1 February 2006

In Statement to London Conference, Secretary-General Says Providing Assistance to Afghanistan Is in Interest of "Entire International Community"

NEW YORK, 31 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the opening statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the London Conference on Afghanistan today:

We gather at an important moment in Afghanistan's difficult journey back from conflict and devastation.  From a nation held hostage by terror and by terrorists, Afghanistan today is a nascent democracy.  A democratic constitution, a representative national parliament, and a legitimate elected government all signal a renewed and progressively reinvigorated Afghan State, one which becomes better equipped with each passing month to improve security and expand reconstruction.

Yet our optimism is necessarily tempered by the serious challenges ahead.  Recent violence has served as a sad reminder of the fragile state of peace in the country.  Afghanistan today remains an insecure environment.  Terrorism, extremist violence, the illicit narcotics industry and the corruption it nurtures, threaten not only continued State building, but also the fruits of the Bonn Process.

These are serious problems which, ultimately, the brave people and leaders of Afghanistan must address.  Indeed, they are already doing so by leading the way in Afghanistan's transition to democracy and representative government.

But as we have learnt, Afghanistan's progress is also a global concern.  It is in the interest of the entire international community to provide assistance as the country consolidates its moves towards peace, democracy and, above all, security, which underpins advancement on every other front.  The partnership which emerged in Bonn, and which we renew today, must continue to support the Afghan people.  It must support them as they work to realize their vision of a vibrant Afghan State, equipped with effective and impartial security forces, respectful of human rights; a professional civilian administration; a functioning justice system; and the ability to address the basic needs of its people.

This ambitious agenda underpins the Afghanistan Compact.  It commits those around this table, as representatives of the international community, to sustained and prolonged engagement in Afghanistan's future.  It puts security concerns at the head of its list of priorities.  It addresses the critical areas of rule of law and governance, development and reconstruction, and narcotics.  It sets forth measurable and time-bound benchmarks on a clear set of priorities.  In short, it presents a result-oriented action plan for Afghanistan's future.

As the Afghan Government, under President Karzai's able leadership, and the international community work to implement this plan, the United Nations stands ready to assist.  As co-chair of the Compact's Monitoring Board, the UN will support Government efforts to make international assistance more visible to the Afghan people.  And we will seek to guide and coordinate the Compact's implementation.  In this role we will build on the UN's extensive participation in the Bonn Process, where our Organization was led so ably by Lakhdar Brahimi, who is with us today.  We will always be proud of Lakhdar's service, and seek to follow his example.  Of course, our continued success in this undertaking will also depend on the steadfast cooperation and involvement of everyone assembled here today.  I am grateful for the cooperation you have extended to my Special Representative, Jean Arnault, in his tireless work for a stable and democratic Afghanistan.  I hope that you will continue to work closely with his successor, Tom Koenigs.

This is a time for committed action.  After being forced to sacrifice so much in war, the Afghan people have willingly given even more to peace.  They expect a peace dividend.  And they deserve it.  President Karzai, together with Speaker Mojadeddi and Speaker Qanooni, and Afghan leaders at all levels, must deliver.  The long-term stability of the Afghan State, and the credibility of its Government, both depend on it.

We can be justifiably proud of Afghanistan's progress in recent years.  But we cannot be complacent.  That is why I join you today in reaffirming the international community's enduring commitment to the people and future of Afghanistan.

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