SRSG Tadamichi Yamamoto at a press conference after the Senior Officials Meeting

6 Oct 2017

SRSG Tadamichi Yamamoto at a press conference after the Senior Officials Meeting

KABUL - The following is a transcript of a 6 October 2017 press conference on the Senior Officials Meeting held on 5 October 2017.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, at a press conference after the Senior Officials Meeting

[near verbatim]

Kabul, 6 October 2017

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It is a pleasure to be able to again have this press conference together with Minister Hakimi. And I appreciate the members of the media joining us here today.

I first of all have to say that I agree with the Minister that yesterday’s meeting was a success, and I also would like to say that the meeting was really -- we felt, the international community felt -- Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. This is very important. I think you will notice, you have noticed, when you were watching or listening to the conference, that the conversation was totally led by the Afghan side in terms of explaining challenges, progress and achievements. The exchanges were frank. I think this was probably one of the very best types of meeting that you could expect from this type of gathering.

The purpose of the meeting was to show to the international community and to the Afghan people the strong commitment and efforts of the Afghan government regarding development and reform, and where things are going, and what challenges lie ahead. Without minimizing or making the problems less than life-size -- what I mean is clearly recognizing problems that exist in this country, what the challenges are, which are very complex -- and without turning blind eyes to those challenges that lie in the areas of both reform and development, the government has been able to show the realism in terms of understanding the issues and how to try to tackle them.

The President, in his keynote speech, described the challenges that he inherited -- the difficulties, the immense problems -- that this country had to face, and then described how he was trying to tackle this with a vision. This was very important, particularly in going forward. The clear framework of strategic vision was shown in his keynote speech and also endorsed by the Chief Executive in his closing remarks. This gave the international community a clear idea as to what it is, what sort of framework, what sort of thinking, the government has in tackling problems.

He outlined challenges of security, economy, corruption, and devastating poverty, which still remain today, but at the same time described the progress and his intentions to tackle them, as described by the Minister. A sense of realism and understanding of the problems, and also the concrete proposals and plans to tackle them encouraged the international community to understand the direction in which things have been tackled and have given us really this framework that we can utilize to think through for the coming year.

But what really impressed us -- deeply impressed us -- were these lively panel discussions at the SOM, led by the Afghan government officials. The Ministers who were there, including Minister Hakimi, spoke with control of the issues, understanding of the issues, and were really impressive. But what was perhaps most impressive in this type of meeting was the participation of all the sorts of members who were there, all levels of government officials, civil society activists, governors, mayors, business men and women -- these people participated actively with lively debate, and this sort of participation in addressing the key issues of Afghanistan was really impressive in terms of making SOM not just a government-oriented place but that of the whole Afghan people.

These key topics included the role of women; business and the economy; Afghan infrastructure and its links with its neighbours; and the ongoing fight against corruption. These were exceptionally substantive exchanges on complicated issues, and none will be solved in the next year. But as I listened to the people speaking in the room, I felt deeply confident that we will see real progress. I am sure that this sense was shared by all the members of the international community who participated in the meeting.

We felt that, particularly this SOM, had been covered by the strong Afghan sense of ownership, and we feel that this will be the key really to bring the next year’s work on follow-up of the Brussels commitments to be very successful. I’m very hopeful that the kind of participation that had been seen from the spectrum of the community will help this to move forward. And the government showed an inclination to listen to all these people, and President Ghani himself, in his speech, talked of the importance of listening to the people and to the problems.

The international community of course has listened to the Afghan government, Afghan people, and we feel that we are much more confident that the progress that this country is making, fully aware of the problems and the challenges, which are of immense magnitude, will enable us to make further progress in the coming year. And so as Minister Hakimi has mentioned, I am sure that next year’s ministerial meeting will see a success of our efforts.

