4 December, 2014
Prime Minister Cameron,
Prime Minister Sharif,
His Excellency Dr. Abdullah,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of Dr. Abdullah, myself, the government of national unity and the people of Afghanistan, it gives me great pleasure to thank you Mr. Prime Minister for hosting this event.
Let me take this opportunity first to pay tribute to over 3,400 NATO personnel who lost their lives in Afghanistan, over 30,000 who were wounded and hundreds of thousands of the veterans of the war who remember our deserts, our valleys and our mountains and are marked by it for their life.
I want to thank President Obama, Secretary Kerry, all the members of NATO-ISAF countries for your commitment and for your leadership and for your sacrifices during the last 13 years, particularly during the last ten years with us.
I want to also pay tribute to children, men and women, Afghans of all walks who against all odds have embraced this partnership. There should be no doubt that we have a social consensus and a political consensus in Afghanistan on our partnership with the world in general, and those who stood with us shoulder to shoulder, in particular.
The overwhelming vote of the two houses of our Parliament on approving, if there was ever proof on approving the bilateral security agreement and the status of forces agreement should leave no doubt.
A 99.9 per cent Muslim country is proud of its partnership and happy to stand by it. This is unique and all the leaders need to be complimented for having won the consensus of our people to this partnership. We, particularly Dr. Abdullah and I are committed to this partnership and intend to act upon the will of our people.
2014 was a year, in which we the Afghans defied the odds, if you took bets at the beginning of 2014 or the end of 2013, I think almost every newspaper around the world predicted doom. They said, well they will not, they have three transitions, how will they get one of them right, well, we have gotten two of them right, but we are about to get the third right.
The first one was political transition. For the first time in our history, we faced the prospect of transferring of authority, not power from one elected leader to another.
I hope that the partnership that His Excellency Dr. Abdullah and I have formed is a tribute to the wisdom of our people. The government of national unity represents the absolute majority of the people of Afghanistan. And what this transition means is that the process of state formation and consolidation and political consensus in Afghanistan is irreversible.
Let our friends celebrate and let our detractors note that history will not be repeated, that we have overcome the past, we face the future with full unity and with confidence.
The second transition was security. Again, there was all kind of speculations four years ago when we launched the security transition that we will not hold together. Well, the Afghan national security forces, I am proud to indicate as their Commander-in-Chief, are assuming their patriotic duty of defending our homeland.
If there is any sense that the state is about to collapse because of security, that’s an illusion. Our national security forces again with support from our friends and partners are fulfilling and capable. The capabilities that have been achieved in the last four years are unprecedented and I want to thank all our partners for investing in the Afghan national security forces.
Your continued support for Afghanistan as manifested yesterday in agreement on the Resolute Support Mission gives us the confidence that you would be standing next to us, though in a noncombat role.
This transition from combat to non-combat is welcome. The assurance that train, advice and assist will continue is a vote of confidence and again thank you for your financial commitments to both your security and ours. I speak of your security and ours because we are joined by common interests to face common threats and we are determined to overcome that.
Acts of terror are vile. Yes, our children are dying and when I hold those bodies, my heart breaks, each time I make a call to the father of a girl who has been on her way to college or hold or embrace the father of a child who has been killed while playing volleyball, only God knows, but we are not elected to lead in order to break down. We will face these threats and we will overcome them. It needs to be clear. Simultaneously peace is our national priority and we are determined to bring political disagreements to end politically but we will not be forced out of the path that we have chosen and out of the obedience to our Constitution and our values.
Islam, our holy religion, is a civilization of tolerance. These acts as our Council of Ulema said have no place within our history, they do not have any ground and we ask all our partners and neighbors to stand with us because no country is a fortress and we all need to join forces.
The third transition is economic. We articulated this, we have not done well but that is the challenge that we have been inherited and we will face it. So, let me speak now of transformation. Two out of three, I think it is a good record. But the fundamental issue that I want to highlight, I want to highlight quickly five points:
One, in the two months, the government of national unity has got the vision right. I hope that you have been convinced of the paper that we know where to go and how to go there and how to get there. And our vision, Mr. Prime Minister, is to be the servants of our citizens. The vision of the government of national unity is to fundamentally change the relation between the government and the governed. The Governed are the principle, the government are the agents. This means our accountability to our citizens because the citizens that voted for the government of national unity braved all odds and stood in lines for many hours, overcame many threats.
