Our hosts Japan,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with a sense of hope and optimism that representatives of the Aga Khan Development Network are participating in this international conference, of such great importance for the future of Afghanistan and the region as a whole. The Aga Khan Development Network has had many decades of history, long-term commitment and deep involvement in contributing to peace and prosperity in this complex region of the world, and we are honoured to have been invited to this conference and to be given the opportunity to make this statement.
On behalf of His Highness the Aga Khan, we extend our warmest congratulations to Chairman Karzai and the Interim Administration for the wisdom, courage and determination shown to pursue the multiple goals of peace, social justice, democracy, pluralism and development discussed in Bonn. Allow me also to express our deep admiration to the Secretary-General’s Special Representatives Lakhdar Brahimi and Francesc Vendrell for their perseverance and continuous encouragement of this process. Also to be commended today are the members of the Afghan Support Group who have been steadfastly committed to the fate of the peoples of Afghanistan, as well as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Steering Group and the host of this conference, Japan.
Today's occasion is particularly important for the peoples of Afghanistan and the surrounding region as the moral, political and economic commitments made at this conference will provide the vital means for this volatile region to have a real chance at achieving and sustaining peace and prosperity into the future. Since the start of our institutional work in Afghanistan seven years ago, our primary interest has been, and remains, to enable the people of Afghanistan to decide their future, to rebuild their nation, relieved of the continuing risk of starvation, and economic and social collapse.
We would like to reiterate our long-term commitment to this region of which Afghanistan and we are an integral part of its peoples. The Development Network is already scaling up its efforts, in collaboration and with the support of the international community, to enable Afghans to transform their existence from extreme poverty, to choice and opportunity, within a context that safeguards, for each of them, their right to their own identities, and to preserve and practice their faiths and traditions. . In this regard, we would like particularly to recall the Islamic ethical principles that emphasize the right of each individual to the interpretation of his faith without coercion; respect for life, compassion and sharing; inclusiveness; self-reliance; social responsibility for the greater good; the pursuit and use of knowledge for the benefit for all; and good governance.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:
The importance of meeting the needs of the region as a whole cannot be stated strongly enough. The international community’s real resolve will be tested and we sincerely hope that it will not be found wanting- or else we all risk losing a unique opportunity to create a more just and stable world. With respect to the Aga Khan Development Network, as some here today are already aware, we have embarked since years on a number of significant long term development initiatives in the region, including, most recently, in partnership with Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the establishment, by international treaty, of the University of Central Asia, the first private regional university dedicated to studying and improving the livelihoods of people living in high mountain areas. As soon as conditions allow, we hope that Afghanistan will wish to associate itself with this initiative, as part of a wider development endeavor for the country.
His Highness the Aga Khan would like to announce today a multi-year financial commitment, which will be no less than US $75,000,000, to enable the Aga Khan Development Network to conceptualise and implement a recovery, reconstruction and long-term development programme that will span many regions of the country. It will range in scope from agriculture-based rural development; food and seed security; rehabilitation of capital infrastructure; to the provision and upgrading of health and education services from the primary to the tertiary levels; institution and capacity building especially at the community-level; and the restoration of the cultural heritage for social inclusion. In this task, we will draw on our long experience, going back some 25 years, of the neighbouring region, including post-conflict Tajikistan, and the extreme poverty and inter-communal tensions of the isolated mountain regions of Northern Pakistan In all these areas, we will continue to work closely with other members of the international community.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen let me emphasize three important additional dimensions:
The first is the need to create a safety belt in the region to support the establishment and long term sustainability of peace in Afghanistan. The international community should consider the vital necessity and importance of selective investments in areas within the region that, due to a combination of extreme poverty, isolation, and lack of opportunity and perspectives, remain volatile and fertile grounds for permanent instability.. Specific areas in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan require urgent support to mitigate the high risk of violent protest.
The second is the imperative of re-establishing the demography of the country through the repatriation of the millions of refugees outside Afghanistan. This must be done in a way that fully recognises and respects the rights, cultures, and traditions of each of the country’s ethnic communities and that enables them to live collectively in peace and harmony. In this context, it will be necessary to find ways of ensuring that these refugees are protected, and are able to claim back the assets they have lost, for without this, ensuring the stability of these returning communities and families risks remaining an elusive hope.
Similarly, the reintegration of former combatants into civil society will be a critical factor in the establishment of peace. Through its multi-faceted interventions in the economic, social and cultural sectors of the country, the Aga Khan Development Network hopes to be able to contribute to this difficult and complex process, as it has done in Tajikistan.
The third is the need to revive or create new competent, stable, transparent and accountable institutions through which the processes of building confidence, strengthening democracy and fostering development can be channelled. These institutions need to emerge from and respond to the needs of the majority of the population.
Finally, life and its material outcomes are a result of everything that happens within the social, economic, political and cultural contexts of people’s existence. We would, therefore, urge the international community to look for appropriate balances between sectoral approaches and wider, more integrated area-based approaches to development.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, together we have an opportunity to grasp the challenge of helping to rebuild Afghanistan – and succeed. This hope has been rekindled by the establishment of the Interim Administration. The commitments made today will lay the foundation for the regeneration of the country and its people, and an opportunity to re-orientate and enhance its capacity for self-reliance. In this effort we are Afghanistan’s partner from here, and onwards far into the future..
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share this with you.