Speech/statement | Date: 31/03/2004
Minister of International Development, Ms. Hilde F. Johnson
Afghanistan and the International Community – a Partnership for the Future
Berlin Conference, 31 March 2004
Check against delivery
Madam Chair, Ministers, Excellencies,
We are here today because Afghanistan needs our attention. We are also here because we need to remind ourselves of our promises. And we are here today because we need to renew our commitment to a country struggling to move on from a past of strife and suffering, to a future of peace and prosperity.
Last September, I caught a glimpse of this future, when I visited the Olympic Stadium in Kabul. In this arena, where only a few years ago the Taliban regime committed unspeakable acts of horror towards women, young Afghan girls were now competing in a race for the first time ever- enjoying the event, enjoying the competition, enjoying their newfound freedom. They were happy and hopeful, and full of expectations for a better future.
The events in Afghanistan over the past few years have set in motion hopes and dreams that must not be broken. We cannot afford to let the tide roll back. We cannot and must not allow the world’s attention to be diverted from a country and a region that hold so much promise - and so many problems. As donors, we must keep a steady course, bound by the commitments already made - in Tokyo, in Brussels, and in Dubai, and the new ones to be made here. Our goal is a peace process that cannot be reversed. But only if we deliver on our promises can this goal be reached.
I welcome the Transitional Government’s commitment to reform and democracy building. Norway fully supports the targets of the key reform processes presented in the Berlin declaration. If they are to be operational, they need to be fully Afghan owned.
Much has been achieved. Reconstruction has started. More than 4 million boys and girls are back in school. But the challenges remain immense. Visible results for the people and the presence of the central government in the provinces are crucial. The Afghan people are frustrated about the lack of a peace dividend. This is a joint responsibility. Economic development and reconstruction are not possible without security. The dramatically expanding drug economy is closely linked to the lack of security and is impeding sustainable development in rural areas. Alternative livelihoods and law enforcement activities must be co-ordinated and counter narcotic objectives mainstreamed into all development programmes. A lot more has to be done here. This is fundamental to Afghanistan’s future.
The Transitional Government must be commended for the recosting document "Securing Afghanistan’s Future" and for linking it to the Millennium Development Goals . It provides an important basis for identifying strategies for future reconstruction and development. It underscores the need for long-term international commitment and Afghan ownership of the development process. It points out that the way the assistance is offered is as important as the level of assistance, and underlines the importance of channelling assistance through the Afghan government.
To deliver on the strategy on our table, we need reform. We as donors have to reform, and the Transitional Afghan Government has to deliver on reform. Donor reform includes using joint financing mechanisms such as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. The ARTF should be our main financial mechanism, politically and financially. This is the best way of strengthening Afghan ownership and avoiding the "donor circus". Afghan leadership can only be supported by strengthening government, not by sidelining it. I have urged donors to support the Afghan National Budget through the fund. I believe this to be the best mechanism for ensuring co-ordination and avoiding parallel structures. It is of the utmost importance that the major donors contribute substantially to the fund.
At the same time we must encourage the Transitional Government to continue implementing reforms in the public administration and to increase domestic revenues. Improved governance and combating corruption is crucial. We need to reach a level where a larger share of the ARTF funds is channelled to services so desperately needed by the population, particularly in the provinces. I am pleased to note that progress is being made here, and this should be further encouraged. It will enhance the credibility of the fund, and may mobilise a higher level of international assistance.
A sound and healthy public sector is vital in order to ensure economic growth and gain the confidence of the public. Reforms have been carried out in some ministries, but are still lacking in others. Abuse of power and corruption at the central and local level are unacceptable and undermine the legitimacy of the government. During my visit to Afghanistan in September last year, everyone emphasised the lack of Afghan human resources and the urgent need for capacity building in the public sector as key problems. There is a brain drain of qualified Afghans from the public sector to the UN system, diplomatic missions and NGOs. This is undermining the reform process. We must rethink how to ensure sustainable Afghan capacity building, including the diaspora, so that competent Afghans join the government in rebuilding their country. This is also a coherence issue for us as donors.
Afghanistan deserves support for a fully co-ordinated donor community. The local CG process does not meet the need for effective co-ordination. The government must, in concert with the donor community, reform the system to a better and more effective mechanism. Here, a lot of work needs to be done. Parallel donor processes must be avoided at all cost in order to strengthen Afghan ownership. The donor circus must come to an end.
We need a road map as a basis for our joint endeavours. Therefore, I fully endorse the government’s plans to develop a National Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan. This will be an important platform for developing a coherent, affordable and sustainable social policy. A particular challenge will be to address the needs of some 4.5 to 5 million vulnerable people. Norway and the other Utstein countries are willing to assist the Afghan government in developing such a plan, and ensure that their concerns are addressed in this regard.
Respect for human rights and equal rights is in accordance with the Afghan constitution and should be seen as integral part of the reform programme. We welcome the progress being made in the human rights field, including the ratification of CEDAW without reservations. However, more remains to be done, much more. The main responsibility for addressing human rights issues lies with the government. Women and girls are still the main victims. Women must be allowed to participate in all aspects of the reconstruction and peace building processes. Norway is ready to work as a partner with Afghanistan in the implementation of the CEDAW and encourages the government to mainstream gender objectives into all development programmes. This would be the best way to implement the principles of equal rights enshrined in the Afghan constitution.
Norway has been, is, and will continue to be a reliable partner in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. We understand the Afghan Government’s need for predictability if the national budget is going to be the central tool of policy making. Norway upgraded Afghanistan to partner country status in development co-operation from the beginning of 2004. This demonstrates my country’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan. Norwegian assistance in 2004 will amount to USD 43 million. We have already transferred approximately USD 13 million to the ARTF to cover recurrent costs. Norway is pledging at least USD 160 million (NOK 1100 million) in development and reconstruction assistance for the period 2004-2008. This includes this year’s firm commitment of USD 43 million. But the figure will surely be higher, because in addition, Norway will also provide humanitarian assistance. This year’s level will be about USD 11.5 million.
Between us we have the resources and the responsibility to fuel the process of peace and progress in Afghanistan. We have made promises, we have made pledges - and we must make payments.
I return to the Olympic Stadium, to the aspirations of the female runners in Kabul. The Millennium Development Goals are first and foremost for them.
The world community cannot afford to disappoint the girls and boys of Afghanistan, to cut short the race they have already started. We must deliver on our commitment to their future - and allow them to reach their goals for a better tomorrow, when they and their country can live in peace and prosper.
This is our task. This is our test.