Statement by

His Excellency Hamid KARZAI
President of Afghanistan

At the 58th Session of the
General Assembly of the United Nations

New York, USA
23 September 2003


Mr President,

Your Excellency the Secretary General, Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is no reality more oppressive than the silence of a nation. For too long, Afghanistan was a silenced nation, a country without a voice. After decades of being suppressed to silence, our nation is beginning to have a voice of its own. Recovering from the tragedy of war and destruction, Afghanistan is determined to reverse the effects of the suffering it has long endured.

A lot has changed in Afghanistan over the last two years. But no change is so critical and pervasive than the animated response from the people of Afghanistan to the recent developments in our country. I find no sight more rewarding than the sight of our young girls and boys flocking to schools every morning; I find few things more engaging than the company of elderly representatives who come to Kabul from far-flung provinces of the country to discuss their priorities for reconstruction; and, in the same order, there is nothing more enthusing than the active participation of Afghan men and women in the process of public consultation for the new constitution.

The people of Afghanistan, we know from the public consultation conducted in connection with the constitution drafting process, want a modern unitary state that is committed to Islamic values and the preservation of peace and national unity. A state that insures security for all its citizens, enforces justice and the rule of law, and promotes prosperity. Like any post-war society, the need for security and removing the threat of arms and armed factions is a compelling issue for all Afghans. Our people demand the establishment of truly national and competent institutions, notably the Army and the Police. Afghans want state institutions that are professional and representative; and an administration that is efficient and free of corruption. The Afghan people want tolerance for other religions, protection of human rights, and affirmative actions to promote the rights of women.

Mr President,

Since I addressed this august assembly in September of last year, Afghanistan has taken significant strides in the path of post-war reconstruction. While total stability may not have been achieved yet, Afghanistan today is more stable and peaceful than at any other period in its recent history. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to the credit of the participating countries, has done a tremendous job of securing the nation's capital. This is partly the reason that people from other parts of the country have demanded that ISAF be expanded to their areas too. We see the NATO's decision to take over the command of ISAF in Kabul as a positive development. The Afghan people have also welcomed the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) that are supported by the coalition member states. Reconstruction and security are tied together, and we are absolutely certain that, no matter what flag they fly, forces that ensure stability will be welcomed throughout Afghanistan.

We recognize, however, that providing security to the people of Afghanistan is ultimately our own responsibility. We are grateful to the international community, the United States and Germany in particular, for making a determined effort to help us embark on a process of reforming and rebuilding our security institutions, namely the Afghan National Army and the National Police. After an arduous process of restructuring, we have just completed the Reform of the Ministry of Defense. This step is now paving the way for the implementation of the nation-wide programme on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration (DDR) which will begin in earnest in mid October with assistance from Japan.

Constitution is the bedrock of the modern state. Under the Bonn Agreement, my government was assigned the historic task of giving Afghanistan its new constitution. After a broad process of consultation, the commission assigned to the task has just finished the draft constitution. The draft will be submitted for approval to a Constitutional Loya Jirga, or Afghan Grand Council, in December. Work on the reform of the judicial system, and on drafting of new secondary lalaws, has also been continuing with notable outcomes achieved in recent months. The Political Parties Law and the Banking Law have now been officially adopted.

Having started from a below-zero baseline, the 30 percent economic growth rate which Afghanistan enjoyed last year is a promising start. Committed as we are to an open market economy, and seeing the private sector as the true engine for growth, we have moved aggressively to create the legal and financial frameworks for a positive environment to the private sector. Our newly adopted laws that govern investment, banking and property rights, the new stable currency, and the bureaucratic reforms we have enacted, provide a liberal and conducive underpinning to a rapid economic growth. Like never before, Afghanistan is open to business. Once in the past, Afghanistan was at the center of a global threat. Our vision for the future is that Afghanistan should be a center for economic opportunity. We do not call ourselves a landlocked country, we are rather a land-bridging country. Afghanistan connects together South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, a fact to which geo-strategists have long been attracted. But it is time that Afghanistan's vast potential for facilitating trade and economic activity is exploited.

Through such nation-wide programmes as the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) the Government aims to take reconstruction to the villages and households of Afghanistan. Perhaps no other priority features more widely in the demands of the Afghan people than the provision of education. Today, almost 40 percent of the students and teachers in primary and secondary education are female. This is a huge rise from the close to zero percentage that we inherited from the Taliban. Millions of text books have been published, and schools are being built at a higher pace than ever. However, like in other areas of service provision, the need is much greater than our capacity to deliver.

The struggle against production and trafficking of narcotics continues.   We see a direct connection between narcotics and terrorism, and it is in our absolute national interest to fight both. Both are transnational challenges. We in the region and in the international community must make the strategic decision, in the spirit of true partnership, to fight against both menaces.

As we acknowledge that the road ahead of Afghanistan is long and tortuous, we appreciate that significant achievements have been made over the last two years. The people of Afghanistan are grateful to the international community for their crucial support. While countries that have extended friendly hands to Afghanistan are far too many to thank, it would be unfair not to single out the United States, the European Union and Japan for a special mention. The United States of America has led the international community by example in offering support to Afghanistan. The additional assistance provided to us under the Accelerated Success initiative will go a long way towards rebuilding our country. The neighbours of Afghanistan have a special place in our hearts. Our people will always remember the warm welcome they have received from their brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Iran.

Cognizant of our new situation and the emerging opportunities, we are determined to build friendly, civil and constructive relationships with countries of the world. We continue to extend a sincere hand of friendship to Pakistan and all our other neighbours on the basis of the requirements of a civilized relationship. We will never permit our territory to be used against any other country, and expect the same in return. We are deeply concerned about the loss of innocent lives in Palestine and Israel. We support the realization of the right of self-determination for the people of Palestine. We are fully committed to remain a resilient partner with the international community in the fight against terrorism.

Mr President,

All the achievements I have just noted only amount to a good beginning. Our challenge is to stay the course. This depends not only on the resolute determination of the Afghan people, but also on the continued engagement of the international community.

While achievements are significant, and challenges inevitable, today in this grand forum, I point to what can potentially amount to a critical threat, the ongoing threat of terrorism. The crisis in Afghanistan may well be over, but the forces of violence are still looming. Embodied in various manifestations, from cross-border militant infiltrations to hateful teachings at places disguised as madrassas, terrorism continues to make inroads into the space of peace and prosperity which we want to secure for our nation.

Islam, our universalist religion, has absolutely no place for terrorism. Those apostles of hatred who preach murder in the name of religion; those who abuse the name of Islam and the sanctity of madrassas; are the enemies of Islam. They act against all that Islam teaches - peace, tolerance, compassion, social justice and the good of humanity.

Terrorists aim to harm the nation of Afghanistan; a deeply believing Muslim nation that is averse to extremism. They pose a threat to the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. Terrorists see, in the success of reconstruction, their lasting defeat. They are, therefore, maliciously intent on derailing the process.

This must stop! We must defeat the forces and ideas of violence in the region. Today, terrorism is a liability to the governments in the region. Governments must stop using extremism as an instrument of policy. As long as terrorism survives in this part of the world, neither Afghanistan, nor our neighbours, nor indeed the rest of the world can be safe.

Thank you.