Peace is key to revival, UN envoy says at end of forum on Afghanistan's recovery

Peace is key to revival, UN envoy says at end of forum on Afghanistan's recovery

As an international conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan wrapped up its work today in Islamabad, the United Nations official leading the UN recovery effort in the country stressed that a viable political settlement was key to any future economic revival.

"Without political bridges being built and without a peace being made no amount of economic social and social development activity will substitute," said the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Mark Malloch Brown, who has been recently named by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to lead the early recovery effort in Afghanistan. Mr. Malloch Brown was speaking to the press after the conclusion of the three-day conference, which was co-sponsored by UNDP, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The forum, held under the theme "Preparing for Afghanistan's Reconstruction," concluded with a solid basis to carry out a multi-sectoral needs assessment for the war-shattered country, according to a spokesman for the conference.

"There is, of course, much more work to be done, but the level of consultation with Afghanistan's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and professional community at the conference has established an important foundation for this urgent work," Dale Lautenbach told reporters in Islamabad.

He said that specific discussions were held on the role of women in Afghanistan's reconstruction. "The rights of women were seen as not only a fundamental human and moral right but a practical and economic contribution to the country's future," he said. The participation of women, "boosted by education and confidence building," would be particularly important to the country's future.

Education also emerged as a major theme of the meetings, with participants urging special attention to Afghanistan's many orphans. Many participants also emphasized that education for men and women of all ages should be part of a future strategy.

There was also a wide agreement on the importance of creating a comprehensive health system for Afghanistan, where only 23 per cent of the population has access to safe water and only 12 per cent has sanitation. Four per cent of the population is disabled, many by landmines.

"The conference was not designed to put a price tag on reconstruction," Mr. Lautenbach said, emphasizing that delegates "already had their most important resources: the Afghan people themselves."