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'Keep Afghanistan on the path towards stability,' Ban tells Brussels Conference

5 October 2016 – Addressing a conference aimed at charting a way forward for conflict-ravaged Afghanistan, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the international community to sustain its commitment to support the country and its people, while stressing the importance of holding both donors and the Afghan Government accountable for aid effectiveness.

"In their efforts to rebuild their country, the people of Afghanistan have been able to count on international development assistance," Mr. Ban told the gathering of representatives from some 70 countries and 20 international organizations and agencies in the Belgian capital of Brussels, which was co-hosted by the European Union and the Afghan Government.

"To consolidate gains, international support will remain necessary for years to come," the UN chief said, stressing the importance of ensuring that assistance is predictable, shaped by sustained commitment to mutual accountability and aid effectiveness, and aligned with the priorities of the Afghan Government as set out in its national peace and development framework.

Afghanistan has been in protracted conflict for almost 35 years, which has seen an ever-growing number of civilians killed and poverty reduction and development efforts seriously hampered.

The Brussels conference comes two years after the London conference, which provided a platform for then newly-elected president Ashraf Ghani to set out his Government's vision for reform and for the international community to demonstrate enduring solidarity and support for Afghanistan. The Government outlined a clear path toward a better future, including measures to tackle corruption, advance governance reforms, and address the illicit economy.

The Brussels conference is also a follow-up from the 2012 Tokyo conference where the international community agreed to provide four billion euros a year in funding until the end of 2016, based on a partnership of mutual accountability.

"The commitments of this [Brussels] Conference provide a crucial window of opportunity for the next four years," Mr. Ban said.

He highlighted important headway the Government has made since the London conference towards promoting transparency, accountability, and improving public services, despite complex challenges.

"Of course, the ultimate goal of the reform agenda is real change in people's lives," he said. "The substantial levels of assistance that this Conference is seeking can only be justified – to the people of Afghanistan and of donor countries – if the lives of Afghans are visibly and sustainably improved."

In this regard, he said Afghanistan's women must be provided greater space to play their full role as political actors and peace-makers. He went on to welcome the Government's commitment to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs) which is crucial to reduce poverty, address food insecurity and child malnutrition, improve literacy rates and empower women and girls.

However, conflict remains the main obstacle to the prosperous future that the people of Afghanistan deserve, Mr. Ban warned.

"I am deeply concerned by the record numbers of civilian casualties and growing numbers of people forced from their homes," he said, citing that this year alone, more than one million Afghans will be on the move within Afghanistan and across borders.

In an interview with the UN News Centre ahead of the Brussels conference, Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission there (UNAMA), said that the most fundamental challenge in the country is security, which affects all activities of life.

After the drawdown of the international forces in 2014, the Taliban has tested the ability of Afghan national forces to defend the country, creating a rather difficult situation in 2015, when the Taliban insurgency was able to make headway in terms of expanding their areas of control, Mr. Yamamoto said.

In today's address, the Secretary-General stressed the need to support a peace process for Afghanistan and the region, calling on all of Afghanistan's regional partners to seize opportunities for cooperation and do their part to help build a prosperous and peaceful future.

"My message is clear: Keep Afghanistan on the path towards stability, accountability and greater self-reliance. Build bridges. Put the Afghan people first," Mr. Ban said.

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