photo (Foreign Minister Nakasone)

Statement by H.E. Mr. Hirofumi NAKASONE, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan
At the International Conference on Afghanistan

31st March 2009, The Hague

Your Excellency Mr. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,

Your Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Your Excellency Mr. Maxime Jacques Marcel VERHAGEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

Distinguished delegates,

Let me first pay tribute, on behalf of the Japanese Government, to the Governments of the Netherlands and Afghanistan as well as the United Nations for their efforts in convening this Conference.

Afghanistan continues to face enormous challenges. The international community must stand by the Government of Afghanistan to turn back the tide of deteriorating security and to tackle a wide range of issues such as enhancing the capacity for ensuring security, improving governance, countering the problem of narcotics, and building social and economic foundations. These endeavors continue to require much patience and endurance. This year, in particular, a successful holding of the Presidential election scheduled for August is essential to further develop the political process of Afghanistan.

There is no easy road to Afghanistan's nation-building and stability, but let me try to lay out a vision of how we should shape our assistance.

First, our immediate task is to improve the security environment. Along with the enhancement of Afghanistan's security capacity, it is important that reconstruction and development assistance be conducted in a way that also contributes to improving security. For instance, implementing public projects that can directly create jobs may remove elements of social instability stemming from unemployment, and directing aid to areas where a certain amount of stability or improved governance has already been achieved can help consolidate the gains. In the mid-term, development activities need to be geared towards achieving Afghanistan's economic self-reliance.

Another point is that we should pursue better results by combining our assistance in ways that fully utilize each country's own unique strength. In this regard, a leading role of the United Nations in aid coordination is critical. It goes without saying that the ownership of nation-building rests with the people of Afghanistan, and that international assistance should be aligned with the development strategy of the Government of Afghanistan. At the same time, however, it is important that the Afghan Government tackles with increased vigor the difficult challenges of strengthening governance and removing corruption. I welcome the new policy laid out by the United States, which has much in common with our vision.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me now turn to what Japan is doing to support Afghanistan.

Since the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan we hosted in 2002, Japan has provided 1.78 billion dollars of aid. This has resulted in the development of large-scale infrastructure such as the Kabul airport terminal building and Kandahar-Heart Road, the construction and repair of more than 500 schools, the provision of vaccine to a total of 40 million people, and the collection of more than 250,000 weapons. Japan is also taking part in international efforts to eradicate terrorism by providing replenishment support to maritime interdiction operations in the Indian Ocean.

We continue to support the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to successfully implement the Afghanistan Compact and Afghanistan National Development Strategy in order to bring stability to the country. Our particular focus will be on the following three pillars: improvement of security; promotion of the political process and reconciliation; and creation of the foundation for economic development as well as human resources. This month, Japan has provided 300 million dollars in assistance for security and other fields to facilitate preparations for the Presidential election in August. Police assistance is a part of this, providing an equivalent of the salaries of the entire police force, which consists of 80,000 personnel, for six months. What we have in mind as the major elements of our assistance from now on are the following: security sector reform, especially DIAG and police assistance; promotion of the Kabul Metropolitan Development Plan; development of roads and other infrastructure; increased assistance to agriculture by enlarging in the north the target area of our ongoing agricultural enhancement project as a fundamental remedy to poverty; and development of human resources who will represent the future of Afghanistan by expanding educational and medical assistance. We are also dispatching civilian personnel to Chaghcharan PRT led by Lithuania as part of our efforts to increase assistance to provinces. Lastly, if the Government of Afghanistan proceeds with reconciliation efforts on its own initiative, we would like to provide appropriate support to such efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When we consider the ways Afghanistan can attain sustainable economic development and cope with terrorism and extremism, it is clear that a regional approach that focuses on close relations with neighboring countries and regions is vital. For the stability and development of Afghanistan, I think there is growing importance in looking not only at Pakistan but also other neighboring countries such as Central Asia as a whole and work from that perspective.

This approach has prompted us to attach greater importance to the relationship between Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, and to provide assistance that will further the stability of these countries. Construction of new railways in Uzbekistan and roads in Tajikistan are two examples of such assistance. I hope that these projects, together with infrastructure development in Afghanistan, will produce greater economic results in the future. With Iran, we are planning to implement joint projects on anti-narcotics and refugee assistance, which should have a positive effect on the stability and development of Afghanistan.

My last remark concerns the significance of Pakistan. The efforts of the international community to eradicate terrorism are at a critical juncture. Considering the impact Pakistan could have on the stability of the region including Afghanistan, the international community should together work towards the stability of Pakistan. Therefore, the Government of Japan is hosting in Tokyo the Pakistan Donors Conference and the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Ministerial Meeting on April 17th. Without a doubt, Pakistan's earnest efforts to tackle the huge challenges of economic reform and counter-terrorism are crucial for the neighboring region including Afghanistan as well as the stability and prosperity of the international community. The message of the Donors Conference should be that Pakistan itself is determined to tackle these difficulties ahead, and that the international community as a whole is committed to supporting Pakistan by means of pledging economic assistance. I urge participating countries and organizations to send high level delegates and make pledges of generous assistance to make these important meetings a success as a joint effort of the international community.

The people of Afghanistan and the region require the support of their neighbors and the world as a whole. The people of Japan continue to render maximum assistance to the endeavors of the people of the region.

Thank you for your attention.

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