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The Meeting On Afghan Reconstruction

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release November 20, 2001

Remarks By Under Secretary Of Treasury For International Affairs John B. Taylor, Under Secretary Of State For Economic, Business And Agricultural Affairs Alan Larson Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Oshima, And Japanese Vice Minister Of Finance Kurode In Closing Remarks At The Meeting On Afghan Reconstruction

November 20, 2001 Dean Acheson Auditorium U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C.

2:50 P.M. EST

UNDER SECRETARY LARSON: Good afternoon. We've just had an extraordinarily significant and interesting conference next door. On short notice, we asked countries from all around the world to join us in having a discussion on the issue of reconstruction assistance for Afghanistan.

There was a very rich debate and an action program that flowed out of this meeting that we'll be very busy implementing in the days, weeks and months to come. One of the most important conclusions of the conference is to underscore the central role of the United Nations, which is playing and will continue to play a vital role in Afghanistan. It is also clear that the effort at reconstruction cannot be viewed separately from the process of political development.

There was a very clear understanding among all the participants that one of our top priorities is going to be to have quick-hitting projects in Afghanistan that can help inspire hope and that can help the Afghan people understand that the international community is ready and able to help them build better lives for themselves and their children.

Today, we agreed to establish a steering group that will provide political guidance to this effort and help mobilize support from all around the world for the effort at reconstruction. Very significantly, four countries stepped forward today to agree to play a leadership role as co-chairs of this steering group: Japan and the United States, which were the co-chairs of this conference, as well as the European Union and Saudi Arabia. We're determined to have this be a light and effective organization, one that will provide some real political momentum.

There was also a commitment on the part of the European Union to bring people together next month, to continue and deepen this work. There was a very strong request from the conference that Japan be prepared to hold a ministerial-level conference in January so that we could get commitments from countries to the task of reconstruction development in Afghanistan. And as my Japanese colleague will say, the Japanese Government gave a very positive response to that request.

I want to underscore, before turning the podium over to Deputy Foreign Minister Oshima, that the degree of common feeling and likemindedness and the focus on very, very specific issues -- agriculture and repairing of roads, ensuring shelter and things of that sort -- was evident throughout the session. This was a real roll-up-your-sleeves meeting, and I think it augers well for the effort that lies ahead.

I'd like to invite Deputy Foreign Minister Oshima.

DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER OSHIMA: Thank you very much. Thank you to all of you who are here.

As my friend and colleague Under Secretary Larson just mentioned, we had a very fruitful and successful meeting this morning and this afternoon. Although this meeting was called at such short notice, there were very many participants, indicating the importance of the governments who have assembled attached to this endeavor, which is a major endeavor and a huge task ahead.

On the substance, I have not much to add to the very able quick summary that Alan Larson has just made. But I did want to add one aspect that appeared throughout the whole meeting. And that was the importance of involving the Afghans themselves in this effort to reconstruct this country, Afghanistan, after the conflict is over.

As to the process, as Alan Larson just mentioned, there was a strong call from the conference to have a succession of meetings, and the Japanese Government have agreed to host a ministerial-level meeting of this conference on a larger participation in the latter half of January next year.

Thank you very much.

UNDER SECRETARY TAYLOR: Thank you very much. A great deal of stress at this conference was placed both on humanitarian efforts to help the Afghan people, as well as on economic reconstruction efforts, which will also aim to have a lasting help to the Afghan people.

And in regard to both those items, there was a great deal of emphasis placed on how there is interaction between the humanitarian effort, which is already under way, and the economic reconstruction, which will be continuing in the years ahead.

There was a feeling that if we could make that connection clear, we could get results to the Afghan people in a more timely way. For example, working on agriculture at the beginning, trying to have ways in which the seed, for example, to begin to think about next year's crops, could already be brought into place in a very specific way.

Another example of how the humanitarian will feed into the reconstruction is in the area of education. Education has been restricted dramatically in the last few years. We can help the Afghan people to begin with reconstructing schools, bringing teachers, especially women teachers, back into the classrooms, and that will have, of course, an important effect eventually on improving literacy rates, which are extraordinarily low right now, but in the short term, having direct income effects so that the Afghan people have more money to spend to improve their living standards in the short run.

This interaction between the humanitarian and economic construction was a great deal of discussion at the conference, and I think it shows the direction where we're heading in the months ahead.

Thank you.

VICE MINISTER KURODE: Thank you. As prior speakers emphasized, we had a very good, useful, constructive discussion on the rehabilitation and the reconstruction of the Afghan economy. Particularly in the context of reconstruction discussion, the World Bank, UNDP and ADB contributed greatly so that we understood quite well about the situation in Afghanistan, as well as the need to reconstruct, rehabilitate the Afghan economy.

In that context, we asked the World Bank, UNDP, and ADB to conduct urgently a comprehensive need assessment so that the ministerial conference to be held in Japan should be informed about the need of assistance to Afghanistan.

We think that these institutions -- World Bank, UNDP, and ADB -- should develop and assess alternative approaches to facilitate the connection between relief, recovery and reconstruction. And all participants recognize that the need assessment would be increasingly comprehensive with time.

Thank you.

3:00 P.M. EST

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