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International House of Philadelphia: Symposium on Health
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are honored to be here with you tonight.

Please allow me to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to every one of you for participating in this wonderful event tonight.

I would like to thank Mr. Oliver Franklin, Elizabeth Lowe and the International House of Philadelphia for inviting me and my wife, Shamim, and Ms. Mariam Nawabi, the Commercial Attache of the Embassy of Afghanistan to participate in this Ambassador’s Forum. I also thank Carelift International for its dedication to helping improve health care system in Afghanistan.

I also want to express my gratitude to all of you from Philadelphia’s health care community who are here tonight to learn more about the situation in my country, Afghanistan. We look forward to your contribution to help improve the health care sector in Afghanistan.

I am also grateful to the sponsors of today’s program, Independence Blue Cross, Med Assets, and Cozen and O’Conner. This is my second visit to Philadelphia this year, I feel at home here.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two years ago, along a dusty road in Kunduz, in the north of Afghanistan, a young man managed to catch the attention of President Hamid Karzai by throwing a bouquet of flowers at his car. When the president glanced his way, the young man pointed to the pitted road at his feet, and shouted, “Fix the road!”

That plea symbolized then – and now- the desire of our nation to rebuild its infrastructure and national institutions, as it picks itself up from war and destruction. United States and the international community have responded to the plea of our people for reconstruction. We are grateful for this assistance.

We, the government of Afghanistan, have taken many bold steps toward achieving our shared objectives of building a democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

Today, hope, peace, education, and democracy are replacing despair, destruction, and tyranny in Afghanistan. Tangible results of reconstruction and infrastructure building are visible throughout the country. More than 3.2 million refugees have now returned to their homes. Urban centers are flourishing and roads are being rebuilt. Almost 5.6 million children, about 40 percent of whom are girls, are now going to school.

We have introduced a new currency, adopted new investment and banking laws, attracted foreign banks and foreign direct investment, revived the private sector, removed political censorship from the media, and connected the country by building roads and telecommunication systems.

In the past 3 years, we reached an economic growth rate of 30% in 2002, and 20% in 2003, continued at 15% this year. New laws on political parties, civic organizations, freedom of expressions and press have been enacted. Eighteen independent and privately own radio stations are operating in different parts of the country, including radio stations operated by women and for women.

270 newspapers and periodicals, the largest number ever, are published.

On January 4, 2004, President Karzai signed our new constitution into law. A constitution that is visionary and balanced, and guarantees equal rights and full participation of women in all spheres of life. The new constitution is the most liberal charter in the region.

In 3 years, the people of Afghanistan, with the partnership of the international community, turned a neglected country over-run by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, into what President Hamid Karzai called “a center for the cooperation of civilizations.”

Afghanistan is emerging as an exemplary model of success of international partnership. We just achieved another historic milestone under the constitution by conducting our first national presidential election.

Two century ego here in Philadelphia a group of visionary Americans met in a constitutional convention to defend liberty and prevent tyranny. We are through a similar exercise today in Afghanistan.

Four months ego on July 4, Philadelphia honored our President Karzai for his courage, vision and faith in the pursuit of liberty, peace and democracy by giving him the 2004 Liberty Award.

Two weeks ago the President Karzai was elected by overwhelming majority as our next President. In an election that 86% of the eligible voters participated, and 41% were women. We share the success of this election with US and our partners in the international community. Every vote cast in Afghanistan is a vote for democracy and global security.

Let me share some snapshots of the great moment of our election day:

An 80-year old woman, blind and frail, arriving at a polling station in Kabul with her grandson said, “I did not sleep a wink last night. Several times I woke up my grandson, worrying about the break of daylight and missing the chance to vote.”

A bride, in her wedding gown, got off a vehicle and stood in a long line of women waiting to cast their vote.

In many villages, people showed up at polling stations, in their finest clothes, as if they were participating in a religious or a national festival.

In Kunar, a rocket landed two hundred yards away from a long line of women waiting to vote. No one ran away. They insisted they would remain in line. One woman said, “If we run away from the terrorists, the rockets will continue to come. We want to stay here and vote because this is the only way to stop these terrorists’ attacks forever.”

A 50-year old Afghan told a worker at a polling station in Kandahar: “Twenty five years of misery have broken my back. Today I feel like I am reborn.”

Theses wonderful scenes proves that Afghanistan and the world is becoming a safer place. Afghanistan’s transition and successful advance on the path to democracy and state-building will impact the expectations and the aspirations of the people all over the world.

Ladies and Gentleman,

I discussed our achievements and how far we have come. We have a long way ahead of us with serious challenges. We are realistic about our challenges. We face the general challenge of building a State and providing for good governance, after complete destruction of all national institutions and a severe shortage of resources and human capital.

To overcome these challenges we must reform, strengthen and rebuild our government institutions to make them accountable, capable, and more professional. We must also improve local and district level governance, and enhance government capacity to deliver services to every corner 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 continue to confront security challenges posed by the terrorists and other elements. To overcome security challenges we are working to expedite the process of building our national army and professional police force, dissolving private militias, and implementing the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants.

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. We are committed to mobilizing all our resources in the fight against narcotics.

We know heroin, which sells on the retail market for one hundred times the farm gate price in Afghanistan, is one of the sources of the illegal money that funds international terrorism and crime across the region. It also finances the destabilizing activities of warlords and criminals in Afghanistan.

With your assistance we can overcome these challenges. A moderate investment commitment of $1 billion per year is needed for development of human capital to create a literate nation and provide social protection including social and personal security and access to basic health services.

Investments of $2.1 billion per year are required to provide the necessary infrastructure for transportation, communications, mining, power generation, irrigation, housing and urban development.

An annual investment of $750 million in enhancing security, rule of law, and reforming judicial and administrative sectors are needed to guarantee an environment conducive to sustainable growth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now that the Afghan people have participated very enthusiastically in the national election, the new president must live up to the fair expectations of the people.

In six months, Afghans are going to the polls to choose their parliament. By then, Afghans must feel the tangible results of their first investment in democracy.

The Afghan people have put their trust in the benefits of democracy and international partnership. Now it is up to the new government and the international community to deliver and prove that this trust is properly placed.

Thank you.