Statement of H. E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan
Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)
21 June 2012
I wish to begin by thanking the Government of Brazil for hosting this historic
conference. It is a distinct pleasure to be here today in this beautiful city.
We have come together in Rio for a common goal: ensuring a better future for the
7 billion people sharing this earth, and committing ourselves to a healthy, secure
and prosperous world. Afghanistan is convinced that through effective and resultoriented
cooperation and collaboration, we can realize our shared objective for
I speak to you on behalf of the people of Afghanistan. Two decades of strife and
conflict have brought untold suffering upon the Afghan people. Poverty, hunger,
and dismal socio-economic conditions have regrettably become part of daily life
for many. Roughly one third of our people live below the national poverty line.
Gender gaps in both literacy and education, and meager opportunities for
employment remain a challenge, and have yet to be fully addressed. Terrorism that
has its roots and support systems outside our country, environmental and
geographic vulnerabilities have complicated our efforts to overcome these
challenges and unleash our human, resource, trade and transit potential.
Madam . President,
Despite the obstacles at hand, Afghanistan has made considerable, historic
progress in improving the lives of our citizens over the past decade, better enabling
them to live in safety and prosperity.
Over the past ten years, with support from the international community, we have
made many improvements: More than 8 million children are currently attending
schools throughout the country and 50,000 students are enrolled in universities;
close to 90 percent of our population has access to primary health services; and the
rate of child and maternal mortality has decreased significantly.
Thousands of kilometers of roads have been constructed or repaired, and extensive
work has been done in the area of rural development with a special focus on local
community empowerment, agriculture and irrigation. Afghan women are playing
an increasingly visible and tangible role in politics, culture and the economy.
Together, these advances are helping to improve human capital, trade, transit, and
food security. Above all, we’ve restored the foundations of democratic
governance: Afghanistan today is a young democracy with an elected parliament,
elected provincial councils and a free and independent media that allow our
citizens a direct say in their country’s governance.
To further our development goals, we are also working diligently to make use of
our untapped natural resources. We consider our natural treasures to be a catalyst
for enriching our country, attracting foreign investment, increasing the rate of
employment, and contributing to our overall stability and prosperity.
Having come so far, we are now focusing on making our progress irreversible and
sustainable. We acknowledge that national ownership and international
partnerships are key for sustainability of all three pillars of development.
Therefore, Madam . President, full transition to Afghan ownership and leadership
is a top priority for my Government.
Currently, we are in the process of building an Afghanistan in which the needs of
the Afghan people are met by the Afghan people themselves. In this regard, we are
on track to assume full responsibility for security in Afghanistan by end 2014. We
will continue to work closely with the international community during the
Transformation Decade of 2014-2025 to address our long-term social, economic,
and developmental challenges.
Continued and sustained support of the international community will be
particularly important in these years to come. Despite the aspirations for
sustainable growth and development, the task will be impossible for Afghanistan
without sufficient means of implementation. In this respect, and as a Least
Developed Country (LDC), we strongly support the implementation of Istanbul
Programme of Action for the LDCs ( 2011-2020) and emphasize the fulfillment
of past pledges of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and an increase in the
level of financial support.
We have come together at this historic conference to cooperate on a global level.
However, the success of Rio+20 depends on the extent to which the agreements we
make here are concrete and will help improve the lives of people around the world.
In this context we support global efforts to come closer together, to share
experiences, technology and resources.
And from an Afghan perspective, we need these concrete agreements so that we
can integrate them into our national sustainable development planning during our
transformation decade between 2014 and 2025.
As a land-locked developing country, we support the Almaty Programme of Action
and an increased level of regional cooperation. Through various processes,
including the promising Istanbul Process for building confidence and strengthening
cooperation in the Heart of Asia region whose second successful ministerial
meeting we hosted in Kabul just last week, we are working to restore
Afghanistan’s historic role as a land-bridge connecting South Asia, Central Asia
and Eurasia and the Middle East. Invoking our historical roots as a crossroads of
trade routes, we hope to be at the center of regional connectivity. Opening these
paths will not only help Afghans but improve the lives of people around the region.
It is in this context that we see the importance of South-South cooperation, which
will also complement North-South cooperation. Therefore, we support an
acceleration of this process.
The building of infrastructure and capacity is of the utmost importance to
achieving sustainable development. Only by building up our human and physical
capital can we combat endemic unemployment and poverty.
The sharing of knowledge and experience is critical to our success. This is what we
have come to realize over the past ten years. Now, during our transformation
decade, it is important that the sharing of technology and experience helps to create
a sustainable Afghanistan.
We are pleased to see the progress that has been made on this front here at Rio and
we hope to see the implementation of these transfers soon.
Madam . President,
It is my fervent hope that Rio+20 will prove to be a historic success in launching
the entire world—including the Least Developed Countries—into a future of
sustainable development. I wish to reiterate my Government’s resolute
commitment to helping advance cooperation for sustainable development at the