In his first trip to Afghanistan as Commander-in-Chief, President Obama made a surprise visit to Kabul Sunday, March 28 where he met with President Karzai and others and also paid a visit to US forces stationed at Bagram Air Force Base. The visit was very positive and reaffirmed mutual commitments to the long-term partnership between Afghanistan and the United States.
During a joint press briefing, President Karzai extended the appreciation of Afghan people â€œfor the help that America has given us in the past eight years, for the assistance given.â€ He further stressed his determination for Afghan progress â€œinto the future towards a stable, strong, peaceful Afghanistan that can sustain itself, that can move forward into the future with confidence and better hopes.â€
President Obama reiterated the continuation of support to and cooperation with the Afghan government by the United States to tackle many important issues in the country. He pointed to the visible progress made since his last trip in 2008, and highlighted the increase in electricity production in Kabul as one example. He cited progress already made â€œwith respect to the military campaign against extremism in the regionâ€ stressing his countryâ€™s commitment to provide further assistance in agriculture, energy, rule of law and good governance. â€œAll these things end up resulting in Afghanistan that is more prosperous, more secure, independentâ€ President Obama said.
President Obama extended an invitation to President Karzai to visit Washington DC in May. â€œAll of us,â€ he said, â€œare interested in a day when Afghanistan is going to be able to provide for its own security but continue a long-term strategic partnership with the United States.â€
During his six-hour trip, President Obama also addressed some 2500 US forces at Bagram Air Field. He thanked them for their service and noted that their work was vital â€œto help Afghans forge a hard-won peace while realizing the extraordinary potential of the Afghan people, Afghanistanâ€™s sons and daughters, from the soldiers and the police to the farmers and the young students.â€ President Obama also praised the work done by Afghan National Security Forces in ensuring security for Afghan population and building stronger defense capacity. He further emphasized the desire â€œto build a lasting partnershipâ€ with Afghanistan that is â€œfounded upon mutual interests and mutual respect.â€
H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin
Head of the Delegation
Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
Ladies and gentlemen,
The two-day considerations of the theme of our Seminar â€Building institutions and moving forward with establishing the State of Palestineâ€ have now been completed.Â Â On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all participants for their contribution to the deliberations of the Seminar. The Committee would like to extend special thanks to the distinguished experts who had engaged us with their thorough exposÃ©s, analysing the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and making specific recommendations for the success of the Palestinian Authority programme, which if successful could serve as the precursor to the establishment of a Palestinian State.
We appreciated very much the keynote presentation by Minister Ali Al-Jarbawi outlining the main points of the Programme of the Palestinian Authority entitled â€œPalestine: Ending the occupation, establishing the Stateâ€, known as the Fayyad plan. Â Many speakers backed this forward-looking programme, which calls for Palestinians to unilaterally build the administrative, economic and institutional foundation of an independent State in spite of the Israeli occupation. In the plenary sessions, experts reviewed the current socio-economic situation on the ground and looked at ways to advance the Palestinian State-building agenda. Â Participants also highlighted the imperative of achieving economic independence and sustainable growth through responsible governance and the development of domestic capacities and resources. Â Other speakers emphasized the continued crucial role of international assistance in support of the Palestinian economy.
Speakers in Plenary I provided an update of the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.Â The socio-economic situation continued to be affected by the policies of the occupying Power, such as the expansion of settlements and related infrastructure,Â repeated closures in the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, and the building of the separation wall on Palestinian land.Â Speakers warned thatÂ the economic crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory would not abate with financial aid only, emphasizing the need to work consistently on ending the occupation and finding a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Â Speakers also pointed to the Israeli authoritiesâ€™ mind-set to control every aspect of the daily lives of the Palestinians.Â They also exposed occupation-related practices causing high unemployment rates and lack of equitable access to education.Â They also revisited the main elements of the Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza, discussed at last yearâ€™s assistance seminar held in Cairo, pointing out that that plan never had a chance to get off the ground due to the continued Israeli blockade ofÂ the Gaza Strip.Â At the same time, it was argued in Plenary II, the reconstruction of Gaza must be part of the overall Palestinian state-building project, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.Â The main challenge for the Palestinian economy was to move away from an income economy enabled by donor funds and remittances to a productive economy.Â It was suggested that Palestinians should forego integration with the Israeli economy in favour of integration with regional and world markets.
Speakers in Plenary II discussed ways to advance the state-building agenda. They also reviewed lessons learnt from the Paris ProtocolsÂ and indicated possibleÂ pitfalls to be avoided in implementing the Fayyad Plan.Â They pointed to considerable achievements of the Palestinian Authority in implementing the state-building agenda in spite of the many obstacles. Â Yet, it was urgent to approach governance programming from a strategic, long-term, and conflict-sensitive perspective.Â The goal was the creation of representative and transparent public institutions, promoting wide civil society engagement, keeping in mind the need for broad consensus building within the Palestinian society.Â It was pointed out that the Palestinian Authority had no longer unified power over the Palestinian territory.Â Internal political differences and the geographical split resulted in social fragmentation and growing polarization within the society.Â The adoption of a strategy for mainstreaming gender issues and concerns was recommended by one expert who analyzed the Fayyad programme from Palestinian womenâ€™s perspective.Â She demanded an affirmative action policy to increase the economic participation of women and to provide social protection.
In Plenary III, speakers from different United Nations Agencies, and from the donor community discussed the important role that international assistance plays in supporting the Palestinian economy.Â They looked at theÂ role of the United Nations system, in particular the Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in mobilizing and coordinating international assistance to the Palestinian people.Â UNRWAâ€™s role as the provider of vital socio-economic services that reached a considerable portion of the Palestinian population was also commended.Â One of the experts highlighted the indispensable role played by the international NGOs and development agencies for alleviating the plight of the Palestinians and providing an economic safety net for the disadvantaged. Â He cautioned that international assistance and state building programmes should be all inclusive and no Palestinian group should be left out or marginalized, not the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza, nor the Palestinians living in Area C and East Jerusalem. Â It was suggested that international donors and partners in the region, Arab public and private actors should coordinate their approaches towards creating a highly skilled, dynamic workforce that would be able to push the Palestinians towards sustainable and balanced development.Â Unemployment should be tackled by encouraging entrepreneurship.Â The international and regional private sector should provide mentorship, guidance, capital and a vast network. Â The public sector could facilitate the creation of small and medium-size businesses through tax incentives, and targeted reforms of the education system. Â A responsible Palestinian private sector and an engaged civil society, working together with transparent Palestinian institutions would be a solid basis for sustainable development of the Palestinian society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I conclude my remarks, please allow me to thank our distinguished speakers, who have generously shared with us their analysis of the Palestinian Authority programme and for their recommendations that would be consolidated in the report of the meeting.Â Our thanks also go to the distinguished representatives of Governments, Palestine, as well as the representatives of the intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations for their interest in the event and for their participation in the discussions.
On behalf of the Committee, I would also like to express our appreciation to Conference Services staff, as well as the Information Service and the Protocol and NGO liaison staff of the United Nations Office at Vienna. We are also grateful to the staff of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat, the staff of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management in New York, our interpreters, press officer, and all those who lent a hand to this event.
The report of this Meeting will be prepared by the Secretariat and will be issued, in due course, as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights.
I declare closed the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People.