5 October 2016, Brussels – The European Union and the Government of Afghanistan today co-host the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. This will gather more than 70 countries and 20 International Organisations and agencies, to provide a platform for the government of Afghanistan to set out its vision and track record on reform.
For the international community, it will be the opportunity to signal sustained political and financial support to Afghan peace, state-building and development.
The EU will be represented by High Representative Federica Mogherini, President of the European Council, Donald Tusk and European Commissioner for Development Cooperation, Neven Mimica. President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah will represent Afghanistan.
Speaking to the press before the conference, High Representative Mogherini said: “I expect today to collect pledges from around the world at the same level, similar level that the international community has mobilised so far. When it comes to the European Union and the Member States, we will pledge €1.2 billion. I would expect similar levels of engagement from our partners.”
In her opening speech Federica Mogherini told those assembled that: “Afghanistan is a land of immense opportunities. Immense opportunities that have been and to a certain extent still are held back. But if we are all here today, 100 delegations from all around the world, it is because we believe that this potential can be fully developed to the benefit of all Afghans and also to the benefit of all of us.”
She went on: “Change is coming to Afghanistan. Since 2001 Afghanistan has achieved incredible progress. And when I say incredible, this does not mean that everything is rosy today, on the contrary. But it is impressive that 15 years ago what is happening today was something unbelievable, something unimaginable. ”
She went on to give some examples of progress: “The life expectancy for Afghan people has grown in 15 years from 45 years to over 60 years. In 2001, one of every four children born in Afghanistan died by the age of five. Today this number is still too high, but it was cut from one every four to one in every ten. Ten times more children go to school in Afghanistan, and over three million girls are finally getting the education. We still have a lot of work to do, but these are incredible numbers.”
On the aims of the conference Mogherini said: “Today we renew our commitment to stand united on the side of the Afghan people; united the entire international community and the regional players to counter the forces that oppose growth and reconciliation, and to keep sustaining change.”
On Tuesday 4 October, the conference kicked off with an event on regional economic cooperation and another on women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.
Mogherini organised a dinner on Tuesday evening with key international players – the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and ministers from key regional players, such as China, India and Pakistan, to work on a common basis for a regional political support to the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
The women’s event brought together high-level participants and panellists from across the international community, including the First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani. They discussed the ways and means of empowering Afghan women to build a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, as well as reinforcing the political and human rights of Afghan women and how to realise those rights in everyday life.
“The empowerment of women is not only a matter of human rights and social justice; it is also about development; it is about human growth; it’s about security; it is about fulfilling the potential of Afghanistan,” Federica Mogherini said. “A commitment towards women is a commitment towards stronger, richer and more just societies and as the European Union we are supporting this process both politically and as the biggest financial contributor to the country’s new National Action Plan for Women.”
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