Thursday, October 23, 2014

Minister of Economy Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal Addresses UN Commission on Sustainable Development Roundtables on Mining and Transportation

H.E.,  the Minister of Economy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mr. Abdul Hadi Arghandehwal has addressed the 19th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, which brings together ministers as well as government high officials and representatives of international organizations and civil society to discuss the way forward in national and international development.

During his address on mining, Minister Arghandehwal emphasized the significant production potential of Afghanistan’s mineral resources.  He explained how Afghanistan’s mineral deposits remain largely untapped, and that a recent United States Geological Survey (USGS) study estimated Afghanistan’s mineral reserves to be worth up to 3 trillion dollars.   He shared that “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 and other rare earth elements. The deposits are large enough to make Afghanistan a major global producer of these minerals.”

Focusing on the production potential of these mineral reserves, Minister Arghandehwal told of the significant foreign direct investment flows Afghanistan has already attracted, particularly with the MCC company for the exploration and processing of Aynak copper deposits.  Of note, he shared that this MCC investment will include the construction of more than 600 km of railroad and a 400 MW power plant.

The Minister of Economy went on to highlight current contributions to the Government of Afghanistan from mining revenues.  He noted that the Government currently receives US$20-25 million annually in mining revenues.  Further, he explained that according to IMF projections, the mining sector is expected to contribute an average of $11 billion per annum over the five years between 2014/15 to 2019/20, and that this is expected to rise to a projected average of $17 billion per annum in the 10 years between 2020/21 to 2029/30.

In addition, he addressed the challenges that lie ahead, including higher capital investments and operating costs required for the development of Afghanistan’s mining sector, the development of infrastructure for support operations, capacity building, establishing a connected transportation system to enable trade, and the establishment of effective policies for revenue management, benefit sharing, and public-private partnerships for infrastructure development.

The Minister also shared Afghanistan’s long-term vision, “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.” He added that “Mining in Afghanistan has the potential to be a driver of a poverty reduction and sustained growth, if managed properly.” Further, Minister Arghandehwal acknowledged that these developments will require strategic action and vision in order to create an enabling environment for private sector investments, including field security, good governance, and overall transparency.

During his address on transportation, Minister Arghandehwal highlighted the impact of prolonged conflict on Afghanistan’s transportation sector, noting the challenges that lie ahead in construction and restoration efforts alongside the opportunities for economic development and for the improved living standards of the Afghan people.

Focusing on the specific challenges for Afghanistan, he underscored the impact of turmoil on transportation, which has left behind damaged roads and structures and has turned away international air carriers and other sectors from investing in and servicing Afghanistan’s transportation needs.

The Minister of Economy also specified that “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.”  To this end, Minister Arghandehwal spoke of the many gains Afghanistan has made in building and restoring transportation infrastructure in the country.  He explained the progress that had been made with roads, railways, and civil aviation as well as the legal and regulatory gains that have been made for effective governance and for the facilitation of trade.

Further, Minister Arghandehwal drew attention to the fundamental role of transportation for economic growth, stability, and peacebuilding in Afghanistan, and that this relationship necessitates the strategic development of the Afghan transportation sector.  He noted that Afghanistan is currently “…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.”

During his addresses on both mining and transportation, Minister Arghandehwal expressed Afghanistan’s appreciation for the organization of CSD 19 and for the continued support and commitment of the international community for stabilization and security in Afghanistan.

Agriculture Development and Food Security

Statement delivered by, Mr. Enayet Madani, Counsellor
At the 2nd Committee Debate on Agriculture Development and Food Security:

Mr. Chairperson,

I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for convening this meeting, and align myself with the statement delivered by distinguished representatives of Yemen on behalf of the G77 and China, Nepal on behalf of LDCs and China on behalf of Asia Group. My delegation expresses its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his Report on Agriculture Development and Food Security which will certainly play an important role for our deliberations.

Mr. Chairperson,

We agree and welcome the recent reforms made to the Committee on World Food Security within the Food and Agriculture Organization, which renewed their commitment towards coordination of food security on the international scale, as well as formalize the involvement of an expert panel towards this cause. We recognize the leadership and efforts of those who have kept food security challenges of developing countries on top of the global agenda, and will continue to work with them in improving food security in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairperson,

Prior to the conflicts that disrupted the way of life in the country, Afghanistan had a healthy and self-sufficient agricultural economy, which produced both food as well as economic crops. Current agricultural productivity, however, is not as optimistic given the vast damage done to the physical infrastructure as well as higher dependence on rain-fed agriculture.  As such, millions of Afghans are either starving or threatened with starvation on a daily basis, depending on food assistance for survival. Henceforth, it is critical for us to rapidly revive our agricultural sector through restructuring and investment, while also paying attention to issues of long-term environmental sustainability.

Although crop productivity has improved in the last year from ample and well-distributed rainfall, the droughts of 2008, 2009 still reminds us of our vulnerability. Besides supporting the livelihood of the large rural population (which is 80% of the total population), agriculture also constitutes 53% of our national economy and hence is of vital importance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. As much as we appreciate international humanitarian assistance in tiding us through our recovery period, we also seek partnerships in building improved and accessible irrigation systems, technology and better agricultural practices.

Mr. Chairperson,

The large fluctuations in crop productivity over the past years highlight the key challenges we face as we tackle the issue of food security. Increased water scarcity coupled with rainfall variability, both possibly augmented by climate change; exemplify the weakness of rural agriculture in Afghanistan. The lack of irrigation infrastructure and low water security correlates strongly with rural poverty, and hence serves as key hurdles in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

37% of our population is in the borderline of food security, and 59% of our children below the age of five, suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The proportion of the population below minimum energy consumption (of 2100 calories) has increased, and seasonality-driven poverty and food shortage have been drawn to our attention. Volatility in global food prices also present significant challenges to the situation.

