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UAE will continue to enhance constructive engagement of global community in Afghanistan: Gargash

posted on 01/12/2010: 855 views


Afghanistan is an issue of the uppermost concern, and the UAE has invested much in engaging in a substantive partnership with the Afghani people and government, Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said yesterday.

'The UAE was among the first Muslim countries to provide financial, technical and military support to Afghanistan. Indeed, the UAE consistently calls for Muslim countries to engage on the ground in Afghanistan. Because the struggle for Afghanistan's future is not a ‘clash of civilisations' between east and west; it is an international effort to secure long-term peace and stability, Dr. Gargash said in his opening address at Afghanistan International Investment Conference which started today in Dubai.

Countries can channel their international assistance to Afghanistan in ways that contribute toward this crucial achievement of economic prosperity. Since 2002, the UAE has contributed some 16 million Dirhams to water irrigation projects in Afghanistan to facilitate agricultural development in rural areas.

'In the same period we have contributed some 28 million Dirhams to the health sector; some 26 million Dirhams to the education sector. And we have contributed 189 million Dirhams to infrastructure and housing: providing the capital base for the economy to develop and prosper.

'The UAE will continue to work to enhance the constructive engagement of the global community in Afghanistan to ensure that it is not,” he stressed.

The opening session was attended by GCC Secretary General Hamad Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, Foreign Ministers Kevin Rudd of Australia and Franco Frattini of Italy and a number of Emarati and Afghani ministers.

Following is the full speech of Gargash:

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates Ladies and Gentleman Let me first apologise on behalf of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, who is unable to be here with us today. He sends his sincere apologies. Afghanistan is an issue of the uppermost concern to him, and he has invested much in engaging the UAE in a substantive partnership with the Afghani people and government, so I know that he regrets missing today's event. On his behalf, I'd like to welcome you all to the United Arab Emirates and to the first Afghanistan International Investment Conference. Your attendance here reflects the importance of attracting private and public investment to Afghanistan if we are to achieve long-term goals of stability, security and prosperity.

I would particularly like to welcome HE Dr Zalmai Rassoul, foreign minister of Afghanistan, who has shown great leadership in generating international support for the economic transition process at home in Afghanistan. I would also like to express my warm welcome to the other foreign ministers who have taken time out from their busy schedules to come to Dubai for the conference today. Foreign Minister Rudd, Foreign Minister Frattini, welcome.

I am proud that this important conference is taking place here in the UAE. In hosting this initiative we are following the important Kabul Conference on Afghanistan, held on 20 July 2010, which established ministerial clusters on key areas such as human resource development and agriculture and rural development. The Afghanistan International Investment Conference seeks to build upon the advances made in the Kabul Conference by attracting public and private investment which will in turn promote growth and employment and generate revenues for the government.

Afghanistan's strategic location endows it with great potential to reap economic benefits. Afghanistan is positioned to be a dynamic economic hub - linking three major economic zones: Central Asia, South Asia and the wider Gulf region. This is a role Afghanistan has played before: when for centuries the city of Herat was an important hub along the bustling trade routes that linked East and West.

It is a role that Afghanistan can play again. While today Afghanistan faces multiple and grave challenges, these can be overcome through steady domestic leadership, and through fully committed and consistent support from its international partners. Let me emphasise here that the UAE was among the first Muslim countries to provide financial, technical and military support to Afghanistan. Indeed, the UAE consistently calls for Muslim countries to engage on the ground in Afghanistan. Because the struggle for Afghanistan's future is not a ‘clash of civilisations' between east and west; it is an international effort to secure long-term peace and stability.

While security dominates the agenda of the international community in its support for Afghanistan, economic stability and growth must also play a crucial part in enhancing Afghanistan's security. Without economic transition and growth it will be impossible to create the prosperous and secure future for Afghanistan that its people deserve.

Countries can channel their international assistance to Afghanistan in ways that contribute toward this crucial achievement of economic prosperity. Since 2002, the UAE has contributed some 16 million Dirhams to water irrigation projects in Afghanistan to facilitate agricultural development in rural areas. In the same period we have contributed some 28 million Dirhams to the health sector; some 26 million Dirhams to the education sector. And we have contributed 189 million Dirhams to infrastructure and housing: providing the capital base for the economy to develop and prosper.

But this kind of assistance can also come in the form of grassroots support to small, community-based business activity in Afghanistan. In June 2010, the UAE partnered with a local Afghani investor, Tanweer Investments, to launch the Fatima Bint Mohammed bin Zayed Initiative, a carpet production and community development program in Afghanistan. The Fatima Bint Mohammed bin Zayed Initiative offers women income generating employment in an industry they already possess skills in as well as access to critical social services including adult vocational training, children's education, and free health care. To date, the Fatima Bint Mohammed bin Zayed Initiative has created employment for more than 2,700 low income Afghans, 70% of whom are women, and provides a model for entrepreneurial public-private partnerships around the world. Such business ventures can generate wider outcomes of positive social value: so that in this initiative the benefits Afghan women derive from access to vocational training, education and healthcare have positive spillover effects throughout local communities and wider Afghan society.

Foreign direct investment is another outstanding way for countries to support the development of Afghanistan's economic prosperity. There are many opportunities for Foreign Direct Investment in Afghanistan - including in sectors such as mining, agriculture, energy, telecommunications, and transportation infrastructure. Too often international investors feel that they do not have enough information on the opportunities available to them in the country; and they are discouraged by the relentless focus of the international news media on the undeniable challenges that the country faces. It is the purpose of this conference to help to close that gap in understanding and bring businesses closer to those opportunities.

Emirati businesses have already been pioneers in this regard: Our leading telecommunications provider, Etisalaat, has been operating in Afghanistan for two years, and expanding continually since then. Today Etisalaat has over 3 million subscribers in Afghanistan. This is truly an example of how private investment can lead the way in driving the Afghan economy, and such investments are outstanding ways in which countries can signal the international community's long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

Indeed, the UAE we feel we are uniquely able to facilitate this partnership between Afghanistan and investor countries because it is something with which we are deeply familiar ourselves. The pursuit of dynamic economic transition and expanding prosperity for citizens is one whose importance we recognise from our own history. The UAE's model shows that economic progress can be combined with safeguarding traditional values. We believe that Afghanistan should not be denied a similar opportunity. The UAE will continue to work to enhance the constructive engagement of the global community in Afghanistan to ensure that it is not.

I hope this event will be the first of many and will encourage a greater economic exchange between Afghanistan and the international community. Let us be mindful that encouraging investment in Afghanistan is of long term benefit to not only Afghanistan's economy, but to the economic prosperity and security of all the countries of its wider neighbourhood and indeed the world. I wish you every success in your future collaborations. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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