AT News Report: KABUL-The Government of Afghanistan, the international community and representatives from Afghanistan’s civil society and private sector met on Thursday to discuss progress and achievements in Afghanistan’s reform agenda, and to reaffirm their partnership and commitment to the country’s long-term development.
President Ashraf Ghani officially opened the 2017 Senior Officials Meeting, which comes exactly one year after the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. In Brussels, new development assistance pledges through 2020 were made, following the London Conference held in 2014 and the last Senior Officials Meeting held in Kabul in 2015. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah offered the closing remarks.
The senior officials and international delegations met to review progress, achievements and challenges in implementing the Brussels commitments and the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF).
The Minister of Finance, Eklil Hakimi, and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, chaired the meeting’s sessions, which focused on two main themes: governance and enabling the private sector.
“Today’s meeting is part of a larger conversation about how Afghanistan be an effective partner with the international community to build a better future for our children, a future that is free from terrorism and violence,” said President Ashraf Ghani.
Elsewhere in his speech, President Ghani pledged Afghanistan’s unwavering commitment to ending corruption in Afghanistan. “We recently endorsed a highly pragmatic but we believe very realistic national anti-corruption strategy that is already being put into practice,” he added.
Noting that the government has achieved important progress on key reforms, Mr Yamamoto, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the achievements deserve recognition and encouraged participants to use the meeting to decide how the government and its partners will continue moving forward, together.
“On behalf of the United Nations, I appreciate the frank exchanges we have had with the President and his team, and I affirm our commitment to continuously advancing our efforts to deliver as one UN, in line with the development aspirations so vividly put forward in the ANPDF,” said Mr Yamamoto, who stressed that real change is complex and takes time.
“In the ANPDF, the government links development progress to Afghans’ right, their demand, to live in a country that is at peace and on the road to self-reliance,” he said. “I challenge all of the partners, activists, business men and women, and officials here to consider each element of our work through the lens of its contribution to peace; if we can do that, we can contribute to the future that Afghans envision, and with which all of us in the international community wish to see Afghanistan succeed.”
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, said that supporting the private sector and encouraging domestic and foreign investment through strategic incentives and a friendlier environment are important pillars of Afghanistan’s growth strategy.
“To get to these goals, we have to overcome reform implementation challenges and remove impediments,” he said. “I am overseeing the progress of 11 medium-term private sector reform agenda items; this would allow us to expedite corruption-free and pro-investment policies and regulations in such areas as agri-business, the extractive industry, telecom, construction and local industries.
In addition, Afghanistan’s Chief Executive stressed the importance of free and fair elections: “We have learned the hard lessons of the past decade to understand that free and fair election in Afghanistan is a key to stability, rule of law, democratic rights and unity in the country.”
Dr. Abdullah went on to say, “President Ghani and I are fully committed to organize credible and viable parliamentary and Presidential elections by the end of our mandate.”
Minister Hakimi stressed the government’s commitment to the ANPDF, which he said will build strong institutions, a solid revenue base and a vibrant private sector in the country.
“Fostering inclusive economic growth, enabling the private sector, creating jobs, serving our citizens and ending corruption; the ANPDF is our plan to achieve this,” said Mr Hakimi. “Real economic growth is needed to help lift our people out of poverty; to do this, we must get the conditions right for the private sector and improve the investment climate.”
Minister Hakimi went on thank international partners for their continued commitment to the future of Afghanistan.
It is worth mentioning that at the 2012 Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan, the Afghan Government and the international community agreed to conduct annual high-level meetings to discuss progress on Afghanistan’s development and reform priorities. The last such meeting was the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, held 5 October 2016 in Brussels, Belgium, where international partners committed and confirmed their intention to provide USD 15.2 billion (+/- EUR 13.6 billion) in support of Afghanistan’s development priorities for the period 2017-2020, and committed to convene at a senior officials meeting in 2017. Today’s gathering fulfils that commitment in the communique of the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan.