Delivered April 4, 2016
Good morning. Minister Hakimi, distinguished guests, thank you for giving me an opportunity to address this forum.
Earlier today, President Ghani made clear that the NATO Summit in Warsaw and the donors conference in Brussels are part of a larger process of laying the foundations for a longer-term commitment of the international community to Afghanistan and its people.
The work began at the Senior Officials Meeting last September, when the government of Afghanistan launched an ambitious program of reform in the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework.
That framework addresses the key areas of Improving Security and Political Stability; Anti-Corruption, Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights; Restoring Fiscal Sustainability and Integrity of Public Finance; and Private Sector Development and Inclusive Growth and Development.
These are still the key issues for Warsaw and Brussels; these are the key issues for the Afghan people. The months following the Senior Officials’ Meeting have of course been challenging but real progress is being made.
As we enter a new fighting season, it is important to recognize the sacrifice and determination of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, in their commitment to strengthen the security and stability of Afghanistan and deny safe haven to terrorists and violent extremists.
Afghan security institutions with the support of their international partners are working hard to build capable, sustainable military and police forces. Warsaw will provide the means, predictability, and political support for continued progress in the coming years.
Success in Warsaw and Brussels are very much interdependent: security is critical for sustainable development; consolidating democracy, good governance, and economic growth reinforce security. My government supports the Government of National Unity’s (GNU) continued commitment to promote democracy and good governance in Afghanistan, and to build the trust and confidence of the Afghan people in a better future.
Recognizing the importance of credible, inclusive, and transparent elections, we support the efforts of the GNU to chart a clear path for election reforms and parliamentary elections.
Additional progress in advancing the rule of law to include completing and approving the ongoing penal code revision, as well as implementing the recently released Afghan National Drug Action Plan, is also critical. The government’s recent nomination of a new Attorney General and proposed reforms of the justice system are also welcome developments in strengthening the administration of justice in Afghanistan.
We have seen progress in fulfilling the government’s commitment to human rights, including the rights of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities, although work remains to be done to preserve and build on the gains made in this area over the past fifteen years.
In this context, working with and supporting civil society, which works so courageously in a difficult environment, is essential.
Human rights can be further protected through implementation of the Afghan government’s plan to eliminate torture and a redoubling of its commitment to safeguard freedom of the press, including combating violence against journalists. Attacks on the media like the one we saw in January will not dissuade a nation that has embraced free speech and debate.
The government is also developing child protection legislation and taking steps to implement the law on Elimination of Violence Against Women. The tragic case of Farkhunda Malikzada highlights the absolute urgency of this commitment, and the need to provide women the protection the law can provide. We welcome the anti-sexual harassment regulation approved by the Council of Ministers and signed by President Ghani in September, as well as efforts to remove barriers to women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.
In recognition of the critical role played by women’s groups in charting a democratic future for Afghanistan, the government is moving forward to implement the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. My government is also heartened by the government’s plans to improve sub-national governance, combat corruption, and ensure effective delivery of services to the population.
These governance measures can be a catalyst for economic and social development, which are central to Afghanistan’s future stability and growth.
Despite a year of challenging economic conditions, the Afghan government collected record revenues in 2015, and demonstrated its commitment to financial sector reforms under the International Monetary Fund’s Staff-Monitored Program, which concluded in March.
The government’s efforts to open borders and promote trade have paid off, and I join my diplomatic colleagues in congratulating Afghanistan on the approval of its application for WTO membership at the Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, last December. We look forward to the government accomplishing its legislative agenda to meet the terms for WTO accession.
Likewise, we look forward to Afghanistan’s progress in engaging with the International Monetary Fund, improving its business and investment climate, and fostering conditions for long-term economic growth and fiscal sustainability. These steps are essential for building confidence in a better future and generating jobs and prospects of a better life for the hundreds of thousands of young Afghans who each year enter the labor market.
We believe the Afghan government can and will meet all the goals outlined in the Self-Reliance for Mutual Accountability Framework. My government was pleased when 90 percent of the indicators for 2015 set forth in our bilateral U.S.-Afghanistan New Development Partnership were met, and anticipate that the government will continue to exert itself to achieve the indicators established for 2016 through the end of 2018. We look forward to closer cooperation as the government advances with better execution of its budget and implementing business sector reforms which can stimulate growth and the creation of employment. As it does so, we strongly support President Ghani’s unequivocal commitment to fighting corruption and to taking specific actions before the Warsaw and Brussels conferences.
In sum, the government of Afghanistan has a record of accomplishments and upon which it can build as it faces its remaining challenges. This is a pivotal moment for the country, one that can establish the basis for long-term security, stability, and growth. We look forward to continuing to support the efforts of the Afghan people to pave the way for that better future for Afghanistan in the years ahead.