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At a Conference on Nation-Building: Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq - Keynote Speech
Ambassador Said T. Jawad


04/13/2004

Ladies and Gentleman:

Historically the term nation-building is identified with unifying diverse ethnic groups within a state and welding the different segments of the local populace into a new identity at the national level. It means constructing a government that may or may not be democratic, but preferably one that is stable. For us, nation-building exceeds this definition and includes building a democratic and secure, providing for good governance, implementing the rule of law, fighting corruption, and ensuring individual liberties.

We have come along way in two short years to achieve our objective. The fact that two weeks ago the international community in Berlin, Germany, pledged $4.5 billion for our next fiscal year and over $8.2 billion over the next three years shows that donor countries are also pleased with the progress of Afghanistan. We have sustained the policy of soliciting durable donor commitment and institutionalizing the national budget.

While in the past, success in Afghanistan was often set in the context of preventing negative results such as spread of terrorism, narcotics and violation of human and gender rights, today, Afghanistan is emerging as a model of success, creating positive and exemplary results for the region. A stable and developing Afghanistan is becoming a facilitator of regional economic and democratic development. The resulting jump in commerce and trade through Afghanistan would encourage the movement of goods and ideas, including free market and democracy, along the historic trade routes of Asia.

The Afghan people have experienced a significant improvement in their living conditions in the last two years. These better living conditions are grounded in a very strong economic recovery. According to the International Monetary Fund, we reached an economic growth rate of 30% last year, continuing at 20% this year.

Our developmental strategy is based on the notion of using the budget as the central instrument of policy. We have arrived at this conclusion through a careful analysis of lessons of development. We are convinced that the path to sustainability lies in building the capacity of the government to plan and monitor the developmental agenda. We are committed to a prudent fiscal and monetary policy and have firmly rejected deficit financing. We are pursuing an aggressive strategy for enhancement of domestic revenue and for simplification of the procedures for interaction between the citizens.

Against a very difficult situation and after years of political and economic mismanagement, fiscal stability has been achieved in Afghanistan. Since a new currency was successfully introduced, a stable exchange rate against international currencies has been maintained. Businesses in Afghanistan are now experiencing an inflation-free environment, ensuring the autonomy of the banking sector. Following the enactment of new banking law, several international banks have already opened offices in Afghanistan. We expect to see more financial institutions coming to Afghanistan, as the market for loans, equity financing and insurance services in particular remain insufficiently served. Amendments to our new investment law are ready and will be enacted in the next few weeks. There are no restrictions on the remittance of profits and international dispute settlement is provided. At the same time, a most open trade regime has been introduced. Traders and investors are faced with limited tariffs and border formalities are being reduced to a minimum.

To meet international standards in trade, a National Bureau of Standards is now being established. My government is fully committed to embarking in an ambitious program of privatisation. This program is commencing with the privatization of Ariana Afghan Airline, our national carrier.

On poverty reduction, we have the National Solidarity Program. Through this program, over 3,000 villages covering five million people have elected through secret ballot their village development council to plan, manage and implement development projects using a US$20,000 block grant provided to each village by the Government. Every month, five hundred villages receive around 10 million US dollars in block grants. To insure the national ownership and coordination of the reconstruction process, we have adopted a National Development Framework and set forth a seven-year plan.

To bring these reforms to life for investors, we have set up, with the assistance of the German Government, a One-Stop-Shop for Investors called the Afghan Investment Support Agency or AISA.

After licensing two private mobile phone operators, these services are now available in Kabul and other major cities throughout the country. Different internet providers are also operating in Afghanistan. We have embarked on a comprehensive reform of our intelligence services, a remnant of the oppressive past regimes.

The country is on the way to being reunited in terms of the physical infrastructure. Already, the main Kabul to Kandahar road is completed with support of the United States and Japan governments. The connection to Herat will soon be ready and other roads to the north and east are now under construction.

Despite our challenges, our people have felt more secure in the past two years than they have felt in the past two decades. Two major international hotel chains are now investing in Afghanistan. Fourteen independent radio stations are operating in different parts of the country and 270 periodicals are published monthly. Women are beginning to participate in social and political life.

The number of the newly formed Afghan National Army is about to reach 9,000 and about 5,000 National Police Force are trained. They are gradually assuming their roles in maintaining security. Recently, they were deployed in Herat and Faryab.

With 30% enrollment growth expected this year, 5 million children will go to school in the new school year starting March 21st. It is estimated that thirty-five percent of all students and teachers in primary and secondary schools are female. We have published millions of textbooks and changed our curriculum from political indoctrination to modern education. We have managed to rebuild 20% of our schools but there is more to be done. Only 29% of schools are in a building and 70% of are in need of major repairs. With the growth in enrollment, we need an additional 2,500 new schools.

Our government is fully committed to open markets and a private sector-led economy to attract investment and trade. It is the role of the government to facilitate private economic activities by building a transparent and simple regulatory framework.

