (3200 m runway) is a dual-use airport serving southern Afghanistan.

* Mazari Sharif Airport (3100 m runway) is a dual-use airport serving the northern and central portions of the country.

* Herat Airport (2600 m runway) is the primary civil airport for the western portion of the country.

* Jalalabad Airport (1800 m runway)

Afghanistan’s government priorities include the upgrading of Kabul Airport to an international airport that meets ICAO standards along with the upgrading of Herat, Mazari Sharif and Jalalabad airports to international standards.

We are trying to create an enabling environment for investment in Afghanistan’s transportation sector. Our national road and railway programs have been precisely designed to contribute to regional connectivity. The completion of various segments of railways in Afghanistan, which are under different phases of feasibility study, design and construction, will have a crucial role in strengthening cooperation and connectivity.

Thank you

19th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development High-Level Segment Roundtable 4

Statement by  H.E. Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal

Minister of Economy  Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

19th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

High-Level Segment Roundtable 4

Mining


بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan aligns itself with the position of the G77 and China. We thank the panelists for their excellent presentations, and express our appreciation to the Secretary-General for his Report on mines, which will certainly play an important role for our deliberations.

Mr. Co-chairs,

Although Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries, it has significant mining production potential in natural resources. Afghanistan’s mineral deposits are largely untapped and are estimated to be worth up to 3 trillion dollars according to a recent survey by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Most of these deposits include significant reserves of iron ore, copper, cobalt, gold and industrial production metals such as lithium. Studies also suggest that Afghanistan has large deposits of niobium (a soft metal used in superconducting steel production) and other rare earth elements. The deposits are large enough to make Afghanistan a major global producer of these minerals.

The USGS also estimates that there are around 700 billion cubic meters of gas and 300 million tons of oil across several Northern provinces.  Further, a survey conducted during soviet times estimated that there are more than two billion tons of high-grade iron reserves in just one deposit alone. Afghanistan’s mining potential has already attracted significant foreign direct investment flows. In May 2008, the Government signed a $3.3 billion deal with the MCC Company to explore and process Aynak copper deposits situated in Logar province. The MCC is still undertaking the pre-production feasibility study which is likely to be completed by early 2011. This investment also includes the construction of more than 600 km of railroad and a 400 MW power plant.

The Government currently receives US$20-25 million annually in mining revenues. According to IMF projections, the mining sector is expected to contribute an average of $11 billion annum over the five years between 2014/15 to 2019/20 and is expected to rise to a projected average of $17 billion per annum in the 10 years between 2020/21 to 2029/30. If managed well, the net foreign exchange and tax revenue wind fall generated by mining sector growth can be used to power overall economic growth, and to finance the delivery of social services (such as health and education) and poverty reduction programs. In 5 years time, the expected government revenue will be at least $1.5 billion annually. Sound macroeconomic policies would be employed to maximize the economic return from expected revenue windfalls from the mining sector. The Government can use additional mining revenues to build up foreign exchange reserves. This will ensure that the revenues are not all spent at once, but that they are invested in diverse income bearing assets and for the benefit of future generations. The revenues can also be used to upgrade the productive capacity of the economy (in particular exports) and the strategic growth of infrastructure for production, which includes power generation, roads and irrigation along with enhancing the quality of human resources through investment in higher education.

Achievements so far:

1. A mining law that strengthens the role of the state as “regulator” and aims to attract and retain private investment is in progress.

2. Our world class deposits of Aynak (copper), Hajigak(iron ore), Sherbegon (gas) and other potential discoveries, through our new exploration.

3. In 2006/2007, the government launched the first tender for the Aynack copper deposit. The award was granted to the MCC-Jiangxi Copper MJAM consortium.

4. The ministry of Mines is procuring an international engineering firm to monitor contractual and regulatory compliance, including environmental/social standards.

5. Establishment of a cadastre department to oversee and register issuance and maintenance of various mining titles is in progress.

6. Training and equipment is also being provided to the Department of Mines Inspection and the Afghanistan Geological survey.

7. Afghanistan now has an environmental law with requirements on the preparation and approval of Environmental impact Assessments and Social Impact Assessments.

8. The ministry of mines and the ministry of finance have developed a competitive taxation and fiscal package for mining sector investments.

9. On the transparency side, we are committed to the ELTL and we fully comply by March 2012.

Important challenges ahead:

Although some progress has been achieved, it is evident that much work needs to be done to ensure that the mining sector delivers on its potential to reduce poverty, foster sustainable economic growth, and improve the quality of life for the majority of Afghans. In that sense there are important challenges ahead: Firstly, the development of the mining sector in Afghanistan is a process that will take a longer time and relatively higher capital investment and operating cost.

Secondly, a major mine development will also require the development of infrastructure to support operations (water, power generation), capacity building, and the transportation links to domestic and international markets (roads railways, pipelines).  This is well incorporated in the newly developed program called National & Regional Resource Corridors Initiative.

And thirdly, it is crucial that the Afghan government and its development partners continue on with the preparation and implementation of a set of effective policies for revenue management, benefits sharing, and public-private partnerships for infrastructure development.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

The long term vision in Afghanistan is to develop an economically vibrant mineral sector which creates jobs, develops infrastructure, generates domestic revenue and ensures inclusive economic growth for the benefit of all Afghans. Simply put, mining in Afghanistan has the potential to be a driver of a poverty reduction and sustained growth, if managed properly.

Achieving these developments will enquire strategic actions and a long-term vision in order to create an enabling environment for private sector investments that includes field security, good governance and transparency.

The Afghan government is conscious of the resource curse challenges and has already taken important steps to address them. These steps include actions to improve the implementation of legal frameworks for effective environmental, social and fiscal regimes; the provision of training and capacity building in relevant ministries and agencies; and the overall improvement of the country’s security situation.

At the end, I would like to once again, take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the organizers of CSD 19.