Brussels Conference on Afghanistan

Foreign Minister Børge Brende's speech at the Brussel Conference on Afghanistan 5 October 2016.

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Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001.

Girls are going to school, people are going to vote and streets are guarded by men and women in Afghan uniforms.

This is hard-won progress we cannot afford to see reversed.

As we all know too well, major challenges persist.

The progress made can only be preserved if further progress is pursued.  

Successful implementation of the reform plans presented today will require strong and unified leadership from the government of Afghanistan.

You can count on Norway as a strong and reliable partner to Afghanistan.

No partnership can work unless commitments are mutual.

If you deliver – we will deliver.

Based on our mutual commitments, and subject to annual parliamentary approval, Norway will contribute 700 mill kroner annually (the equivalent of 80 million dollars) from 2017 through 2020.

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Afghan institutions have become stronger.

But self-reliance requires further strengthening.

Self-reliance means securing your own streets.

Self-reliance means securing jobs and good schools.

Self-reliance means relying on your people and securing their rights.   

It means securing justice, improving basic services and securing the legitimacy of elected bodies.

Political reforms must be carried out.

Like any other society, Afghanistan cannot reach its full potential if half the population is kept out.

Women in Afghanistan have made great strides.

But much more must be done in order to reclaim women’s position in the face of fundamentalism, extremism and violence.

A peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan depends on the contribution of women – in all sectors.

Political solutions that bring armed groups into a democratic system with human rights are needed to end armed conflict.

All parties must work to establish dialogue and seek solutions. The support of neighbors and international partners is important.

Norway stands ready to contribute to an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.

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No democracy is perfect – and no democracy is a strict copy of other democracies.

But some insights are universal:

If people are given a say in how their society is governed – people will help those that govern to build that society.

A government that listen to its people will be listened to by its people.

A government that trusts its people will be trusted by its people.

People that participate in government are much more likely to create jobs and growth.  

They become self-reliant.

Corruption means short-term profit for the few – but long-term stagnation for the many – and for the few.

There have been several summits and conferences on Afghanistan.

The Brussels Conference can be another milestone – but only if the spirit expressed by Afghan leaders at this table becomes the spirit of everyday life in the streets, schools and government buildings of Afghanistan.   

The road to peace and prosperity is long and hard.

The risks are many, but so are the rewards if you succeed.