With the overall aim of generating international support for the Afghan reform process and ensuring continued international political and financial support to bolster Afghanistan's economic stability, development and state-building processes over the next four years, the two-day Brussels Conference on Afghanistan is bringing together leaders from more than 70 countries worldwide, 20 international organisations and agencies, and a vast range of stakeholders. A self-reliant, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan is a priority for the European Union, Afghanistan, its neighbours and the international community at large.
Empowered Women, Prosperous Afghanistan
The first event of the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan 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", said the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini. "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", she added.
The event featured many high-level participants and speakers, including the welcome address by the High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, as well as speeches by the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani. Senior officials in the Afghan Government and civil service, representatives of the international community, including civil society, business, and academia, as well as other key stakeholders also took part.
Participants took stock of developments in the country over the last decade, and concluded that while many positive changes have occurred in the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, further improvement of the situation of Afghan women is essential for the country's development and should remain a priority. In this context, the Government of Afghanistan outlined its plans for increasing women's participation in society and the economy, while the international community present, and notably the European Union, affirmed its commitment to supporting the authorities in their efforts.
Regional Integration and Prosperity
The Regional Economic Cooperation event brought together traditional and new donors to emphasise the importance of political support and economic integration at the regional level. Representatives from around the world, including Afghanistan's regional partner countries, as well as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, other multilateral organisations and representatives of the Afghan private sector discussed how best to mobilise support for projects with a regional impact and how to promote regional trade and development by linking policy reforms, infrastructure and regional connectivity.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, stressed: "We all have much to gain from a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. By building better regional infrastructure, respecting the rule of law and fostering a business-friendly environment, Afghanistan - and its regional partners - can become a vibrant regional economic hub. Today's discussions are timely to identify and cultivate the common regional economic interests of Afghanistan and its neighbours. Afghan women can be the key to a prosperous Afghanistan - it is exactly their enormous potential that can make all the difference. Therefore we must create the conditions that will enable women to have equal access to land, resources and finances, and to become full participants in every aspect of the economy."
Participants stressed that regional economic cooperation can create win-win results but requires dedicated, long-term and reliable partnerships. This is especially true for regional infrastructure where financial investments, also by new partners, will begin to pay off in the years to come.
In close coordination with Afghanistan's international partners, the European Union is engaged with the Afghan Government to fight corruption, improve oversight, enable economic growth, reduce poverty and strengthen democratic institutions. The European Union's partnership with Afghanistan includes a results-oriented dialogue on human rights, especially the rights of women and children, as well as a dialogue on migration. Gender mainstreaming is a crucial component of the EU's assistance: 53% of EU programmes have gender equality as a significant objective.
The European Union also strongly supports regional cooperation and economic integration as key elements of sustainable inclusive economic development, inter-connectivity and stability. Since 2004, EU support to regional cooperation amounts to more than €88 million. Key areas of intervention include border management, capacity building for regional cooperation and railways, as well strengthening the capacities of trade-related institutions. The EU further supports a regional United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) programme in the field of counter-narcotics.
For more information
The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/international-summit/2016/10/05/
Press release on new financial assistance to the Afghan Government in the form of a State-building contract: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-3269_en.htm
Website of European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/mimica_en
European Union Delegation to Afghanistan: https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/afghanistan_en
EU-Afghanistan relations factsheet: https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/afghanistan/10740/eu-afghanistan-relations_en
EU - Afghanistan development cooperation: https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/countries/afghanistan_en