Dr. Abdullah and I are determined to deliver to them as their chief servants and I hope that this transformation would mark the beginning of a virtuous circle that would enable us to overcome the past thirty five years.
Second, we’ve demonstrated how to build political capital. The government of national unity represents the will of the absolute majority of the people and you’ve seen when the formation of the government quickly public consensus has come. Yesterday, Dr. Abdullah and I were speaking to a group of our Diaspora here and we told them that we have come with message of unity. Each time in the past, we came, they were telling, “go to Kabul and get united”. Now we are telling them, we are united, come back and help us and fortunately dozens of young men and women immediately offered to come back and to serve their country.
But we have not only gathered political capital, we have translated political capital into political will. We signed the bilateral security agreement and the SOFA on our first day in office and on the second day, we tackled the grave risk to the reputation of Afghanistan, called the Kabul Bank. I am pleased to say that yesterday the Supreme Court of Afghanistan affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court. Within a month, there is a month that the culprits will have to make payments otherwise criminal proceedings can start against them.
We have not shown hesitation in tackling our problems. I hope that our paper is one of the most honest prepared by a developing country with immense potential and with immense problems. We know our problems, we own them. Our dialogue with the international community is changed. You, our partners do not need to remind us that corruption is a problem or institutions-building is the objective. We own those and we will deliver and now our dialogue will shift from why to how.
So, our third issue is partnership. We have gotten partnership right. I hope that the new stage of partnership that is coming from Kabul becomes infectious, and your presence here, everyone single one of you is a vote of confidence in a stable and peaceful Afghanistan; we deeply thank each one of you.
Note please that this government respects the opinions of the partners regarding structural short-comings and we want honest discussions, focused discussions and more than discussions, actions that would get us to overcome those problems.
The fourth issue that we have gotten right in these two months is regional cooperation. We have started an active engagement with our neighbors and we are very pleased with the nature of the dialogue. Thank you, Prime Minister Sharif for indicating that a new strategic opportunity has opened up. We hope that this deep strategic opportunity will be consolidated and that we can add to mutually create full sovereign equality between two sovereign states whose cooperation is essential to the prospects of getting the Asian continental economy on the road.
We have a choice, we either become the lynch pin of Asian integration where only roads will come to our countries and go out of our countries to connect Central Asia, South Asia, West Asia and East Asia or we will become the cul-de-sac- the forgotten piece of history, because time will not wait. We master a sense of urgency. This is the moment where the third phase of globalization can lift us out of poverty in the region and behooves us to seize that moment to cooperate fully so that we can curve a new future for our people.
And fifthly, we have a program of action that we have shared with you and we are implementing. Dr. Abdullah who began chairing this conference must have informed you that we intend to form a cabinet within 2 to 4 weeks of returning. We are determined to bring people of competence, commitment, integrity and transparency to lead the program of the government of national unity.
I was delighted we the comment that Dr. Abdullah made to the President of Azerbaijan. He said he and I agree on so many things that he now wonders why we ran against each other. Thank you for joining me brother.
And that consensus cuts across the board , we are not agreeing on smaller things merely, we are agreeing on the big and small and our mode of operation which is unprecedented in the region, we hope, becomes the norm, namely that putting national interest above overcoming legacies of division, is essential to the empowerment of our citizens.
My fourth and last point is on delivery. We’ve gotten the discourse right, I think, we’ve gotten the talk right, but our people will not judge us by the talk, they will judge us by our capacity to deliver because they expect us to deliver, our partners expect us to deliver and the world expects us to deliver.
So, I will make three brief points here.
First, the focus of the government of national unity is institutions. Let me repeat what Dr. Abdullah said yesterday. We want to make sure that the government of national unity leaves a legacy of making the constitution a daily reality. That we are not ever going to disregard the Constitution, that we are going to get electoral reforms right, we are going to get the Loya Jirga right, and all other aspects because with the legacies there will be some adjustments in these moments and we hope, these would be the last sets of adjustments and it is extremely important. What we want to be judged by, Excellencies, colleagues, friends, is the Afghanistan of today versus the Afghanistan of five years ago. The people of Afghanistan are going to judge us, the world then, and ultimately, God almighty is going to be judging us by delivering on this mandate and God willing, we will deliver.
Second, there are three numerical majorities in our country that are economic, political and social minorities. We have to get their empowerment right.
1st: Women, our women a key to our future.
