Hague Conference focuses on Afghanistan’s priorities
30 March 2009 - Eighty countries and 20 international organizations are coming together in The Hague under the auspicious of the United Nations to discuss the future of Afghanistan. The United Nations, the Government of Afghanistan and the Netherlands will host the international conference on 31 March called “A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context.”
Afghanistan’s neighbours, Iran, Pakistan, China and the Russian Federation are among the participants at the conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Hamid Karzai attending.
“One of the objectives of the conference is that it gives us a chance to review the progress on the priorities that were outlined in the Paris Conference last year,” said Adrian Edwards, the Senior United Nations Spokesman in Afghanistan.
The conference is taking place at a crucial time for Afghanistan. Afghans will go to the polls to elect their next president on 20 August this year. The UN Secretary-General has said Afghanistan faces a “critical test” in 2009.
Speaking at a briefing to the UN Security Council earlier this month the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Kai Eide said that The Hague Conference “is an occasion for us to push the doom and gloom atmosphere aside, roll up our sleeves and support the positive trends that we now see emerging in Afghanistan.”
Last Friday the US administration unveiled its new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan which was welcomed by the presidents of both countries.
“The objectives of the conference are to try and get the international community together with Afghanistan, look at the priorities, at the sequence and see where we can get greater focus on all the efforts behind Afghanistan and also to look at the new US strategy on Afghanistan,” added Adrian Edwards.
"We particularly welcome the recognition that the Afghanistan problem will have to be addressed in a regional context,” said President Karzai’s spokesman Humayun Hamidzada on the new US strategy.
Shukria Barakzai, an Afghan parliamentarian thinks regional cooperation is vital for bringing stability to Afghanistan. “The participants of The Hague Conference are all those countries that are directly involved in Afghanistan, but some of them not officially. So it is a kind of legitimizing the role of Afghanistan’s neighbours in ensuring peace in Afghanistan,” she said.
“Afghanistan’s neighbours want a clear and transparent Afghan strategy and the more these countries are involved in the war against terrorism the better and more successful we will be,” said Noorulhaq Ulomi an Afghan parliamentarian from Kandahar province.
The new US strategy also emphasizes increased diplomatic and civilian efforts. “For any international conference on Afghanistan to be successful the focus should be on governance and the rule of law,” added Ulomi.
Last week another conference on Afghanistan was convened in Moscow under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The impact of the situation in Afghanistan on its neighbouring countries and identifying ways to jointly confront threats, such as terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime were discussed.
Other major conferences held on Afghanistan in the past have been the Paris conference in 2008, the Rome conference in 2007, the London conference in 2006, the Tokyo conference in 2004 and the Bonn conference in 2001.
By Homayon Khoram, UNAMA.