Wednesday, October 22, 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 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

Statement By H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Least Developed Countries Ministerial Meeting

Mr. Chairman,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 I begin by conveying the warm greetings of the people and Government of Afghanistan. We convey our thanks and gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Nepal for leading our Group successfully.  We congratulate Mr.  Gyan Chandra Acharya for his recent appointment as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States. We are confident that his able leadership will guide us toward achieving our common goals. We also extend our congratulations to the Republic of Benin on its election as the next Chair. Let me assure you of my government’s full support.

Mr. Chairman,

Today’s meeting comes at an important moment, a little over a year since the adoption of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA). The landmark event marked a milestone in our joint efforts: ridding from our societies the scourges of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, unemployment and other ills effecting the well-being and prosperity of our citizens. No one has questioned the challenges associated with implementing the goals of the Istanbul Program of Action. Nevertheless, we are convinced that, with resolute commitment, and determined efforts our success is inevitable.

Mr. Chairman,

 

The Afghanistan of today is one, which has transformed for the better over the past decade. Following the collapse of the Taliban regime, and the start of our partnership with our international friends in 2001, we began our state-building efforts, geared towards a vision that sees our citizens living in peace and security, and having what is necessary to lead dignified and prosperous lives.  To realize that vision, we have undertaken enormous measures, within the framework of the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), leading to significant achievements in numerous areas, including, but not limited to, the health and education sectors, the growth of our economy, and the strengthening of our infrastructure.

 

For several decades, but particularly in recent years, my Government has sought to advance regional stability and prosperity by restoring Afghanistan’s central role as a land bridge between Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Far East- for the exchange of commerce, culture, and ideas.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

Afghanistan is making steady progress in the transition process for self-reliance in the security, governance and development fields. In the context of our state-building efforts, Afghanistan will continue to require sustained international support in the long-term.

Two months ago in Tokyo, Afghanistan and the international community came together to re-define the nature of our partnership. In adopting the “Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework” we have put in place a clear structure that will benefit a more result oriented partnership and cooperation. We are particularly pleased with the international community’s expressed readiness to align aid with our National Priority Programs (NPPs), and channel assistance through the Afghan budget.

 

Moving towards Transformation Decade, the new Afghanistan still face many development challenges. It is obvious the achieving peace, stability, and prosperity require a better security environment in our cities, villages, and borders. And, as we all know, achieving the goal of creating a better security environment in highly dependent on economic and human development as well as on good governance. Our strategic vision towards self-reliance Afghanistan for the transformation decade is the result of our commitments to tackle those challenges.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

Since late last year, the series of conferences beginning with Istanbul in November, followed by Bonn in December, Dushanbe in March, Chicago in May, and last June’s Heart of Asia Ministerial meeting in Kabul, have demonstrated the region and international community’s unequivocal political and economic support for Afghanistan’s rebirth as a confident, stable, and reliable hub for regional trade and transit at a key interchange in Asia: the world’s most dynamic region.

 

Together, these building blocks have served Afghanistan and its citizens well in terms of facilitating the regional bonds for economic exchange, political cooperation, and cultural understanding.

 

In this regard, the November 2011 initiated “Istanbul Process”, and its 43 regional confidence-building measures, acknowledges the need for a substantive political dialogue to ensure that steps to integrate the national economies of the region are sustained and made durable. Given the long road ahead in the remainder of the “Transition Period” (until 2014) and “Transformation Decade” (2015-2024), the need for mutually reinforcing economic, political, and security-building efforts becomes even more urgent as Afghanistan charts an unequivocally regional future.

 

We perceive regional economic cooperation as a key element of our broader efforts to strengthen relations, mutual respect, and trust between Afghanistan and its many neighbors.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

With three years left for attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), despite our efforts and progress, our group is faced with serious obstacles in meeting our stated goals.  Among the many factors hindering our progress, include multiple global crises of climate change, natural disasters, the global financial and economic crises, as well as food insecurity.  Given our special situation, LDCs require special and particular focus and attention from the international community.  Afghanistan, underscores, in this connection, the necessary increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA) by our partners in the developed world to help us realize our national and millennium development goals.

 

In addition, we insist that donors take into consideration the principle of ownership of recipient countries, reducing the allocation of ODA outside of government systems and instead channeling more funds through core budgets and trust funds. Additional measures are required for ensuring the efficiency and transparency of such aid.  This could be achieved through greater coordination among the donor community.

 

A sound and effective agriculture sector is vital for our development and prosperity.  The overwhelming majority of LDCs rely on agricultural productivity, as a key component of a self-sufficient economy.  In this connection, due consideration on the part of our international partners should be accorded.

 

Without any doubt, the effects of climate change are among the dominant threats facing our common development and prosperity.  Too often, natural disasters, whether in the form of mudslides and flooding or drought have devastated our infrastructure, and agriculture. As members of LDCs, we must come together for a strong common position on issues related to climate change and environmental degradation.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

Afghanistan further supports the LDC’s position on the need for strengthening the Global System of Trade Preferences among developing countries (GSTP), and increasing the volume of development assistance and financial flows, technology transfer, and duty-free, quota-free market access being provided by countries of the South to LDCs. We welcome such initiatives and call for other members in the South to do the same.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

Afghanistan welcomes the outcome document of United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which was held from 20 to 22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Conference was a historic event in garnering a renewed commitment for effective strategies to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty, advance social equity and protect our environment.

 

We also call upon the international community to seize this opportunity to strengthen the coordination and coherence between the United Nations system and all other multilateral financial, trade and development institutions to support economic growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development in the LDCs.

 

In conclusion, let me reiterate Afghanistan’s steadfast commitment to advancing the goals of the Istanbul Declaration and Programme of Action and repeat our assurances of our highest consideration and closest cooperation in working with all of you.

 

Thank you.