Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message, delivered by Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, to the Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, in Geneva today:
It is a pleasure for the United Nations to co-host this event and reaffirm our partnership with the Government and people of Afghanistan for peace, inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Four years ago, the Government of Afghanistan articulated an ambitious agenda. Focused on tackling corruption, advancing governance reforms and addressing the illicit economy, the agenda ‑ “Realizing Self-Reliance” ‑ remains the touchstone for our discussions. Today we take stock.
Since 2001, Afghanistan has, with the assistance of the international community, rebuilt its political system, State institutions, infrastructure and economy, with notable improvements for its citizens.
The Government has made considerable progress since 2014 in strengthening public administration, financial management and budgeting. It has also introduced new legal frameworks and increasingly drives the development agenda.
Implementation of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework is under way and the National Priority Programs have been finalized. The Government has also committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and made progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Improving labour market conditions and creating avenues for employment will be essential to keep pace with population growth. Considerable progress has been made in advancing the status of women, including increasing legal protection and participation in political processes and the economy. I am pleased to see the inclusion of women and youth in the National Programs. Their participation is essential to helping Afghanistan reach self-reliance.
The recent Parliamentary elections once again demonstrated the commitment of Afghan citizens to democratic processes. I am heartened by the courage and determination shown by the millions of Afghan women and men who turned out to vote across the country, braving significant obstacles and defying serious security threats.
Notwithstanding these gains, serious challenges of insecurity, poverty and the rule of law persist. Overcoming them will require renewed efforts by all participants gathered in Geneva today, particularly as we approach the midpoint of the Transformation Decade.
We are reminded daily of the appalling civilian toll of the conflict in Afghanistan. Finding a political solution is more urgent than ever. We welcome recent peace efforts, including the Government’s offer of talks without preconditions, as well as the people’s peace march and the unprecedented ceasefire in June. We also welcome the initiatives by different Member States in support of peace.
As we speak, we may have a rare opportunity to move to direct peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban. We must not miss it. To be lasting, peace must be based on a broad consensus involving all of society. Women must have full participation in the peace process, and the human rights of all must be guaranteed. Social gains of the past year must be preserved and built on.
Regional support and engagement are also among the keys to peace and prosperity. Afghanistan’s neighbours face enormous risks from prolonged conflict but would reap undeniable benefits from a negotiated peace. They should continue to actively support and strengthen efforts aimed at peace.
I am encouraged by the positive regional dynamics and cooperation on a number of fronts. I commend the active engagement of the Government of Afghanistan with regional partners and its commitment to connectivity, a foundation for economic growth. I call on all partners of Afghanistan to seize these opportunities for cooperation and do their part to collectively build a prosperous and peaceful future.
I look forward to the adoption of the Geneva Mutual Accountability Framework by Afghanistan and its international partners. The Framework provides a clear road map for mutually agreed reform priorities over the next two years, in alignment with the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework.
The United Nations will continue to support the Government of Afghanistan as it implements its reform agenda and takes other essential steps on its path toward peace, development and self-reliance during the Transformation Decade.
This gathering is clear evidence of the commitment of the international community to Afghanistan. Let us redouble our efforts to ensure that this support translates into real progress and tangible improvements for the people of Afghanistan. Thank you.