Kabul International Conference on Afghanistan

Statement by Mr R C Smith, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Statement as delivered

20 July 2010

Co-Chairs, Dr Soraya Dalil and Mr Staffan de Mistura

Distinguished colleagues, Excellencies

Australia is pleased to participate in today’s historic conference. Our Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, wanted to be part of this important follow-up to the London Conference, but has been required to devote his full attention to the general election which was called just three days ago.

The Minister has asked me to represent him and to start by reaffirming Australia’s strong commitment to Afghanistan and our support for increasingly Afghan-led efforts to bring peace, stability and development opportunity to the Afghan people. Australia’s contribution for those efforts is steadfast. Our resolve remains firm.

Today’s meeting is significant. It is the first high level international conference to be held in Afghanistan, and as such represents an important step in the Kabul Process. It is an important demonstration of the international community’s continued partnership with the Afghan Government as it takes forward its priorities and plans to deliver strengthened security and governance and enhanced economic and social development for the people of this country.

We commend President Karzai and his ministerial team for their dedication and hard work in formulating these plans. The proposed reforms they embrace are necessary to build effective and inclusive government – government that enjoys the confidence of the Afghan people. Effective action to implement these reforms, particularly in relation to tackling corruption and improving government accountability, is imperative and we strongly support the undertakings of the Afghan Government, many of them time-bound, to address these challenges.

Australia welcomes the national priority programs presented to this meeting which we believe can build usefully on the commitments made by President Karzai in London earlier this year. We note that programs to promote economic and social development are central to broader efforts to foster reintegration and reconciliation, which we see as key to an enduring political settlement to the conflict.

Australia welcomes the President's decree of 29 June 2010 committing his government to implementing the National Consultative Peace Jirga's recommendations on peace, reconciliation and reintegration.

We look forward to implementation of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program as a high priority for the Afghan Government and its international partners. At the London Conference, Australia committed A$25 million for the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund, to help finance reintegration efforts. I am pleased to announce today that we are ready to release the first tranche of US 5 million to support APRP activity, to be delivered through the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). Australia would hope to have an ongoing role in the administration of the relevant funding mechanisms.

Australia strongly supports Afghan Government goals and planning for the assumption of full authority for security, noting that this process will be phased, conditions-based and with the continued mentoring and training support of the international community. Australia will continue to assign high priority to efforts to building the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (through both our mentoring and training mission and our substantial contribution to the ANA Trust Fund), and looks forward to further consultation with the Afghan Government and our ISAF partners on the Inteqal process.

Transition is not just about security. It is also about improving governance capacity and the development conditions necessary to sustain stability.

To this end, over the past year, Australia has built up its civilian engagement in Afghanistan. Since the London Conference, we have delivered a 50 per cent increase in our civilian commitment including through an enhanced civilian presence in Kabul and in Uruzgan province. We have also increased our development budget by 50 per cent.

It is vital that, collectively, we work together to bolster the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Afghan Government in the eyes of the Afghan people at all levels. For its part, Australia is aligning its assistance with the priorities outlined by the Afghan Government under the Afghan National Development Strategy. We are committed to channeling at least 50 per cent of our development assistance through Afghan programs, consistent with the undertakings we made at the London Conference. We are assisting the Government to strengthen its capacity to deliver services and increase its accountability.

Australia is pleased that today’s conference has emphasized so strongly the importance of regional engagement and cooperation in taking forward the Kabul Process. All of Afghanistan’s neighbours share critical interests in Afghanistan’s security and long term stability, and can play a constructive role in helping to promote Afghanistan’s social and economic development and integration within the region. In this context, we warmly welcome the conclusion of the Trade Transit Agreement between the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan on 18 July 2010.

Building confidence on the basis of mutual interests and responsibility is an essential part of this engagement. We note the many constructive and practical ideas contained in the concept paper prepared by the Afghan Government on regional cooperation, and encourage further work to develop these ideas.