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Reconstruction Of Afghanistan - O'Neill & Ogata


Reconstruction Of Afghanistan - Remarks By Treasury Secretary O'Neill And Japanese Minister Sadako Ogata

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release

November 20, 2001

Remarks By Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill And Representative of the Japanese Prime Minister Sadako Ogata At The Working Session On The Reconstruction Of Afghanistan

November 20, 2001 Loy Henderson Conference Room U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C.

9:10 A.M. EST

MINISTER OGATA: Secretary Powell, Secretary O'Neill, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here and thank you very much for the opportunity that I have been given.

Afghanistan is at a crossroads. The capital, Kabul, is in the hands of the Northern Alliance and the Special Representative of the Secretary General and his UN colleagues already have flown into the city to help establish a transitioning governing body and to engage in assistance activities inside the country. After 22 years, Afghanistan could be on the verge of peace. But it could still face a prolonged period of fragmentation with moving pockets of insecurity.

Today, we gather to discuss for the first time as an international community the issue of the reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is to focus our thoughts on the future vision of the country, pledge our readiness to provide effective and sustained support, and to give hope to the Afghan people.

The Japanese people and government have taken great interest in the situation in Afghanistan and the Prime Minister personally has asked me to represent him. I would say that Japan has a record of supporting Afghan people in their efforts to help repatriation and reintegration of refugees, to demine the heavily infested areas within the country, and to promote dialogue among different Afghan parties for political reconciliation.

In this context, it has proposed over the years to host a conference in Tokyo for the peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is a pleasure, therefore, for Japan to co-chair this meeting as a further step to realize its longstanding commitment, together with the United States and other like-minded countries.

Before proceeding, however, I wish to recall the terrorist attacks of September 11th in New York and in Washington, and to extend again our sympathies to the innocent victims. I should also like to emphasize that the threat of terrorism has not been overcome. The international community must continue to fight for its eradication. One lesson we have learned is that we should not allow the continued existence of a failed or a destitute country that could turn into a hotbed of terrorism.

Allow me to say a few words about my own involvement. The Afghans have been the largest group of refugees in the world, and the people of Afghanistan have been suffering from war and deprivation over the decades. As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, I was directly exposed to their voices of grief. Just last year, I made an extensive visit through Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran and tried my very best to mobilize international support. I'm afraid my efforts fell on deaf ears.

The international community was too indifferent towards the Afghans. And I believe the time has now come to learn of our past failures.

First, the present developments in Afghanistan have significantly enhanced the urgency and the possibility to extend humanitarian assistance. While continuing assistance to the refugee hosting neighboring countries, the humanitarian assistance activities should move quickly inside Afghanistan. The emergent needs of the returning refugees and displaced persons, as well as affected civilians are huge, whether in food, shelter, water or health. The efforts of the humanitarian agencies should be given strong support by the donor states, notably by the Afghan Support Group, which will be meeting very soon. The security of the humanitarian workers should receive priority attention, as the situation in Afghanistan is far from safe or stable.

Second, the transitional phase from humanitarian assistance activities to reconstruction is a priority issue that should receive the full attention of this meeting. Reconstruction will certainly require significant financial resources and technical skills from the international community. The roads are bad, and I've experienced that. The housing is poor. Health and education facilities are virtually nonexistent. But what I wish to emphasize is the focus on the reintegration and community development activities as the rallying point for the transition and, as such, should be addressed by both the humanitarian and the reconstruction agencies.

Both should hold people building as their action point. The humanitarian agencies have a cadre of local staff, local NGOs and local professionals who could contribute to the rebuilding of the Afghan society. The development agencies have access to the technical and professional Afghan expertise scattered all over the world and particularly in the neighboring countries. Together, they will provide the necessary Afghan men and women who will be the mainstay of Afghan society at the local, provincial and national levels. In this connection, I wish to underscore the importance of introducing Afghan women to positions of leadership as well as of providing them with necessary educational and training opportunities. They have been deprived for far too long and they have a great deal to offer.

In closing, I wish to concur with the statement of the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Brahimi, when he clearly stated at the Security Council last week that reconstruction of Afghanistan will be the "key to bringing peace and stability to that country and is at the heart of the political transition." Thank you very much. (Applause.)

I would like to call on Secretary O'Neill.

SECRETARY O'NEILL: It is a pleasure to be here with Secretary Powell and Madam Ogata to welcome you to this conference, which is of great importance. The facts that we confront in Afghanistan stagger the imagination, with an annual average income of less than $200 per person, in a place where one out of every six children die before their first birthday, in a place where two-thirds of the people are not literate, and where only 13 percent of the population has access to water and even that 13 percent is at risk for the water they do have.

We face as a world a daunting challenge, a challenge that represents the facts of decades of mismanagement and worse. And I think it calls out for those of us who care about economic development and standards of living to demonstrate that, in fact, we can produce in a rapid process a humanitarian aid that directly addresses the issue of starvation and malnutrition, that provides safe and secure water supplies and warm clothing and blankets. And those efforts have already begun with the shipments of thousands of tons of supplies. But the humanitarian effort will be and must be stepped up. And, together, we must plan that as the first line of activity for and with the people of Afghanistan.

In the intermediate term, our challenge is to help the Afghans create the basis for a stable society, a disciplined rule of law, with enforceable contracts, the basic institutions of a civilized society. Schools need to be built and rebuilt. Hospitals need to be provided, so that the elements of decent living can be created in Afghanistan and done quickly after these decades of neglect. Food security needs to be assured.

And then we need to work with the Afghanis to move beyond the beginning stages of democracy and representation with everyone having representation, to create the basis for a sustainable, growing economy, so that the people are able to generate their own basic services and not be a dependency of the world but a thriving economic place of their own making and to see them sustain it will be the real reward.

This necessarily needs to include all Afghanis and it is heartbreaking to see the degree to which women have been intentionally suppressed over these recent years. So there is an immediate thing that we can do to give voice to the unfairness of the treatment that has been provided on a basis of gender and religious belief and ethnic differences. And those of us from around the rest of the world can help to show that it need not be this way, it cannot be this way and it will not be this way.

Our goal is a more peaceful and prosperous world for all the people of all faiths and nationalities. Achieving this goal will require a long- term, sustained commitment from all of us. And this gathering is just the first step in that process in this particular place. Because the need is so clear and compelling, it is my hope that we will demonstrate to the world that not only we care, but we know how to change conditions quickly in a way that make a difference in Afghan life. And Afghanistan can become a demonstration of what the world can do when we join together to bring experience and intelligence of generations to the task.

I wish you well in your formulating activity, and expect to be involved, as we have further conferences, to begin the detailed work of giving meaning and reality to these ideas.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

9:17 A.M. EST

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