Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Sometimes venues matter.
One of my first assignments as Foreign Minister of Norway was to attend the London Conference on the Afghan Compact in 2006. Then followed the Paris donor conference on Afghanistan in 2008, the Hague conference in March 2009 – and yet again another London conference in January 2010.
This July we convene at the right venue for a conference on Afghanistan’s future – in the capital of this proud country – in Kabul. Thank you for your great hospitality.
The venue matters. It should symbolise our resolve and ambition in many different ways. Let me highlight five:
First – as this is the Kabul conference, what we adopt here today should be seen and respected as Afghan-owned plans for Afghanistan’s future.
Second – as this is the Kabul conference, what we launch here today will be labelled the Kabul process – and that in itself is both an achievement and a commitment, comprising of a set of mutual obligations:
We – who contribute to Afghanistan’s future in the form of both troops and funds – have the right to expect from President Karzai and his Government that you follow up the plans that you have developed and that we have supported with dedication.
We expect transparency, good governance and dedicated efforts against corruption. We expect to see the inclusion of all parts of Afghan society, full respect of women’s rights and compliance with Afghanistan’s international obligations and with universal human rights. We expect too the full inclusion of civil society. These are our expectations.
In return, you have the right to expect from us greater unity of purpose, better coordination amongst ourselves, respect for the principles of good donorship, support that is more focused on Afghan priorities and Afghan capacities. You have the right to expect that more of our funds pass through Afghan channels – the 50% target has been mentioned and it is a target Norway has already reached, that more attention is given to Afghanistan as a whole rather than narrow focus on the specific area where we happen to have deployed our troops.
You also have a right to expect that we do not get lost in the false illusions of so-called quick impact projects. We have learned lessons from decades of development cooperation that hearts and minds are only won by long-term, solidly anchored and relevant projects.
Third – as this is the Kabul conference and it is based on the outcome from the Peace Jirga, we now expect to see a political process that will reach out to and include all Afghans in reconciliation efforts that must be Afghan-led. The time has come to reach out to all those who stand ready to reject terror, respect the constitution, and endorse the future of a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan.
Our resolve is clear: terrorism must be fought. Afghanistan must not again become a harbour for movements that will launch terror. But we all know that this conflict will not be won militarily. It must be resolved politically. The time has come to reach out to all those who stand ready to endorse the future of a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan.
Fourth – as this is the Kabul conference, named after the capital of Afghanistan, we are reminded about this country’s location in a region that needs to achieve peace and order. History cannot provide any lesson of any country in such turmoil that has moved forward without the constructive involvement of neighbours and other regional partners.
My call goes to these countries: It is time to turn a historic page. Don’t let Afghanistan be the dumping place of conflicts elsewhere; stop fuelling conflict by proxy in a war-torn country where generations have suffered more than their fair share of war, strife and conflict.
And then to my fifth point: It is not a normal situation that my country – Norway – located by the Atlantic – deploys troops and funds to secure the future of Afghanistan in the middle of Central Asia.
But then again we can explain why, for the situation here is far from normal and the Security Council has repeatedly described the situation here as a threat to regional and international peace and security.
Throughout this operation, brave Norwegian troops have made huge efforts to make a difference. Some – and each is one too many – have paid the ultimate price. We pay tribute to their sacrifices as well as to all those – Afghans and non-Afghans – who have been killed or injured for the sake of peace.
Together with our allies, backed by the UN mandate, and in close cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan, Norway will complete its mission to build sufficient Afghan capacity for Afghans to safely run Afghanistan.
Gradually responsibilities will be handed over. And gradually Kabul will live up to its promise – the capital of an independent and sovereign Afghanistan.
The Kabul conference holds the promise of making one key step forward in this direction.
Let me finally thank the co-chairs of this conference and my particular thanks go to the UN and to Staffan de Mistura for his dedication and able leadership.