Question: Yesterday you said that Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan has encouraged you about peace and the future of Afghanistan. The strategy says pressure should be put on Pakistan. Does the UN agree with the idea of putting pressure on Pakistan? And also, is the UN of the same opinion that safe havens of terrorists are in Pakistan and should be fought through Afghanistan?

SRSG: You asked me about the new US policy. You have not quoted me correctly at all, I am afraid. I think we should look at the text again, perhaps. I’m saying that it opened an opportunity for all of us to try to look at the regional situations with more constructive eyes. I said the regional countries, including not only Pakistan, but also China and other countries have shown interest to move constructively, and that this offers us unprecedented opportunity. So that is what I have said. So please check carefully, and please do not put words into my mouth. Thank you very much.

Question: A meeting is supposed to take place in Russia. What is UNAMA’s perspective on peace in Afghanistan and Russia’s role in the peace process?

SRSG: I want you to understand that this is actually a press conference on SOM, and not on peace and other issues, so I hope that your further questions would be directed to SOM because SOM is a very important issue for Afghanistan. But since you have asked, I will say that Russia is a very important partner and player in our efforts toward peace internationally, and we certainly look to Russia to play a very constructive role. They can play a constructive role, and they have an intention to play a constructive role, and we hope that their efforts shall be very fruitful and that we can coordinate with them well. Thank you so much.

Question: You said there have been problems with the government in terms of bringing reform, but that the government leadership has realistically discussed those problems. What were those challenges and how could they be addressed? And the second question is on the government’s commitment to the International community. What were these commitments?

SRSG: Thank you very much. In terms of the reforms, of course one of the most important things is anti-corruption. We had a deep and detailed debate on that, which reflected the government’s awareness of the magnitude and the depth of the issues, but at the same time explained how much has been done in terms of the efforts of the ACJC and in other areas. So this is one area that of course is fundamental to good governance in all aspects. The international community attached a lot of importance to this. We naturally welcome and appreciate the efforts and the progress made. But at the same time, both the government and the international community understand the magnitude of the problem, and that takes further effort on both sides.

Now, to the commitment that has not been met, well that’s not an easy thing to say because I think the government has explained really well the issues that they have been able to tackle in almost all areas, and not of course on all areas perhaps to the liking of the international community or the government. But perhaps one should say that the good thing about this SOM was that the problems have been discussed in greater detail with a focus on key areas. For instance, people understood a need of private sector investment in terms of the long-term development of this country. People understood the importance of reform. People understood the importance of women’s empowerment. All these had been made into special sessions, thematic sessions, which had been debated with the participation of members not just of the government but of the Afghan society as well as representatives from the international community. So I would say that the awareness of the Afghan government of the reality of the problems I think was something that really helped us to feel more confident about the way things are being handled. Thank you.

Question: My question is on the Kabul Process, which is scheduled to take place in three months in Kabul. Do you think the meeting will be effective?

SRSG: Well thank you for the question. It’s again peace and peace efforts, but I will answer it. The Kabul Process is a very important undertaking of the Afghan government. Why? Because it’s a process which puts Afghanistan in the driving seat of the peace efforts. It is Afghanistan who is at the centre, and will be listening to all the other efforts, and will be able to assess and guide where the peace process should be moving. It has the support of all the countries who participated in this, which amount to 26 in the last meeting held on 6 June. There may be other efforts conducted by other countries, but all these efforts will ultimately come under the umbrella of the Kabul process, so that all these efforts will be brought together under the leadership of Afghanistan. So, as you know, the international community attaches importance to the ownership of the peace process by the Afghan people. This is the instrument to insure the Afghan ownership. So I am sure that the international community will cooperate in any way possible to make a success, and we look forward to that. Thank you very much.

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Read the SRSG's PDF iconOpening Remarks from SOM 2017.

Read the Ministry of Finance / UNAMA Joint Press Release.

Read the PDF iconCo-chairs Summary of SOM 2017.

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UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. UNAMA assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights, including the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation. The Mission also promotes coherent development support by the international community.