My government, with international assistance, is investing heavily in education at all levels. This will give our citizens the opportunity to help increase economic expansion at a much more rapid pace than previously expected.

The planning stage for the reconstruction of almost 5,000 kilometers of road is now completed. The Salang Tunnel, the main artery joining the southern terrains of Afghanistan to the northern plains, has undergone major repair. Preliminary works on the Kabul-Bamyan, Kabul-Dushi, Kabul-Jalalabad and Kandahar-Spinboldak highways have taken place.

In the political arena, we have sustained the politic of consensus building and inclusion and crafted inclusive political processes. On January 4, 2004 President Karzai signed our new Constitution into law which is another significant milestone on the path toward creating a democratic nation-state. Five hundred and two Afghans from all walks of life and every province and community of the country gathered together in the traditional Loya Jirga or Afghan Grand Council, put all intricate issues on the table, and after three weeks of intense debate and emotional deliberations adopted with near unanimous acclamation the most progressive constitution in the region.

The new Constitution is a balanced national charter that provides for equal rights and full participation of women. It seeks and finds an equilibrium between building a strong central executive branch (to further strengthen national unity and rebuild the national institutions that were destroyed by foreign interference or factional fighting), and respecting the rights of volition for the provinces to exercise more authority in managing their local affairs by institutionalizing district and provincial level councils.

The new Constitution provides for check and balance between a strong presidency and a two-chamber national assembly with extensive powers of inquiry, which cannot be dissolved by the President. Furthermore, it is a careful combination of respect for moderate and traditional values of the Afghan society and adherence to the international norms of human rights and democracy.

A Powerful Executive Branch

The new Constitution establishes the President as the head of state elected by direct majority vote. He/she will serve for a period of five years with two Vice-Presidents and is subject to a two-term limit. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and he/she appoints ministers, the Attorney General, the head of the national security directorate and members of the Supreme Court but only with the approval of the Parliament. While the President is granted strong executive powers, his/her authority is checked and balanced through oversight by other branches. The Constitution provides for a clear impeachment process if the President commits crimes against humanity, treason and other crimes.

A Well-built Legislative Branch

The Parliament or National Assembly consists of two chambers: the Wolesi Jirga (or the lower house) and Meshrano Jirga (or the upper house or senate). The 250 members of the lower house serve for five years and are elected in proportion to the population of each province. To insure that 25% of the members are women, the Constitution requires that two female delegates be elected from each of the 32 provinces of the country. Such a high quota for women is rare in most countries both Muslim and non-Muslim. The President appoints 1/3 of the senators of which 50% must be women.

An Independent Judiciary

The Constitution creates an independent and able judicial branch and institutionalizes Afghanistan’s civil law system. The Supreme Court is comprised of nine members who are appointed by the President for a period of ten years. Members of the Supreme Court can be tried in a special court of crimes committed during the performance of their duties.

An Articulate Application of Islamic Law

The new Constitution institutionalizes the civil law system in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has a very liberal penal code and civil code. The Hanafi jurisprudence of Islamic law will only be applied if there is no existing law that deals with the matter. In addition, courts are obligated to apply the Shia school of law in cases dealing with personal matters involving followers of the Shia sect. Although 99% Afghans are Muslim, the Constitution protects the freedom of followers of other religions. Another pioneering feature of the new Constitution is that it prohibits formation of a political party based solely on ethnicity, language and/or an Islamic school of thought.

Gender Equality and Individual Rights

Article 22 of the Constitution states that the citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law. The Constitution prohibits the amendment of the fundamental rights of the people unless done to make such rights more effective. The right of every person to a lawyer is guaranteed. The state is obligated to appoint a lawyer for the destitute and insure the immunity of attorney-client communications. The Constitution obligated the state to abide by the UN charter and international treaties and conventions and to create a society based on social justice, protection of human dignity and human rights and the realization of democracy. It also specifically protects the rights of the disabled and handicapped. The Constitution, for the first time, gives Afghan citizens unlimited rights to access information from the Government. The Constitution obligates the state to prevent all types of terrorist activities and the production and trafficking of narcotics and intoxicants.

The new Constitution appreciates our rich cultural, ethnic and lingual diversity, and for the first time in Afghanistan and the region, recognizes all major languages as official in areas where a majority speaks such languages. Recognizing the Free Market economy is a core value necessary for the political democracy to succeed, the Constitution includes specific provision requiring the state to encourage and protect investments and private enterprises, intellectual property rights and rights of authors and inventors.

An Institutionalized Human Rights Commission

The Independent Human Rights Commission set forth by the Bonn Agreement is further empowered and institutionalized by Article 58. The Commission has the right to refer cases of human rights and fundamental rights violation to the judiciary and is empowered to assist in defending the rights of the victims.

