President Ghani addressed all the attending 61 countries’ delegates on the second day of Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan. His address comprehensively covered all the current aspects and issues that the country is surrounded by.
Beginning his address with talking about Afghanistan’s relations with US, he said “The South Asia Strategy of President Trump has been a game changer, allowing us to focus in earnest on self-reliance, reforms and peace.”
Emphasising on the enrichment of Afghan constitution, he said that Afghan men and women are now appropriating the values of the Afghan Constitution, especially the provision on the equality of all citizens, rights and freedoms, as values to be treasured and defended. And this is why in the five-year peace plan that he unveiled, this is imposed as a conditionality on working with Taliban.
Pointing that stability is derived from the will of people, the President added “Afghan youth and women make up the majority of our population—we are in the midst of seeing them take their rightful place at the table of leadership, in government, society, and politics.”
Ghani also listed various achievements of his country in various spheres. Firstly, he pointed how Afghanistan has a new municipal law for the first time in hundred years. Secondly, he listed that Afghanistan’s Access to Information Law has been recognised as the best in the world.
Thirdly, he expressed his gratitude towards the security forces, “Defying predictions of collapse and failure, our national security and defense forces have fought valiantly, befitting of patriots dedicated to the well-being of our country while fighting for our dignity and freedom, as well as for global security. We also carried out a complete overhaul of our security sector.” To this, he added that Afghanistan’s commando force is doubling and the Air Force is tripling in size.
Furthermore, President Ghani pointed about the achievement in terms of economy. “We managed to increase revenue 70 percent between 2014 and 2017”, Ghani said at Geneva conference.
Moreover, President Ghani made sure he appreciated the recent developments in sports sector, especially cricket, “Our cricket team broke barriers to become one of top ten cricket teams in the world”.
He also remarked how the Afghan government has advanced in providing a legal foundation for a modern economy, society, and the state. “Today, we are prosecuting those who are corrupt, including high-level former government officials; we have taken unprecedented steps in extending access to justice for women in the provinces; we have cleaned house in our justice sector, ensuring that the message of intolerance for corruption is engrained”, he said as he shed light on the anti-corruption enforcements. He also said that “The problem of corruption is systematic, solution should also be the same”.
Talking about the upcoming Presidential Elections in 2019, Ghani commented that Afghans have already demonstrated their belief in an “inclusive, transparent, and timely elections” which is “the key to the renewal of bonds between them and their elected government” and that’s how, according to Ghani, the Afghans have “firmly rejected any notions of extra-constitutional change”.
“Presidential elections in the spring are key to successful peace negotiations. The Afghan people need an elected government with a mandate to obtain ratification, implement a peace agreement, and lead the societal reconciliation process,” he added.
He also briefed about the recent parliamentary elections that took place in October and was glad to inform that a “generational change will take place in the next parliament if preliminary information is an indication of overall results in the parliamentary elections”.
Ghani informed that Afghanistan’s Civil Service Commission has hired 22,000 new civil servants, over 17,000 of them new teachers which is going to increase efficiency of the working of public institutions and enhance education sector.
But, he also acknowledged the issues in education-“We need to agree on an inclusive model of growth” Ghani told Geneva conference while adding that over a million children are not attending school. For this, Ghani announced that this year, the government introduced a comprehensive reform package for education sector and allocated resources to build 6,000 schools within two years, and hire 30,000 female teachers in the next five years.
Taking the discussion ahead to gender aspects, President Ghani reiterated that “Women’s participation is of strategic importance to our country’s national security and economic development. We stand together, the women and men of Afghanistan, for the rights of all”. He also assured that “Women’s rights are human rights and are protected by Afghanistan’s Constitution”.
President Ghani shed light on the problem of “criminal militia” in his address at Geneva Summit as he pointed that there are a number of “irresponsible and illegal armed groups” still active throughout the country. “A criminal is a criminal, regardless of ethnicity, province, religion, power, or wealth,” he remarked.
President Ghani, while highlighting the gaps in development and bringing the ways in which those can be attended to, said that the areas that require urgent attention are infrastructure, policing, revenue generation, and business practices for the private sector. “We request that our partners in infrastructure development reach an agreement with us on an outcomes-based approach,” he said. He admitted the poverty problem in Afghanistan while expressing that “Afghans are not only haunted by violence, but also poverty, adding that over 40% of Afghan people are living below the poverty line.”
Finally, President Ghani unveiled the new long-term plan for peace which was one of the most awaited aspects.
“After several months of intensive consultations with citizens across the country, we have formulated a roadmap for peace negotiations,” he said. “We are now moving ahead into the next chapter of the peace process.”
Ghani announced all the tangible steps that shall be taken on peace process including formation of a 12 person negotiating team comprised of both men and women. A Diverse peace advisory board has been set up to input into the peace negotiations too. Additionally, he announced that the High Peace council will be be restructured to advise and focus on post-peace scenarios.
Emphasising on the commitment of Afghanistan towards peace, he expressed “Peace is our national imperative. But while we pursue peace, we must also continue implementing the reforms agenda, and simultaneously address immediate needs of millions of our people.” Ghani brought a sense of urgency to this reform as he stated that 3 million Afghans and three provinces of the country face emergency conditions and an additional 8 million in 26 provinces face conditions of crisis.
Describing more on the peace plan, he explained “Our offer of peace is unconditional, but peace is conditional”. He demanded that the Taliban must cut ties to armed groups with ties to transnational terrorist networks or transnational criminal organisations, or with ties to state/non-state actors seeking influence in Afghanistan.
But turning a new page over the haunting of a violent past, President Ghani turned to the future, then tomorrow of Afghanistan as he said that “What has emerged in the past five years are new Afghans leading a new Afghanistan. Born in conflict, they grew up in adversity but came of age during the dawn of new opportunities, opened up by global engagement in 2001. They have mastered the world, and even more importantly, the harsh paradoxes of Afghan reality. They have what is needed to manage the second half of this transformation to 2024 and beyond…While I am assured by our young Afghan leaders,…
…the future, to a large extend, depends on whether or not the international and regional partners find common cause and mutual interests with these new Afghans.”
“I announce the roadmap for peace and requirements. Peace agreement must be a part of a democratic & inclusive society. Constitution must be upheld. Rights of all citizens, of women, must be upheld,” Ghani concluded as he revealed the new plan for peace.
Hamed Ahmadi contributed reporting.