Citizenship cannot be gotten right by depriving half the society, but here our request to all of you, particularly advanced economies and emerging economies. Please open up your markets to our women. Five day training programs do not do good. Let us deal fundamentally with the skills of our women, let money flow to their pockets.
I asked the French Foreign Minister yesterday for a partnership with French Fashion houses to design the textiles that our women can produce. Today they have great skills but their products are only sold at the hospital auctions. We want to work with you, help us form the first women’s university in Afghanistan, help us form a series of women’s colleges across the board junior colleges where with the culture norms, we can have the right impact. Make your training programs available. Allow women to women contacts.
So it is extremely important to get this issue right, with the understanding that since this is the oldest problem in history, it is going to require sustained efforts and the efforts need to pay. We must be culturally sensitive but our culture allows enormous accommodation and we must take cultural change seriously.
Second is our youth. The absolute majority of our population is under 30. Three generations have lived with war. We hope that our first generation will live in peace and not only live in peace but lead the process of peace and stability and prosperity. Investing in our youth is critical not just to our stability but to global stability, and we hope the empowerment of the youth, that the government of national has began, it is going to become consolidated and we ask you here for the opportunities for our youth that would not give them merely education but the skills, capabilities, management and leadership. That day would be to lead a proud Afghanistan and a prosperous Afghanistan and that is within our reach.
And the third is our poor. Poverty has stubbornly remained at 36 per cent. To live with a dollar twenty five cents a day is not to live in dignity. And if it were not for our Diaspora, if it were not for major efforts, the poor would be even more of a problem. You know we build a bridge with $2 million; a young boy of fourteen paid fifty dollars blows it up. Poverty is a driver of instability. Recruitment into criminal gangs global is part of the problem. The narcotics problem, you know they pay fourteen to seventeen dollars a day while the best public works program pays two dollars a day.
We need to focus on the issue of poverty and its eradication as a fundamental problem and that is critical to the agenda of citizenship. An inclusive society requires stakeholders. We are going to begin with our urban property reforms, so that every Afghan can literally own a piece of the country with the right documents, with full property rights, that their education will be meaningful after 6 years and 9 years, giving them a job, not literacy in two or three languages.
So delivery of services becomes critical to this inclusive society because fortunately we have now created inclusive politics. Inclusive politics now can create inclusive economy in an inclusive society that we desire.
But that’s my last point.
We need to do development differently. When a government does not reform, parallel institutions are created, marked projects are created, technical assistance is created because it ignores the government, because when a government does not reform, the partners feel right to protect their things, but global experience has made one point very simple – parallel organizations do not work.
Haiti is the best example but there are others. So we ask our partners to join us in the months to come to translate the program that we have presented to you into concrete mechanisms of delivery.
We want to invite you. The best treasuries of the world that are sitting around to agree with us on the best system of accountability but let it be coherent, on the best set of program designs, judging sequence and capacity together so we can create a narrative of study accomplishment.
Afghanistan has the potential to be self-supporting, enhanced our paper on self-reliance but our self-reliance is not the old fashioned to close ourselves against the world. Our self-reliance is going to come and embrace the world in a competitive economy so creation of a legal economy that can drive the citizenship agenda and ensure that we can pay for our security is essential.
We are determined to do business differently. Now we hope that our partners will be joining us in a spirit of full partnership and give and take, and hearing, listening and then agreeing to move forward so we want to propose to you. Let us change the modality from projects to payment for results. Let us agree on results. You pay after we rightly accomplished them and then the next set. That mechanism will ensure that we are all happy and have a meaningful way forward.
Let me, in conclusion, again. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister for your personal friendship, for your repeated visits to Afghanistan. I recall the first time that you were leader of the opposition, that you went to Helmand, you got a detailed briefing and the sun was so hot that nobody else could bear it but you stood and I hear that there was an officer who did not have a willing audience so he gave you a real description but your legendary patience, your willingness to both listen to that officer, to listen to your Afghan counterparts and to lead on global stage are all immense marks of a leader. We appreciate the role that you have played in facilitating dialogues and persuading other world leaders to pay attention to Afghanistan in hosting this conference.
Again on behalf of Dr. Abdullah, myself, the government and people of Afghanistan, let me thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, Highness, Mr. Secretary, all excellencies, ladies and gentlemen for a very successful conference, for your vote of confidence in the future of Afghanistan. We , the people of Afghanistan are grateful and hope that with you, all of us will be more secure and that you will achieve the objective that we have all sacrificed so much for- a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.