You’re Excellency Hamid Karzai, Your Excellency Vice President Tehrani, all members of the Cabinet, members of the Commission, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me first of all to express my congratulations and best wishes to Vice-President Shoran and all his colleagues, both men and women, on this important Commission. I know that they are aware both of the great privilege bestowed on them and the responsibility which lies on their shoulders. During the Public Consultation process that is being launched today, the members of the Constitutional Commission will set out across Afghanistan to listen to their Afghan brothers and sisters throughout the country and in Pakistan and Iran. The Commissioners are going to ask their fellow Afghans to tell them about their hopes for the future of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan should avail themselves of the opportunity to say what sort of government they want, what they expect of their leaders and also what they expect of themselves and of their fellow citizens.
A constitution must serve as the legal foundation for government and the rule of law in a country. But it is much, much more than a legal text. To be of real and lasting value, a constitution must be a reflection of a people’s shared history, beliefs and traditions. It must represent the agreement of a society about how it wants to live together today, and it must also express their values, aspirations, and hopes for the future.
Over the coming weeks, the members of the Commission will listen carefully to people from all walks of life in Afghanistan. They will hear from old and young, men and women, illiterate and educated. They will hear from the lemma and schoolteachers, shopkeepers and farmers. Sometimes, they will be given specific recommendations by people about the type of government they want and the economic system they wish to see reflected in the constitution. But the people will also speak to them from their heart, they will speak of concerns, fears and hopes. It will be up to the Commissioners to listen carefully and to later translate those expressions of fundamental needs and values into constitutional provisions that help protect the vital interests and aspirations of the people.
The members of the Commission are consulting the public because they understand that they cannot draft a constitutional one. The previous drafting committee chaired by Vice-President Tehrani prepared a preliminary draft which will serve as a very useful guide in this new phase of the process. After the Commissioners receive them any viewpoints and submissions from all over the country and beyond, they will return to Kabul to consider and discuss how to harmonies and balance those different views and aspirations in the final draft text of the constitution. This draft will of course be widely distributed before the convening of the Constitutional Loyal Jirga.
This process will be transparent. After the completion of the Public Consultation process, the Commission plans to provide the public with a report on this stage, so that everyone can see how the views expressed up and down the country were taken into account. Already, the Commission has requested and is receiving written submissions from the public. All of these are being documented and considered byte Commission. The goal is to achieve a consensus based document that reflects not only the will of the majority but the concerns and hopes of the minority.
I think that what the Commissioners aim to achieves for the people of Afghanistan, in their rich diversity, to feel that their draft constitution is their own, that it belongs to all of them and that it will serve all of them. When people feel the constitutions their own, they will safeguard it and demand that their leaders do the same. In this way, the new constitution will have a much greater chance of being an enduring document, a document that is not simply piece of paper but that also lives in the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan. When the people themselves are involved in the articulation of their constitution, when they own it, then their constitution becomes a living document which they will want to protect in their classrooms and teach in their schools.
This public consultation is a national exercise, and the Commissioners should not be alone in generating discussion and dialogue. The media, the NGOs, the universities and schools, and all of civil society can and should play their part. Already, the Secretariat of the Commission has worked together with a number of NGOs on the public education campaign and these NGOs are helping to explain the process and the importance of public participation to Afghans all over the country. This should continue and broaden, so that while the Commissioners are consulting the public in meetings, the national dialogue is going on at all other levels.
I want to say a word about security. The Commissioners are going out to engage in discussion with you, their Afghan brothers and sisters. This dialogue is another major step on the road to national reconciliation and peaceful development. It is an exercise where those who may have very different views, may even have been in conflict in the past, can interact with others to talk about what it means to be an Afghan, what the future should be, what values are held dear and what road must be taken to finally obtain peace and stability for all. All this is done without resorting to arms, or intimidation or threats. This dialogue belongs to all Afghans and anyone who violates the rights of their brothers and sisters to speak freely is blocking the road to peace. All Afghans have a responsibility and duty to defend the rights of their Afghan brothers and sisters to conduct a national dialogue in an atmosphere of peace, tolerance, mutual respect and to observe the principles of good citizenship.
I wish all the members of the Commission successful visits to the provinces and I feel confident that the debates you will attend will be rich and constructive and we all look forward to your safe return and the resumption of your work here in Kabul, in preparation for a successful Loyal Jirga which we all hope will produce the Constitution which the people of Afghanistan expect and deserve.