Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced support for the priorities laid out by the Afghan Government to advance peace and development and called on the country’s men and women to rally around these efforts, as he opened a major international conference in the capital, Kabul.
“We are here to support the Afghan Government and its new priorities … to reaffirm our pledge to stay engaged for the long term,” Mr. Ban told participants at the Kabul Conference, the first international gathering on Afghanistan to be held in the country.
While the Government has begun to take essential steps to deliver on the needs of its people, it needs the full backing of the country’s citizens, he said.
“These plans aim to deliver real results for you, the Afghan people, without delay. They aim to establish effective democratic governance … and guarantee your rights and the rule of law.
“Yet these programmes cannot succeed without your support – without all of you, acting in good faith,” he added.
“That is why, today, we appeal to the Afghan people to come together … to come together to achieve peace through reconciliation … to achieve justice through mutual respect … to build a future based on economic development and mutual cooperation … with full respect for your nation’s sovereignty.
“This is my message to the Afghan people: to unite in the national interest,” said Mr. Ban.
The conference, co-chaired by the Secretary-General and President Hamid Karzai, builds on previous international meetings between Afghanistan and its international partners, most recently the London Conference held in January.
It was in London that the Government and its international partners jointly endorsed a strategy of transition to greater Afghan responsibility for the affairs of the country.
The Secretary-General said that today, the Afghan Government is becoming “a full and increasingly effective partner,” having met important short-term commitments and set up effective consultation structures.
The Government has also devised programmes which, with international support and Afghan resolve, can bring tangible change into the lives of ordinary Afghans – improved security, better standards of living, and an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue.
At the same time, he stated that security will be a crucial issue in moving ahead. “Let no one think that we are closing our eyes to the challenge. But these are programmes that can be implemented now, despite the security challenges.
“Neither should anyone interpret our efforts to pass responsibility to the Afghan government as a sign of diminishing international resolve.
“Yet let us also be clear: just as Afghans are taking greater responsibility for governance and development, so must they take greater responsibility for security as well… Afghanistan must take that decisive step towards guaranteeing its own sovereignty.”
The UN chief also used the opportunity presented by the conference to highlight the “grave” situation of Afghan civilians affected by the conflict, noting a rise in indiscriminate, disproportionate and deliberate attacks by anti-government elements against civilians and government representatives.
“Too many Afghans see their basic human rights violated again and again,” he said. “Improving security for Afghans is not just a matter of physical protection. It also requires accountability for serious violations of human rights – those happening now and those that took place in the past.
“And of course, Afghanistan will not achieve peace, development and human rights without the full participation of women,” he added.
Top officials from over 70 countries, as well as international and regional organizations and financial institutions, attended today’s meeting, which concluded with the adoption of a communiqué setting out the commitments for action that form part of what is known as the “Kabul process.”
At the end of the day-long event, Mr. Ban said that what was achieved today is of tremendous importance. “Never before have we had a more concrete vision of Afghanistan’s future,” he noted. “Moreover, this vision was created by the Afghan Government. It has been developed with the Afghan people.”