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Nordic and Baltic States: Successful Elections, Human Rights Advancement, and Economic Reforms Will Ensure Afghanistan’s Future Development

20.01.2014

At the meeting of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan that took place in New Delhi, India on 16 January, the Nordic-Baltic (NB8) states presented a joint statement about Afghanistan’s future. In the statement, it was noted that Afghanistan’s efforts thus far have been remarkable, but in order for the transition period to be successful and development aid to continue, the country must ensure the carrying out of free and fair elections as well as commit more to economic development, the fight against corruption, and the protection of human rights, especially women’s rights.

The Estonian side was represented by Väino Reinart, who is the Ambassador-at-large for Afghanistan and Pakistan and non-residing Ambassador of Estonia to Afghanistan. According to Reinart, Estonia and the other NB8 countries will continue to provide aid to Afghanistan after 2014. However, he added that while the continuation of international support is important, the final responsibility for ensuring the country’s wellbeing is borne by Afghans themselves. “With the joint statement we want to stress that the Afghan government must demonstrate dedication to fulfilling the conditions of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework,” said Reinart.

The joint statement of the NB8 states emphasised that Afghanistan has made remarkable progress in areas such as education, health, and infrastructure, but more attention is needed for ensuring universal human rights, especially ending violence against women in the country. Greater focus should also be placed on corruption-free and transparent administration, which will support economic development and the carrying out of free and fair elections in spring of this year. “We encourage the Government of Afghanistan to ensure basic infrastructure and security, to enable all voters, women and men, to execute their democratic rights. What really counts is to provide a security environment that makes all voters dare to cast their votes. Guaranteeing full independence of the electoral bodies and preventing electoral fraud remain of key importance for the conduct of elections and for the government formation thereafter,” declared the joint statement.

Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania took part in the joint statement of the Nordic-Baltic states.

At a meeting in Tokyo in July 2012, the foreign ministers of donor countries agreed to support Afghanistan’s development in the next four years by earmarking 16 billion dollars in order achieve concrete development goals. The international aid is contingent upon the success of reforms implemented by the Afghan government in the areas of good governance, including ensuring free and fair elections, human rights, including advancing the rights of women, the fight against corruption, and assuring the development of civil society. An important question is also the ability of the government to use the aid effectively and transparently.

At Thursday’s meeting of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the focus was on the latest developments in Afghanistan, topics associated with the upcoming presidential elections, questions related to women’s rights, and regional integration. The International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan coordinates international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan and its region. The working group is headed by Germany’s Special Representative of the Federal Government for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Michael Koch.

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