Keynote address

by Foreign Minister of Denmark Per Stig Møller at the opening of the plenary meeting of the EAPC Security Forum

  • 25 Jun. 2009
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  • Last updated: 25 Jun. 2009 11:59

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today to address this valuable forum – and in such good company.

            Allow me to begin by praising the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council for its important contribution to furthering partnerships based on a common set of values. The EAPC encompasses and facilitates both political consultations and practical cooperation among partners. The fact that the EAPC spans both the political sphere and the practical level makes it a unique tool for enhancing global security.

The topic of my speech today is Afghanistan, where EAPC partners already provide important contributions, and where our security cooperation is proving its worth. But Afghanistan is also a theatre where our cooperation is being put to the test.

I do not want to paint a bleak picture of Afghanistan, because it is black and white. As the UN Special Representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has pointed out on previous occasions, not all is ‘doom and gloom’.  Significant achievement have been made in Afghanistan: In 2001, 900.000 boys went to school. Today, more than 7 million children are enrolled, out of which 2.4 million are girls. 90% of the population today has access to basic health care, compared to an appalling 8% when the Taleban was in power.  The participation of women in political and economic life is also encouraging.  Two women candidates are running for the Presidency. At the same time, there is progress in the establishment of local development councils, which can drive development projects, and efforts to stimulate the local economies are underway. Furthermore, GNP per capita has risen from 182 USD in 2002 to an estimated 325 USD in 2007. 20.000 km of road have been repaired or built. 3,5 mio. people has a mobile phone connection, compared to a meagre 15.000 under the Taleban, and infant mortality has been reduced with 40.000 pr. year.

But we cannot ignore the fact that daunting challenges remain; Afghanistan is still among the poorest countries in the world, where large numbers of the population do not enjoy the most basic necessities, such as sufficient food and clean water. It is a country with a conflict ridden past, reluctant to let go of its hold on Afghan society. Afghanistan is still marred by terrorism, and insecurity continues to pervade the life of many.  In addition, Afghanistan is struggling with poor governance categorized by a lack of capacity and severe corruption. Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It is also the world’s largest producer of heroin, although more than half of Afghanistan’s provinces are now opium free.

With this black and white picture, there is still all too much black, which means that we have to acknowledge the need for long term commitment in Afghanistan. There are no easy or quick-fix solutions.

The situation in Afghanistan is very complex and demands an innovative and multipronged approach. By this I mean that we must apply a wide range of instruments adapted to the circumstances and in an integrated manner.  Military means alone will not solve the situation.  But military efforts are necessary to pave the way for the civilian efforts, which are strongly needed to ensure stability and development. For there can be no stability without development and no development without security. Integrating military, political and development tools is not a simple matter, but we are making headway, and must keep improving our efforts. 

While it is encouraging that so many partners are involved in Afghanistan, the multitude of actors also raises issues of coordination and leadership. I am of course not suggesting less involvement from anyone – on the contrary, we need to increase our efforts – but I am suggesting that we must get better at delivering our efforts. Afghanistan needs better assistance just as much as it needs more assistance. UNAMA’s coordinating role needs to be strengthened. While this requires more from UNAMA, it also requires that donors are more willing to be coordinated.

Even more important is that we unite behind Afghan plans and priorities. If not, we risk undermining the very national efforts that we are seeking to support. At the end of the day, development will only be sustainable if it is based on local ownership and rooted in local institutions. That is why uncorrupt and democratic governance and governors are so important for building trust in the Afghan state. And this is the only – sustainable - way forward.

In the short run, the elections this August and next year are decisive in advancing the frail Afghan democracy and lending legitimacy to the state. We must assist the Afghans in ensuring a credible and legitimate process before, during and after the elections. A legitimate government is a crucial prerequisite for any stabilization and development effort.

Alas, establishing the legitimacy of the government will not suffice; there can be no lasting stability and sustainable development without good governance, centrally and locally. At the heart of a sustainable governance system are human rights, rule of law and anti-corruption processes. We must demand that Afghan authorities ensure real progress towards good, anti-corrupt, governance - centrally and locally. Corruption is stealing from the poor and wrecking the society.

Therefore we also need to assist the Afghan authorities with building the necessary capacity to deliver good governance. In the longer run, Afghan institutions must be able to deliver rule of law, health, education, job creation – and security – by themselves and for themselves. Because Afghan problems are best solved by Afghans.

Capacity building must be an integral part of the international community’s effort. From a NATO perspective, I am very pleased that NATO at its recent summit decided to strengthen its efforts in building the capacity of the Afghan security forces. Among a range of initiatives is the broadening of the Trust Fund for the sustainment of the Afghan National Army. We hope that the international community will contribute to this.  NATO also decided to increase its role in capacity building of the police forces, which is yet another crucial factor in achieving stability in Afghanistan. The EU, through its EUPOL mission, also delivers important assistance to the strengthening of the police, but admittedly, the EU is not doing enough.

NATO also decided to further develop its engagement with all of Afghanistan’s neighbors in support of long term regional security. Strengthening relations with Pakistan is a particular focus. And this brings me to the last, but by no means least, point that I want to touch upon today – the need for a regional perspective.

            It has become increasingly clear that the security situation in Afghanistan to a high degree depends on its neighbours. Security and development in Afghanistan must be viewed in a regional context.

The most obvious risk to the security and stability of Afghanistan springs from the border areas towards Pakistan, which are largely outside the control of both governments. It is not a secret that borders are porous at best, and that this has been to the advantage of the insurgents. Finding a sustainable solution to this naturally involves increased collaboration with Pakistan.

            Pakistan is also facing great challenges, some of which are interlinked with the situation in Afghanistan. But it is important to acknowledge that Pakistan’s problems must be approached in their own right. The situation in Pakistan is extremely complex and chaotic. Presently about 3 million people are displaced and with Government’s recent decision to expand the fighting to also include  the stronghold of Pakistani Taliban inWaziristan, this figure is doomed to increase. The importance of a coordinated international response to the humanitarian crisis cannot be underestimated – the cost of insufficient international assistance could be increased radicalization and Taliban exploiting the situation to new recruitment. If this situation is not handled well, tomorrow’s Taliban is created today. In this context, the group Friends of Democratic Pakistan could play a key role as a key forum for coordinating international assistance. Friends of Democratic Pakistan is a demonstration of the commitment of the international commitment to support the beleaguered democracy in Pakistan.

Coming back to Afghanistan, it is clear that stability and development in Afghanistan is also closely linked to Afghanistan’s other neighbours, not least Iran. It is important that the international community engage all of Afghanistan’s neighbours and closest partners in a dialogue and practical cooperation to improve the situation. We have an apparent and mutual interest in a stable Afghanistan, which can form the basis for such interaction. If not, Afghanistan can say to its neighbours: Today us, tomorrow you.

It is therefore imperative that we find ways to support the development of a stable region. And we need to address cross-boundary and regional issues not only for the sake of Afghanistan, but to improve regional and global security as such.   

I began by praising the EAPC for its relevance for global security.  Afghanistan, extremism and the complex regional situation are in my mind among the biggest global security challenges today. And it is a challenge we must meet jointly. It is through partnerships such as the EAPC that we must rise to the occasion. I thank Kazakhstan for hosting this conference. The meeting here today presents us with a window of opportunity, which we have to utilize in order to help the Afghans bring their house in order. If we allow this house to burn down, we know that the neighboring houses will catch fire.  The international community must avoid this by delivering the necessary support. And we must remain committed. A stable Afghanistan and a stable region are in the long term interest of us all. We cannot afford to fail.