Mr. Vice President
Madame Siam Samar
Members of the Commission
Members of the Afghan Civil Society Forum of Civil society
Ladies and gentlemen
It is an honor for me to participate at the beginning of this workshop. I would like first of all to thank and congratulate the Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF) for the excellent work it has done in the past few weeks up and down the county and in every single province of Afghanistan to explain or help explain to the people of Afghanistan what this constitutional process means.
I think it is particularly gratifying to see a very large number of women here. As a matter of fact there were 14 women’s NGOs out of the 25 who participated in this effort. This is extremely good and think that women in Afghanistan have a place, a role and a contribution to make. They have suffered probably more than anyone else in this country and for this country. They have dreams and hopes for the future and think that it is good for Afghan society to hear what these dreams and hopes are – those of their mothers, sisters and wives.
The Afghan Civil Society Forum is a kind of twin brother or sister of the Bonn peace because it was born thanks to an initiative that was taken by Swiss peace in organizing a seminar or conference in Bonn at the same time as the Bonn Conference. The Forum has already contributed in the past to progress in this peace process and we are counting on them to continue contributing to it.
I would also like to thank Vice-President Tehrani and his colleagues in the Commission for the hard work they have done and are still doing. I am afraid, however, that there is a lot more hard work for them to do before this constitutional process is over. The work done by the Forum in the past weeks and also the work done by the members of the Commission in the [public] consultation process in all of the 32 provinces was aimed at ensuring that this constitutional process is not something that is kept very close to the chest of the elite in Kabul, of the government or of people in leading positions. Rather it was an attempt to make sure that this process is a genuinely popular one; one that is owned by the people of Afghanistan; one that Afghans countrywide feel that have contributed to; one in which they have had something to say and something to gain and; finally a process that tells them that this constitutions going to be theirs.
We are looking forward to the results of this workshop to see what people who have participated in this exercise in the last few weeks are going to tell each other; and what kind of conclusions they are going to draw from their participation in this exercise. I am sure that the commission will be very eager to see what these conclusions are and what your recommendations are going to be. But I think that more than that the Commission, the people of Afghanistan, ourselves, foreigners, friends of Afghanistan, and those working in the country who are interested in what is happening will also be extremely interested in seeing what kind of results you have come up with.
During the course of the work done by the Forum and the Commission over the last few weeks I am sure that the people of Afghanistan have spoken about their problems, their experiences as well as the difficulties they are living through and have been living through for many years. They have spoken about their fears; that insecurity is still there; that justice is not fair; that people are not respected as they should be and; that very often, people in power are not exercising power forth benefit of the people of Afghanistan but for their own personal gain. I think it is safe to predict that the people of Afghanistan have said that they want this to change; that they want their fears to go away; that they want injustice to go away and that they want real peace and real development.
There is change that is going to take place here when the Commission collates and analyzes all the information that has come to them through the consultation process. What they are going to find out is that the concerns, the fears and the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan, up and down the country, in the villages, in the towns, in the north, south, east and west are exactly or almost exactly the same.
There will be some differences – not every single man and woman want exactly the same thing. There are differences and sometimes these differences are important. But everybody will see that these differences, while not trivial, are less important than what is common and what unites the people of Afghanistan. Because of this community of aspirations, and because of this very strong wish for peace, security, justice for everyone in the country, people are pulling for national reconciliation and national unity. This is why, despite the differences, which may exist between individuals, groups and regions, I think that the strong appeal by the people of Afghanistan is for tolerance and compromise. I think this is what they expect from their constitution. They would like their constitution to express these very very strong needs and desires for national unity and reconciliation, peace, security as well as equality.
We must hope that the Commission led by Professor Tehrani and the Government and at the end of this process the Loyal Jirga will hear and listen to these strong appeals from the people of Afghanistan and that at the end Afghans will have the constitution they need – a constitution that certainly respects the tradition, the culture but also one that is forward looking, progressive, and takes the people of this country forward and not backward. We wish this much success. And as I said earlier, we look forward to hearing the results of the deliberations and the conclusions as well as the recommendations that come up. We also wish the Commission, Professor Tehrani and the very able and hard-working Secretariat – Farouk Warded and his colleagues, much success in thievery hard work that lies ahead of them before the completion of this very important exercise that will provide Afghanistan with its constitution.
Thank you very much.