Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala attended the international conference on long-term support for the economy and the development of Afghanistan in Tokyo on 8 July.
I would like to thank our Japanese hosts for their warm hospitality and for their hard work in preparing the Conference.
Our common goal is a self-reliant Afghanistan that is able to take care of its own future and bring prosperity to its citizens.
It is of great importance to have a clear commonly agreed development strategy for Afghanistan. At its heart must be a reliable mutual accountability framework. Afghanistan has made progress in several key areas, but significant challenges remain.
Perhaps the most critical ones are in governance. The Afghan government must set out for clear and concrete progress on implementing reforms in governance. Finland cannot overemphasize the importance of putting women's fundamental human rights first.
Without such progress, it will be difficult to maintain popular support for high levels of development funding. The accountability is not only about the relationship between the international donor community and the Afghan government but it is very much about the accountability between the Afghan state and its citizens, and the domestic constituencies of donor countries.
As we heard yesterday in the Civil Society meeting, and as underlined the Afghan Minister of Finance, Mr Zakhilwal, the voices of civil society need to be heard and taken seriously, as the civil society is the best friend of the Government of Afghanistan in developing the country. In this context it is vital to stress the freedom of expression including of media.
The Nordic countries are doing their share to support Afghanistan in the long term. Finland has already increased its annual funding by half up to 30 million Euros in 2014. We plan to keep this level in the years to come at least until 2017.
The issue of aid effectiveness will become ever more pertinent. Finland has channeled its aid through programmes, such as the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), as they have proven to be a good example of a true Afghan lead development process that has made a difference for a country-wide service provision and for Afghan state building.
Sustainable development never rests solely on assistance. Afghanistan’s mining sector, if managed democratically and transparently, holds great promise. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a preferred way for the country in this sector.
Full and equal participation of women at all levels of society is key to development, economic success and social stability. Finland plans to increase development funding in this area. In 2010 we started a twinning cooperation with Afghanistan in the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 1325, “Women, Peace and Security”. Finland as the main contributor wants to see the 1325 National Action Plan ready by the end of the year.
Our efforts to advance the status of women also extend to other sectors, such as the rule of law. Impunity in connection to violence against women poses grave problems. Sometimes rapes are even committed by rogue elements of the Afghan security forces, without any consequences. This must come to a rapid end.
I sincerely hope our efforts today will remarkably contribute to the welfare of Afghanistan and all of its people.