Statement By His Excellency Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
4th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
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In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman;
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 Countriesâ€™ 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 LDCâ€™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.
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.Â 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 Afghanistanâ€™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;Â Â 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 â€œborrowed capacityâ€ 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 LDCâ€™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 LDCâ€™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 â€œwhich is LDCs becoming Developing Countriesâ€ and thank you very much.
Video of the Statement By H.E. Hamid Karzai on the LDCs
President Karzai met with the presidents of Turkey and Pakistan in Istanbul on Monday in the fourth trilateral summit to discuss security matters and plans to reach out to some Taliban insurgents. The trilateral summit comes ahead of a regional summit in Istanbul on 26 January and an international conference in London on Thursday. On Sunday, ahead of the trilateral meeting, President Karzai met his Pakistani counterpart President Asif Ali Zardari in an informal gathering with a friendly atmosphere.
Talks with Taliban
A senior Pakistani official with knowledge of the diplomacy involving multiple governments told the Reuters news agency that initiatives were under way to begin negotiations with some factions of the Taliban. In an interview with British media earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu said that Turkey was ready to try to persuade the Taliban to end the violence and take part in elections. “The Turks are among those working on negotiations with the Taliban — not all the Taliban, it’s being selectively done,” an anonymous official told Reuters. President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the content ofÂ plans to reach out to the Taliban in Istanbul or London this week.
Security and Education Priority
Intelligence chiefs and military officials from Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan met before the trilateral summit and then joined the leaders later in the day, Turkish officials said. “We are talking about Afghan ownership,” said a Turkish diplomat. “We want to see a strong Afghanistan, a strong leadership. Hearts and minds of the Afghans have to be won.” Turkey places top priority on the training of the Afghan national army and police as well as the education of Afghans, especially girls. The education ministers of Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan met last week in Ankara and signed a joint statement in which Turkey pledged to contribute to the establishment of vocational schools, literacy and schooling of girls.
The trilateral summit will be followed by a regional summit Tuesday in Istanbul that will include Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, the Russian deputy prime minister and the foreign ministers of China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Britain will be represented by David Miliband and the United States by Richard Holbrooke, the country’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tuesday’s regional summit will address a wide array of issues requiring regional responses, including trafficking of drugs, arms, and people; trade openness, transport, energy and security. The main aim is to generate a momentum towards regional cooperation in support of Afghanistan. The regional summit in Ä°stanbul will pave the way for an international conference in London on Jan. 28 that may set a timetable for transferring responsibility for some areas to Afghan control.