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Transcript of the Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s Speech at the Special Meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB)

Dr Abdullah AbdullahDear Co-chairs,
• Mr. Manservizi,
• Ministers, Ambassadors
• Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
• Good afternoon

• I heard you had some productive discussions this morning.
• A number of cabinet Ministers presented their preparation in the run-up to the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan.
• The government also presented Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework (ANDF).
• Building up on the Tokyo’s self-reliance vision, the new Framework presents a statement of how the National Unity Government will achieve its goals of moving towards self-reliance and increasing the welfare of our people.
• The cabinet Ministers should have given you a full briefing of the Framework document and the National Priority programs.
• I particularly commend my colleagues for presenting National Unity Government’s agenda on the anti-corruption, election reforms, and most importantly, Human rights and Women rights, respectively.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I will be brief and try to focus on a number of key areas:
o With the Framework in place, the time for further planning is limited. It’s time to move beyond the meetings, discussions and planning. The Afghan people want results and delivery from the National Unity Government. We may have issues that need immediate attention and resolution at the highest levels of government pertaining to policy, coordination, consultation, prioritization and decision-making according to a clear cut political agreement we signed almost two years ago at the end of a challenging and inconclusive election, but have no doubt that both the President and I are committed to a practical reform agenda that aims to help our nation move forward.

o As Chief Executive, I aim to keep my promises to the Afghan nation, our pledges to the international community, and perform the job that is expected of us. We will not allow any person, group or force to disrupt this process whose goal is to help the country deal with a series of challenges and make good use of the opportunities that exist at this juncture in time.

o On the reform agenda, the National Unity Government should go beyond the technical and selective administrative issues. The Brussels Conference should consider a broader set of reform agenda that constitutes the pre-requisites for social and economic reform, including anti-corruption. There is a pressing need by the people that the refreshed Self-Reliance Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) for the Brussels Conference must include high-level national agendas such as the electoral reforms, passage of a credible election law, announcement of the timeline for the 2017 elections, and the actual holding of fair, transparent and participative parliamentary and district-level elections in 2017.

o Similarly, the reform agendas for the Brussels Conference equally requires the Unity government to implement and speed up the very same sets of reforms reflected in the NUG Political Agreement. Let us not forget that the agreement clearly spells out the aim of the reforms, the convening of a Constitutional Loya Jirga and the rebalancing that the country needs in the political structure after years of unchallenged misguided leadership.

o Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just come here from the International Literacy Day Conference and let me inform you that up to 90 per cent of women and up to 63 per cent of men in some rural areas are illiterate. These are really shocking figures.

o The reforms spelled out in the 2014 political agreement that call for the creation of an executive Prime Ministerial position, as part of a constitutional process, are not meant to benefit a person or a constituency, but rather, they are meant to reinforce political stability, power coherence and inclusivity according to the wishes of our people and the bitter experience of the past few decades. Our people in general look back at the 1960s as a period of growth, progress and stability in our country, and most of that came about as a result of the progressive 1964 Constitution. The fact that it ended prematurely as a result of a military coup is specific to dynamics that no longer exist, but we also have the example of other nations, developing and developed, that have benefitted from occasional systemic readjustments, France, Bangladesh and Indonesia are three such countries that took different reform paths. Afghanistan has to seek its best political reform path, based on our national realities and needs.

o Again, without political stability through coherent national inclusiveness in the country, legitimacy, electoral reforms and effective governance, the development agenda cannot succeed.

o Some say that without peace and an end to conflict we cannot build our country or make progress. I am of the view that one main difference between us and those who are fighting us is exactly that point. They and their backers inside and outside the country stand for terrorizing our citizens, destroying the achievements of the past few decades, and keeping us poor and dependent, while the Afghan people and our international friends stand for peace, stability, development and progress. The lines are clearly drawn. We will not allow the will and desire of our people to be undermined or neutralized by spoilers and terrorist organizations. We will make peace with those Afghans who stop the bloodshed and favor life, progress and prosperity over death, backwardness and poverty.

o On the governance reforms, we must not derail the decentralization process that has been going on for a number of years. This includes the enhancing sub-national governance, sub-national budgeting, and the delegation of legitimate and functional authority responsibility to competent authorities.

o On the governance, by the support of the international community, the NUG is required to enhance and support institution building at the Ministry level. There should be a clear distinction between the political and policy centers and executive institutions responsible for implementation and follow-up. This means that we need to establish a two-way – NOT parallel – process for decision-making, coordination and execution that aims to accelerate execution and delivery of government services and investment.

o On the growth and development agenda, there should be closer development policy alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SGs) and more attention should be paid to the private sector reform and development. The self-reliance vision rightly identifies private sector and agriculture as the short-term to medium-term measures for growth while mining, agri-business and regional connectivity can be Afghanistan’s long term comparative advantage. Currently more than anything else, the private sector and domestic investment remain vital for this economy. Private sector is the engine for job creation. I support inclusion of the private sector goals in the SMAF document.

o I fully agree with the World Bank view that higher GDP growth expectation is less realistic and we need to look for new sources of growth to improve living standards over the long term. This requires extra efforts to infrastructure investments, partnership with the private sector, and policy consistency that enables development of agriculture and mining sector.

o Additionally, on the private sector reform, my office and council of ministers have successfully delivered 11 out of the 13 short-term private sector reforms that were identified for the Brussels conference.

o The Council of Ministers also has the pleasure of delivering over 50% of 11 medium term private sector reform agendas. I personally lead the process, and will continue to follow them up with relevant institutions.

o We are going to Brussels at a time when the agenda in Europe is busy with issues concerning refugees and immigrants flooding the European shores and lands. We are seeking a win-win solutions for those who are experiencing the consequences of conflict, displacement and lack of opportunities. We understand the burden this puts on European systems, in the same manner that we feel the pressures that exist in our neighborhood, where more than four million Afghans are still living away from the ancestral homes. At the same time, we have witnessed the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from conflict zones across our Eastern border regions. In all of these cases, we need dialogue, planning and coordination, alternative solutions and clear-cut policy alignments that take the sovereignty human rights, human needs and dignity of all sides into account. We will do what is in our means to help address this issue, and expect the same from our friends.

o I am looking forward to a successful Brussels conference/ thanks for your generous support to Afghanistan. At this critical juncture, Afghanistan needs your strong partnership to overcome the challenges.

o More importantly, we ask the brave and resilient Afghan nation to show resolve, strategic patience and be assured that eventually victory is theirs. We need to strengthen our unity as a country with a rich and dignified history, and a country that has never been broken and stands tall and proud.