Afghan Development Forum 12-13 March 2003

Thank you very much indeed. Minister, I would like to start by joining Ashraf in expressing the gratitude of everyone for your hospitality – not only for this conference, but also for many others. You have the best rooms in town; technically the best garden in town and; also the best carpet. So it is always a great pleasure to come to this place. But I know at least one Minister who would very much like to compete with you and if there is anybody around this table who wants to help him it is Stanakzai. He has the Ministry of Communication– and this is a non-paid advertisement. They have a lot of space and they would love to build a multipurpose building for conferences like this. So if anybody is interested please contact Stanakzai.

The other thing I would like to say is that Ashraf and I have something, in fact many things in common. But one of the many things we have in common is that we have connections with the nomads – the Kuchis.The most important animal for the Koch’s is the camel. Very often when I see Ashraf in these situations I am reminded of the story of the camel who was kneeling down. The owner was loading things on the back of this camel – you know one bag of grain or whatever, then two and three and four. Then he arrived with a fifth bag and said, “I don’t know whether I should add this or not”. To which the camel said to him, “Go right ahead I’m not getting up anyway.”

So very often when I see Ashraf taking on all these challenges I think that he is going to say, “I am not getting up anyway”. Bathe does get up and we congratulate him once again for getting up and making this a success. Congratulations to you and all the people who work with you, your colleagues in the Government as well as your colleagues in the Ministry of Finance and elsewhere.

I think we have made progress, not only since last year, but also since the last meeting you organized here. I think that it is really a toured force for this Government in these circumstances to come to an agreement and to compromise on tremendous issues. I have been aware, for example of the difficulties in convincing the Ministry of Education of making do with as little money as Anon has finally accepted. I think in all your countries you know what education requires. And you know that education in this country requires much more than in any of your countries. So I think the Government deserves congratulations for being so responsible, and for understanding that what is at stake here, what Afghanistan is trying to do as somebody else said so well is, “to move from misery to poverty with dignity”.

I hope that we in the international community will rise up to these responsibilities that have been shown by the Cabinet and will provide the help that they need this year and also in the next two years as Ashraf has pointed out. Maybe this Government may or may not be here after the election in 2004 but Afghanistan will still be here. And Afghans will still be here with their needs. We have all solemnly made commitments to the Afghan people and nobody forced us to make these. I think we are both duty and honor bound to live up to these commitments.

The only thing I would like to add is that we are very happy that this [meeting] has been so successful here. We are looking forward to the [next] meeting two days from now in Brussels, which will complete this exercise [started] here. We hope that it will be just as successful and that we all comeback here to do the real work. This is just a conference and I hope that everybody will contribute to the work that the people of Afghanistan have to do. They are responsible for their country, they have to take charge of it, and they have to accept responsibility for all the problems it has gone through. We just are here to help a little bit; to encourage little bit and; when necessary tell them that what you are doing is not right. I hope that we will be telling them that everything they are doing is right as we are doing today.

Thank You very much indeed.