Statement by the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Margot Wallström, at the Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan 28 November 2018
I would like to begin by thanking the Government of Afghanistan and UNAMA for having organized this conference as an important political follow up to the successful donors’ conference two years ago in Brussels. Today we have an opportunity to start turning the path of Afghanistan in a different, more peaceful and better direction.
One year ago, I visited Kabul and Herat. We met with people in the midst of conflict. I was struck by their continued struggle, day after day, to make ends meet. I was impressed that despite hardship and violence, they worked hard to strengthen their local communities. One small example: during our visit we were even invited to a very modest movie screening, showing that culture can endure even where people have limited means.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of independence for Afghanistan. Too many of these years have been filled with chaos and war.
A number of issues will be decisive for the future of the people of Afghanistan, in particular the young and hopeful.
First, the peace process. Sweden welcomes the renewed efforts towards a political settlement in Afghanistan. The invitation by President Ghani to talks without precondition is an important step forward. It should be supported.
But, peace is more than a political declaration. A successful peace process must include the fundamental role of the women of Afghanistan. Although some progress has been achieved in strengthening the role of women in Afghan society over the past 17 years, more needs to be done.
Second, the elections. Free and fair elections are essential parts of a democracy. The turnout in the recent elections seems to have been significant considering the security situation. By going to the polls, voters showed their commitment to democracy and desire for peace. But operational and organizational shortcomings were apparent and must be addressed.
Thirdly, progress in the reform process will be key to sustained development and the agenda is long. We are happy to see the anti-corruption framework improving but it needs implementation. The National Action Plan for SCR 1325 is moving on and needs to be integrated in national programs through the regular budget. Investments in health care and education have meant a lot to both girls and boys but more must be done. The expansion of education, especially empowering young girls, has a tremendous potential to make a positive long-term change for Afghanistan.
Finally, Sweden’s development cooperation commitment is strong and long-term. Afghanistan is our single largest development partner and our present commitment extends through 2024. We have also increased our contribution to the humanitarian efforts and we have men and women participating in the Resolute Support Mission.
We will continue to be a good friend of Afghanistan and continue to support efforts towards a sustainable and inclusive development also after a peace agreement has been achieved – working together to make the next 100 years of Afghanistan brighter.