STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
to the United Nations
Partners for Afghanistan: Linking Security, Development and Peace in the Central Asian Region
(Check against delivery)
27 November 2017
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to thank the Permanent Missions of Kazakhstan and Germany for co-organizing this very timely Arria-Formula meeting together with us.
Let me welcome our good friends, the three guest speakers, Assistant Secretary-General Mr. Miroslav Jenča; Dr. Barnett Rubin of New York University; and Ms. Jasmin Jahanshahi of the Aga Khan Foundation, who have been following Afghanistan closely and will share their assessments with us today.
Nexus between peace, security, and development in Afghanistan and the region
Let’s start by stating the obvious. History has proven time and again that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan would ensure a peaceful and prosperous region as well. No one in this room can disagree with that. Hence there has to be a comprehensive and honest approach from all of us to tackle the main drivers of insecurity in Afghanistan as well as in the wider region.
As stated by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and highlighted by its Goal 16, “There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”. A comprehensive approach is vital for achieving durable peace and prosperity, and this can happen only when we bring together security cooperation, peacebuilding, and development activities.
Despite facing the typical challenges associated with being a landlocked country, Afghanistan, due to its strategic geographical location, can play a crucial role in regional and inter-regional connectivity, and we have been working to make that vision possible. We are fully aware of the importance of adopting a regional approach to solve problems that lie outside the capacities of a single country. Today, we have proven to be a reliable partner in major regional and international processes.
Located at the “heart of Asia”, Afghanistan stands as a point of convergence, a land-bridge and a business hub between Central Asia, South Asia, the Far East, the Middle East, and Eurasia. Our country is fully committed to sharing the benefits of its centrality and excess wealth of resources in support of sustainable development, stability, and peace in the region.
Our potential has already gained momentum and we are very keen to see the region and beyond invest in Afghanistan, adding value and playing a vital role not only for us, but for a more prosperous, peaceful and violence-free region.
Our collective efforts can count on the solid foundations we have already built. Since 2005, the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, known as “RECCA” constitutes a prominent platform for regional economic cooperation. The political and security challenges associated with this platform are further complemented by another Afghan-led initiative – the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP). The “heart of Asia” concept constitutes the cornerstone of our work under both frameworks.
Supporting the transition of RECCA into a truly regionally led and owned platform is essential as it will result in strengthened synergies and complementarities between this framework and other regional bodies such as CAREC, ECO, OSCE, SAARC, SCO, UNSPECA, and UNESCAP. Further, it is necessary to highlight the importance of a coordinated approach by UN agencies and structures, improving the effectiveness of the support provided by the UN system.
Currently, we are engaging in energy, transportation networks, trade and transit facilitation, communication, business to business and labor support projects in the region and beyond, amounting to tens of billions of dollars.
Despite the security challenges, our transport and energy sector projects have achieved considerable progress and have the potential to positively contribute to stability and prosperity. This signals the failure of terrorism to undermine development cooperation among states.
For instance, the signing of the historic Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement among Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Turkmenistan at the recent RECCA VII in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, opens up unprecedented possibilities for trade. The Chabahar agreement among Afghanistan, Iran, and India will also facilitate trade by providing access to the markets of Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Eurasia, and beyond. The work for the realization of the Five Nations Railway Corridor – connecting China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Iran is moving forward.
Additionally, beneficial relation exists between RECCA and numerous transit corridors and initiatives in the region, including the Belt and Road Initiative.
With regards to energy, mega regional projects of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA 1000) electricity transmission line are progressing and once completed, will revitalize our energy sector and fulfill domestic and regional energy needs.
Along with much progress, we have seen some challenges, especially in the effective implementation of trade and transit agreements; this needs more focused political attention, improved security conditions, and better technical efforts. Our recent accession to WTO and the implementation of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) are examples of the same.
There are new emerging opportunities in business to business initiatives and the rights and proper working conditions for employees.
We need shared diagnosis of successes and challenges and a renewal of regional commitments for combined collective actions, including new concepts for bankable investment projects, attracting investments from diverse private and public sources, including sovereign wealth funds, new regional funds and investment banks. This must be done in conformity with the priorities of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework and our Afghan SDGs. In addition, enormous opportunities exist in our sizable mineral deposits amounting up to 3 trillion dollars. The proposed regional economic corridors are paving the way for our mining industry, which would significantly boost the economy.
Finally, regional economic cooperation offers broad opportunities for growth, strengthens confidence building measures, provides incentives for peace, and, over time, decreases regional and political tensions. Hence, Afghanistan’s economic integration is of paramount importance for the prosperity of the region. The successes achieved so far have given us reason to strengthen our efforts towards advancing our vision. In doing so, we shouldn’t lose sight of the threats of terrorism and violent extremism and thereby develop more coordinated actions to tackle the main drivers of insecurity and imposed conflict, strengthening cooperation in the areas of security, development, and peace.