Friday, August 1, 2014

Statement By H.E. Hamid Karzai on the LDCs

Statement By His Excellency Hamid Karzai

President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

At the

4th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

Istanbul, Turkey

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman;

Honorable Delegates;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Before I begin my statement, it is an honor for Afghanistan to have been elected as a deputy to this conference and to the Least Developed Countries’ Secretariat. We are thankful and grateful.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased to be among you today to renew our commitment to the fight against poverty and address the needs and aspirations of the Least Developed Countries. I join previous speakers in thanking His Excellency President Abdullah Gul, and the government and the people of Turkey for the excellent organization and warm hospitality accorded to all of us today. I also thank His Excellency the Secretary General and the Office of High Representative for LDC’s for their leadership of the consultative process that has resulted in the comprehensive report on the Least Developed Countries. My thanks also go to all organizations and individuals who have contributed to this noble task.

Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen:

Forty years have passed since the United Nations General Assembly recognized the status of LDCs by adopting Resolution 2768. Over this period, the ranks of LDCs have swelled to 48 from the initial 24. Today, close to a billion people in the world face hunger, disease, and illiteracy. This reality shows that our goals have remained unmet, and our commitments have been insufficient.

We hope that the Istanbul Program of Action will represent a new phase in global partnerships to effectively respond to the continuing and emerging challenges facing the Least Developed Countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In Afghanistan, three decades of foreign interference and conflict have inflicted deep suffering on the Afghan people. We have been left with a complex set of challenges, including terrorism, transnational organized crime, socio-economic deprivation, drug production and trafficking, deteriorating ecology, and weak state institutions and infrastructure. These challenges continue to slow down the normalization of life, and inhibit economic growth in our country.

Excellencies:

In spite of these constraints and vulnerabilities, Afghanistan has registered important progress. We have adopted a constitution that preserves the equal rights of our citizens, irrespective of differences in gender, social status, and beliefs. We have an active civil society and free press, and a thriving private sector.  Our health and education sectors are operating with increased coverage and capacity. Almost 8.3 million children go to school today, while ten years ago, this numbers stood only to about seven hundred thousand students, out of whom, 35% are girls; over 75,000 students are enrolled in to the universities; over 80% of the population is receiving some form of basic health services; millions of children across the country are getting vaccinated against polio and other diseases. In 2004, we joined the international community in committing to a series of time-bound development goals. And in 2008 we finalized our National Development Strategy as the main instrument to promote stability, economic prosperity and a healthy society.

Of course, all of this would not have been possible without the generous contribution of our partners in the international community. With eighty percent of our population living in rural areas, we have invested in the establishment of an extensive network of community development councils through our National Solidarity Program. This program, already implemented in more than seventy percent of our 393 districts, has mobilized over 26,000 communities for local decision-making, ownership, and implementation of small-scale development projects.

To decrease, and eventually eliminate, our dependency on external resources, we are strengthening our agricultural base. We have rebuilt our infrastructure to connect markets and enhance economic activity both nationally and internationally. Our efforts are aimed at creating a favorable economic environment, a strong revenue base, and a sustainable set of government programs. We are rebuilding and repairing our irrigation and water systems, revitalizing under-utilized land, and improving agricultural technology. Further, we have expanded our national highway system, paving the way for enhanced movement of goods, raw materials, and people in the region and beyond.

We have made regional economic cooperation the cornerstone of Afghanistan’s economic growth and sustainable development. Our trade with our neighbors in the past ten years has increased many, many folds. Today the volume of trade between us and our neighbors stands at 2.5 billion dollars a year;   We have joined all regional economic forums and committed ourselves to important regional energy projects. Our national highways and rail- roads, once completed, will connect three key regions of the world, namely, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. Connectivity among these regions, passing through Afghanistan, will create a unified space of over 4 billion consumers and producers.

The National Priority Programs presented at the 2010 Kabul Conference, guide our efforts in transitioning to Afghan ownership and leadership for security, governance and socio-economic development. While recognizing that achieving our national development priorities is our responsibility, it will also depend, to a large extent, on the support we receive in the form financial resources, technical assistance, and building of our capacity. An important lesson learnt over the past decade is that “borrowed capacity” is not a viable guarantee for continuous progress and development. Effective mobilization and utilization of development assistance, geared to the needs, priorities, and conditions of our local communities will be essential for successfully taking our people out of the crunching poverty. To ensure that our achievements so far are preserved and serve as a foundation for our future progress, we have made peace-building and reconciliation cornerstones of our development efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The adoption of the Istanbul Program of Action represents a renewed and resilient commitment in addressing the challenges of the LDCs. As the report of the UN Secretary General indicates, even-though the pace of development in LDC’s improved somewhat during the previous decade, the overall goals of the Brussels Program of Action have not been met.

It is a welcome step that the Istanbul Program of Action recognizes the importance of productivity enhancement in LDCs. Without enhancing productivity, long-term and sustainable development will not be possible.

The experiences of the past decade clearly show that pledges and promises alone do not lead to sustainable progress. The commendable goals of the Istanbul Program of Action will only be realized through effective and genuine cooperation among all stakeholders. We must be able to incorporate the Istanbul Program of Action in our national development strategies as we deem effective. While development projects can and should be implemented through various organizations and entities, aid should be disbursed and accounted for through state budget to ensure transparency, accountability, and efficiency. Technical assistance to development should be demand-driven and consistent with the needs of its recipients.

Mr. Chairman; Ladies and Gentlemen:

The past years have seen an insufficient flow of South-to-South trade. South-South cooperation, complementing North-South cooperation, can be an important contributing factor in enabling LDC’s to integrate into global markets and achieve social and economic development. Land-locked developing countries face serious impediments to trade, owing to physical and non-physical hurdles, including tariff- and non-tariff barriers. Reducing tariffs and promoting South-South Foreign Direct Investment are crucial instruments for enhancing South-South Cooperation.

And with this done, ladies and gentlemen, the LDCs will definitely have a better opportunity in enhancing their economic ability and productivity. With this, I thank once again the government of Turkey, President Abdullah Gul and Mr. Chairman for this grand opportunity given to us and for the kind hospitality and I hope we can get where we all want to “which is LDCs becoming Developing Countries” and thank you very much.

Video of the Statement By H.E. Hamid Karzai on the LDCs

World Press Freedom Day Event at the UN


A Commemoration of World Press Freedom Day was held at the United Nations on 4 May. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addressed a full crowd at the event as well as  H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin of Afghanistan who spoke as acting President of the UN General Assembly. Other speakers introducing the event included UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, H.E. Ambassador Eduardo Ulibarri-Bilbao, the Permanent Representative of Costa Rica and current Chairperson of the Committee on Information, and President of the UN Correspondence Association, Mr. Giampaolo Pioli.

The speakers praised journalists and reporters for their work and pointed out the crucial role of media at the forefront of change.  Furthermore, speakers recognized the increasing number of people who are exchanging information and views beyond previously well-defined borders.

Freedom of speech, of course, was the theme of the event. “There can be neither security nor development unless human rights are respected. The credibility of the international community is at stake in ensuring that these rights are upheld and that human rights violations do not go unpunished,” said H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin.

One of the key messages emphasized was the idea that while technological innovation has advanced the initiative of freedom of expression through digitization and modernization, individuals -journalists and reporters especially – have played a critical role in quickly transmitting current events from one end of the world to the other. The speakers therefore highlighted the importance in providing security and safety to journalists and other members of the media, and holding accountable those who inflict harm upon them.

“On this World Press Freedom Day, we pay tribute to all media organizations, civil society groups and individuals who devote their energies- and their lives- to ensure that our world will be just and that all people will be educated, informed and living in peace,” said H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin.

The United Nations’s effort to observe World Press Freedom Day emphasized the importance of the international community coming together to support journalists and reporters who often pay far too high a price to ensure widespread awareness in the world.

Ambassador Tanin

H.E. Zahir Tanin (left), Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN and Vice-President of the General Assembly, chairs a meeting at which Members granted the delegation of the European Union the right to make interventions at the Assembly, as well as the right of reply and the ability to present oral proposals and amendments, adopting a draft resolution presented by Hungary’s representative on behalf of the E.U.