An Emerging Model

Our new Constitution proves that the investment made by the U.S. government and the international community to help us build our national and democratic institutions, although limited, has already yielded very impressive results. The new Constitution further reveals that our Islamic and traditional values are fully compatible and mutually reinforcing with an open democracy. In two short years, the people of Afghanistan, in partnership with the international community, turned a neglected and pariah country over-run by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, into what President Hamid Karzai called “a center for the cooperation of civilizations.”

Led by the vision of President Karzai, Afghanistan has emerged as a model. Afghanistan’s successful advance on the path to democracy and state building will inevitably impact upon the expectations and the aspirations of the people in other arenas of the global war against terror and tyranny. A moderate, democratic and tolerant Afghanistan is indeed imparting the conclusive blow to the radicalism preached by Al-Qaeda.

The Elections

The next milestone for the Afghan people is setting the stage for the first free and fair national elections under the new Constitution. The presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for September 2004. President Karzai insists on holding the Presidential elections on time as scheduled but we will not compromise the legitimacy, credibility and integrity of the process. We ask our international partners to help the United Nations speed up the voters’ registration to ensure the credibility of the election process. It is crucial for us that the process gives all adult Afghans the opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights to vote in the first national elections they have waited so long for. To date 1.7 million out of 10.5 million eligible voters are registered. We are about to drastically increase the number of registration posts from eight to 4,000 throughout the country.

The Challenges

We are realistic about our challenges. We face general challenge of building a state and providing for good governance after complete destruction of all national institutions and a sever shortage of resources and human capital. To overcome these challenges, we must improve local and district level governance and reform, strengthen and rebuild our government institutions to make them accountable, capable and more representative. We must enhance government capacity to deliver services to all corners of the country especially areas prone to terrorist infiltration. All Afghans have not yet benefited from the peace dividends. We must eliminate corruption, nepotism and abuse of power that undermine our recovery process.

We are also facing specific challenges of preparing the logistical and legal grounds for the election and building the institutions and the capacity needed to prepare and enact the enabling laws required by the new Constitution. Our people have no electoral experience.

We also continue to confront security challenges posed by the terrorists and other elements. To overcome security challenges, we have developed a strategic framework for the reform of the security sector. We must expedite the process of building our national army and professional police force to further orchestrate external security support. We have asked our international partners to enhance security in provinces by expediting the deployment and presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and/or Provincial Reconstructing Teams (PRT’s). We welcomed the NATO and United Nation's decision to expand the ISAF outside of Kabul as well as increasing the number of PRT’s from 12 to 16 before the election. We must accelerate the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration program and prevent extremists from high-jacking democracy and the state building process for personal gain or factional agenda. The incidents in Herat and Faryab prove, once again, that we will not be able to build a civil society in Afghanistan as long as warlords, guns and private militias are around. The international community must help us disarm and demobilize the existing militias. President Karzai recently announced a major program to reduce the number of militia groups by 40% by the end of June of this year and another 20% by the end of the year, and to completely eliminate them by the end of June 2005. That means that by the end of June this year, 11 divisions, 13 brigades, 10 regiments and two battalions will be completely demobilized.

For the state to truly become a regulator and promoter of the private sector, we must confront the legacy of Soviet-oriented rules and mindsets, and the lack of human capital.

Narcotics pose a serious challenge for all of us. Cultivation and trafficking of narcotics go hand in hand with terrorism and warlordism. It is to our best national interest to fight them all. President Karzai is committed to mobilize all our resources in the fight against narcotics. We know Afghanistan’s heroin, which sells on the retail market for one hundred times the farm gate price, is one of the main sources of the illegal money that funds international terrorism and crimes across the region. It also finances the destabilizing activities of warlords and criminals in Afghanistan. The international community and our government cannot afford to wait as these destructive trends reverse our recovery process and further endanger the global security. Comprehensive and accelerated efforts are needed to break this vicious cycle. We shall mobilize all available resources to fight drugs in Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan has adopted a National Drug Strategy to reduce drastically poppy cultivation, encourage alternative income streams, destroy drug labs, increase law enforcement, train specialized national police units and develop the justice sector to facilitate the proper prosecution and sentencing of traffickers.

To overcome these challenges and to make the state building process in Afghanistan irreversible, Afghans need and demand the accelerated support and the sustained engagement by the United States of America and the international community. Afghans cherish the growing partnership and warm friendship forged between our two nations. The successful implementation of Afghanistan’s exemplary Constitution is inextricably linked to President Karzai’s cooperation of civilizations concept and our partnership with the international community. The Afghan Constitution is a significant achievement in our common fight against terrorism. By helping Afghanistan sustain this important milestone, the United States and other nations are helping provide the future blueprint for democracy in similar societies, the very best antidote to extremism and terrorism.

Our people genuinely believe in engagement with the international community. We are confident that the world will find a genuine strategic partner in our government and people. The Afghan people have put their trust on the benefits of international engagement. Together we must demonstrate that this trust is not misplaced.