Statement by Nigel Fisher for Afghanistan Support Group meeting Oslo, Norway

At the July ASG meeting in Geneva, I emphasized the opportunity that the international community now haste participate in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and to invest in its recovery. Why “invest”? Because allocations today in education, in health care, in the environment, in economic recovery, in infrastructure, will indeed have a tangible return, in the space of just a few years, in community regeneration and social cohesion, in renewed productivity and trade, in the security of Afghanistan, which is in the interests of us all.

The Transitional Assistance Programmed for Afghanistan (TAPA) builds on this theme of investment. It includes requirements for responding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis and the related widespread displacement of Afghans within and outside Afghanistan. But it also goes beyond these, to address urgent recovery and reconstruction priorities, and to confront some of the underlying causes of the crisis – poverty, insecurity, environmental degradation and a landscape contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Furthermore, it will also support the strengthening of the Transitional Administration’s capacity to lead the national recovery effort itself. Today’s government is internationally-recognized, has a visionary national budget and plan for reconstruction, but is still in the process of establishing its authority nation-wide. The way in which international assistance is delivered can either strengthen or weaken that authority. TAPA has been reviewed with the Transitional Administration, and is organized consonance with the programmer sectors and national priorities outlined in the National development Budget.

Over 1.7 million refugees have returned this year from Pakistan and Iran, and this programmer of cooperation plans for a further 1.2 million to return in 2003. Likewise, around 400,000 internally-displaced people went home this year, and we expect another 300,000 to do so next year.

Critic alto community stability will be reconstruction of homes, schools for their children, basic health facilities, very different water management and use practices, recuperation and expansion of agricultural production, as well as off-farm work, and clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance– the Mine Action programmer target is for clearance of priority contaminated areas within five years, an ambitious agenda which will require sustained international support. In whatever we do, the UN family will also actively support an enhanced role for women in the workforce, in local and national decision-making bodies. And there is a huge demand of Afghan parents for the education of their girls, after years of deprivation.

Responses to this range of priorities make up the Transitional Assistance Programme.We will join Afghan and other partners in accelerating the opening of schools – the demand for education of both girls and boys is huge throughout the country – and improving health care in a country whose child and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world.

Some 6 million Afghans are still going to need food assistance in 2003 –these are the poorest of the poor in the most isolated areas, impoverished people who remain displaced from their homes within the country, and those newly-returned refugees who are still struggling to make ends meet. But these numbers are much lower than the caseload covered in the last 12 months, reflecting better rains and a better harvest in 2002, and the start of economic recovery. In 2003, food aid will increasingly be targeted at children and teachers returning to school and at food for work programmers to complement widespread cash-based labor intensive public works programmers.

Megaprojects represent some $150 million of the TAPA budget. Clearly many other NGO activities will be undertaken outside the TAPA framework, and the NGO community in Kabul is discussing complementary channels for cooperation and funding with government and donors. This is part of the broader context in which NGOs and government are seeking to develop common understanding on the role of civil society in Afghanistan, on promotion of human rights and the protection of humanitarian space, and of the framework within which NGOs undertake humanitarian and reconstruction projects.

Direct-action against terrorism and ongoing insecurity in Afghanistan is half the battle. The other half must be sustained, multi-year international assistance to ensure that survival needs and human rights of Afghans are met, that reconstruction and economic recovery accelerates. Such progress will enable ordinary Afghans to see tangible change in their lives and surroundings – to persuade them that this time, there is good reason to hope. In this way, combatants can put aside their guns for jobs, impoverished farmers and landless laborers can find viable alternatives to poppy cultivation. Aid is one of the ingredients essential for improved security.

Today in Afghanistan, the UN community is endeavoring to act differently than we have in the recent past. We have minimized agency flag-waving, as we focus on strengthening the capacity of the administration, both nationally and sub-nationally, to manage reconstruction priorities. Our cooperation is now solidly rooted in national planning and budget priorities. We are committed to supporting priority national programmers, and to joint fund-raising and implementation strategies. Increasing numbers of UN personnel – some 140 to date – are located in government offices, to support the administration in development of its policies, activities and administrative capacity. The Mine Action Programmed, with some 20 internationals and almost 7,000 Afghans employed, best exemplifies the light expatriate footprint towards which we strive.

Wearer currently supporting government institutions to develop national information systems, vulnerability analysis and nutrition surveillance systems, to track donor support and aid flows, to coordinate assistance sub-nationally, all functions that the UN itself was performing 12 months ago.

Yuma recall that in the last ASG meeting in Geneva, I outlined a number of principles that ought to guide UN cooperation in Afghanistan. In summary, those principles emphasize capacity-building support to Afghan institutions, accelerated decentralization of programmer activities, increased programmatic integration among agencies, and improvements in internal efficiencies within the UN family. These principles have now been agreed upon jointly by Afghanistan and the UN and are being concretely incorporated into our action plans for 2003 in the form of clear targets and timelines.

Minister Tamar will speak at more length to these agreements. Already, in our review of agency and programmer plans of cooperation for 2003, we have entered a process of more rigorous results-based programming, into which will be built systematic monitoring and periodic evaluation of cooperation in 2003.

The United Nations assistance agencies in Afghanistan are today part of growing array of partners working with national counterparts. We are committed to national leadership of Afghanistan’s recovery process and welcome the trend towards direct donor assistance to the national government. Likewise, in this transitional period, we look to the international community to continue, in 2003, its tradition of support to the UN programmer of cooperation in Afghanistan, through TAPA.