Mr. Chairperson,

The points of leverage for effective agricultural and rural development lie in small farmer households, and the role of women in food provision and preparation is central to pursuing food security targets. Partnerships forged between the government, communities and the private sector, in directing efforts and investments can facilitate the development process and make rural agricultural communities more robust and resilient.

In the restoration of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, we are taking these key initiatives under the Afghanistan National Development Strategies with the two broad goals of poverty reduction and livelihoods security:

Firstly, through better water and national resource development, we seek to improve both quantity and quality in our agricultural sector while reducing stress imposed on the natural systems.

Secondly, by identifying gaps in the current agricultural system dealing with inputs and outputs, we aim for comprehensiveness in agricultural production and market development.

Thirdly, taking heed of the close links between rural access and poverty alleviation, our expansion of road and communication networks will empower the rural poor.

Fourthly, local institutions will be strengthened with the establishment of Community Development Councils and civil service expansion.

Mr. Chairperson,

The revival of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector represents an opportunity for Afghanistan to achieve strong growth and food self-sufficiency, and also represents great possibilities for international cooperation and friendship. As we take these steps, we will need stronger partnerships with the UN agencies to facilitate greater investment in physical infrastructure, knowledge sharing as well as technology transfer. These investments and assistance can also be improved through responsive targeting to the needs and priorities of Afghanistan, thereby fast-tracking MDGs.

The targets of poverty alleviation, hunger reduction and stabilizing food security are all tightly interconnected with women’s rights, rural development and economic growth. Our efforts are in building resilience along with growth, and adapt agricultural practices and regimes to developing environmental and economic situations. We ask the World Food Programme, USDA, FAO and other funders to continue their assistance to us, and for the international community to work together on achieving global food security.

Before closing I take this opportunity to thank the UN system; in particular, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization and other all other partners for their continued support to the people of Afghanistan.

I thank you

Statement by Mr. Enayet Madani Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations During General Debate of Second Committee of the 65th General Assembly

Madame Chair,

As I take the floor for the first time, let me congratulate your Excellency on behalf of my delegation for your election as the Chair of the Second Committee. My delegation is confident that the important work of Second Committee under your wise and able leadership will be fruitful and successful during the General Assembly’s 65th Session. I take this opportunity to express our thanks to your predecessor for his excellent work. I also extend my congratulations to members of the Bureau for their election and assure you and the Bureau of our full cooperation.

I would like to express my support to the statement delivered by the delegation of Yemen on behalf of G-77 and China. As well I would like to affiliate myself with statements delivered by the delegations of Nepal and Pargway on behalf of LDCs and LLDCs.

Madam Chair,

Second Committee will deal with a large number of important issues, my delegation stress on the following issues to be addressed by the second committee:

Not longtime ago the world leaders in New York gathered to review the achievements and challenges of MDGs. At the time of the Millennium Declaration’s adoption in 2000, Afghanistan was cut off, isolated from the international community by the Taliban regime, which denied Afghan people even the most fundamental human rights and allowed terrorists to use Afghan soil to launch attacks around the world.  In 2001, with the overthrow of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan slowly began to rebuild its shattered political, economic and social structures, and regained its rightful place in the community of nations.  Our country undertook a series of policies aimed at a comprehensive reconstruction and stabilization of the political and economic situation both nationally and regionally. These policies centered on the urgent need to bring the Afghan people out of grinding poverty and provide them with the basic human rights, opportunities and services that had been denied them for decades.

In 2004, Afghanistan was able to join the rest of the international community in committing to a series of time-bound Development Goals. Because we were late in joining the MDGs, our targets were set to be achieved by 2020.  Therefore, we consider that those countries that are behind others in achieving their MDGs should be dully considered by the second committee.

Afghanistan, strongly believes that United Nation can play a very important role in helping developing countries and particularly LDCs including those countries emerging from conflict in achieving their MDGs.

My delegation, believes that the issues related to ongoing financial and economic crisis have enormous impact on development agenda of the developing and particularly the least developed countries, therefore, deserve to be addressed seriously.

My delegation, stress that the second committee to take into consideration some of the world’s most difficult and pressing development issues, including poverty eradication, fight against hunger, disease, environmental degradation, and the promotion of gender equality, education and health.

Afghanistan believes that poverty reduction can only be achieved through effective cooperation among all stakeholders. It also requires a resolute commitment on the part of both developed and developing countries for increased cooperation. In that regard, Afghanistan underscores the need for continued international support – in the form of financial and technical assistance – for developing countries.  The past years have seen a reduction in Official Development Assistance (ODA).  More needs to be done to prevent this trend.

By the same token, more needs to be done for ensuring effective utilization of official development assistance.  Donor countries should consider channeling greater portions of development assistance through the core national budgets of developing countries.  In short, national ownership of development priorities among developing countries is of paramount importance.

As more than 80% of population in my country depend on agriculture for their livelihood, thus we emphasis on matters related to agriculture development and food security to be addressed by the Second Committee.

Madam Chair,

Afghanistan has made enormous strides in the past decade, emerging from the ruins of war to build a more functioning government, a more prosperous economy, and a more healthy society. However, the complex issue of security remains as a big impediment for the government to implement its development policies, therefore we consider that the issue of security and its impact on development of post conflict countries to be given due consideration by the second committee.

I thank you.