Afghanistan, international partners agree to sharper priorities at Hague meeting
31 March 2009 - Joint Press Release, International Conference on Afghanistan. Delegates at a meeting in The Hague agreed on Tuesday to a significant sharpening of rebuilding in Afghanistan, emphasizing the centrality of Afghan ownership and stepping up focus on implementation.
A statement by the co-chairs, UN Special Representative Kai Eide, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, and Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen acknowledged that greater energy and clear direction was needed to ensure more effective support for Afghanistan.
The statement also underlined the critical importance of the leadership of the Afghan Government in guiding strategic discussions on Afghanistan’s future and stressed the need for Afghan ownership over implementation.
“Only by committing to a comprehensive state-building strategy, adequate resources, mutual accountability, international solidarity and regional cooperation, can we cease the vicious cycle of violence and suffering in Afghanistan,” said Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta.
The vision for Afghanistan outlined on Tuesday has four main priorities: strengthened security, enhanced regional cooperation, improved economic growth, and stronger institutions. Delegates emphasized that effective, well-funded civilian programmes were as necessary as additional military forces and training.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), headquartered in Kabul, is to play the lead role in coordinating international action and assistance. The Mission was urged to expand its presence into as many provinces as possible.
“The UN must do more, yes, and we are ready to do more to deepen our role and expand our presence around the country,” said UN Special Representative Kai Eide. “But the time for strategic debates must now come to an end. We know what to do. Now comes the time for implementation based on Afghan ownership, clear priorities, and a better use of resources.”
Prominent among measures aimed at addressing insecurity was a commitment to increasing the size and capability of the Afghan Security Forces, which will gradually take the lead in protecting the Afghan people.
“The Afghans must be enabled to provide security to their citizens themselves,” said Foreign Minister Verhagen. “The international community will gradually move from an implementing to an assisting role.”
Tuesday’s meeting opened with statements by Netherlands Foreign Minister Verhagen, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
It was the first major meeting on Afghanistan since the unveiling by the new United States administration of its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review. Delegates broadly welcomed that review, agreeing that heightened emphasis on involving Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours was key to success.