Afghanistan progressing on positive trajectory: Rabbani
Rabbani said this in his introductory remarks on the day two of an international donors’ conference on Afghanistan in Brussels.
The conference brought to together besides representatives from 75 countries and 25 international organisations, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah and other Afghan government officials.
Co-hosted by Afghanistan and the European Union, donors at the conference pledged $15.2 billion in aid to help bolster war-torn Afghanistan's government over the next four years.
Closing the conference, European Union Development Commissioner Neven Mimica said more than 70 nations had pledged almost as much as the corruption-plagued government was promised in 2012 in Tokyo.
Rabbani said peace and prosperity was the Afghan government’s priorities and the Afghan nation was grateful to their international partners for their sacrifices in helping them move towards those crucial objectives for the past one and a half decade.
“And once again, your presence here today reaffirms our enduring partnership and great alliance. It strengthens and renews our joint commitment to see an Afghanistan free of war and poverty.”
Those who wanted this vision to fail, the Brussels gathering sent them a clear message “that Afghanistan is on the path to a more prosperous future and has the unshakeable support of its international friends on this journey,” the foreign minister said.
Rabbani said the brave Afghan security and defense forces were fighting to eliminate extremism and terrorism on a daily basis. “It falls upon all of us, as a responsibility, to make sure no innocent life is lost anymore whether it is in Brussels, Kabul, New York or elsewhere.”
He said yesterday’s side event on Regional Integration and Prosperity added more values to the existing Afghan-led regional cooperation processes --- the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process.
“These platforms and processes will help us work closely with our neighbors to build better regional understanding, and to promote economic integration in pursuit of peace and development.”
He said rich discussions during the side event “Empowered Women-Prosperous Afghanistan” were also assuring for Afghan women’s economic empowerment.
Rabbani said Afghanistan and the international community had traveled ‘a long and difficult journey together. “When our partnership started, years of conflict had left Afghanistan devastated across the board.”
For instance, he remembered that in 2002, fewer than 900,000 students were at schools with no girl among them but today their number had gone up to nine million students, 40 percent of them girls.
He also said due to government’s strong leadership, sound public health policies and support from the international community, considerable progress had been achieved in Afghanistan’s public health system. “Maternal and child mortality rates have declined significantly.”
He said Afghanistan’s fiscal position had also improved and effective revenue collection and more realistic budgeting helped balance expenses. “Over the period 2015-2016 our revenue has increased to 29 percent and is estimated to increase to 32 percent.”
He said the Afghan government’s commitment in fighting corruption and its reform agenda remained firm and the establishment of an independent Anti-Corruption Justice Centre in Kabul and the creation of the National Procurement Authority were strong examples of the commitment.
He called as a major step the endorsement of the new election law last month governing electoral reforms towards ensuring more transparent provincial, parliamentary and presidential elections in Afghanistan.
Rabbani said the National Unity Government leadership had developed a vision and a clear roadmap for future economic development policies building on a broad framework and consensus established in previous conferences on Afghanistan.
“Now it is the time for us to further foster our national reform agenda, and the priorities described in Realizing Self-Reliance Strategy Paper and in Afghanistan National Peace and Development Strategy Framework.”
He touted as an important step in efforts to achieve peace the signing of a peace agreement with Gulbadin Hekmatyar-led Hezb-i-Islami group.
“While fully committed to preserving the rights of our citizens, particularly women’s rights, we are ready to sign similar agreements with other armed opposition groups, who are ready to renounce violence break all ties to the international terrorism and accept our constitution,” said Rabbani.
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