The full statement of President Ashraf Ghani to the UNHCR high-level consultations in the lead-up to the 2020 Afghanistan conference on return and re-integration: “Building a future for all Afghans”.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to the honorable participants of today’s consultation and convey my best wishes and regards to the heads of state, and representatives of participating international organizations. I would like to especially thank UNHCR and appreciate their cooperation in working closely with the Afghan government on returnee and repatriation issues over the years.
The theme of today’s consultation is ‘building a future for all Afghans.’ This is a goal that requires us to think about our nation, living inside the country and as a global diaspora; beyond the war, and forward towards peace, prosperity and reintegration.
Forty years of war has caused Afghanistan to become one of the top three countries producing almost half of the world’s refugees. Millions of Afghans reside outside of the country, a majority of them in Iran and Pakistan, many living in situations of poverty making a daily wage of below $2. Internally poverty is our central challenge and threat. I am pleased, however, to share some good news: the latest survey just completed shows a reduction from 54.5% in 1395 (2016) to 47.3% 1399 (i.e. 2020).
When peace is achieved in Afghanistan, we anticipate that not only will conditions allow millions to return to their homeland, but that we will also be faced with the difficult task of reintegrating ex-Taliban fighters. This is a major undertaking, one that is a double-sided coin.
If done carefully and thoughtfully with good strategies and proper resources, Afghanistan will gain a huge advantage; but if over-looked or implemented in a rushed manner with bad strategies and poor resources, there is a risk that returnees and those being reintegrated could face further vulnerabilities and the process could be a de-stabilizing one for Afghanistan.
That is why we are taking this matter very seriously and it has been a focus of this administration since 2014. A policy framework for returnees and IDPs was finalized in 2017 that integrated programs across government and took a ‘whole of community’ approach to mitigate political risks of re-allocating resources for returnee and IDP populations. The High Migration Council, chaired by the presidency, became the body for defining national policy and resolving issues of policy interpretation. The Displacement and Return Executive Committee (DiREC) brought together Afghan government leadership in the sector with UNAMA to oversee the implementation of the policy.
Internally, good strategy requires a whole of state and whole of government focus, a model of growth that can ensure 9% sustained growth for a decade, relentless attention to implementation through national programs, commitment to participatory methods of design, planning and implementation, and reliance on pragmatic solutions and reflective monitoring for learning through doing to encourage innovation. Internationally, the principle of voluntary return and reconceptualization of refugees as a diaspora and people on the move should become the focus of research and policy. Above all, we must act together to understand the human, cultural, economic and social capital of the people –men and women, children, youth and elders – to take into account in their reintegration and to work with and invest in the expansion of their capitals and capabilities.
The peace process has again raised the urgency of returnees and reintegration in a new light. Thus, moving forward, we have incorporated the repatriation of refugees, returnees and ex-combatants in every component of the second Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework that will be presented at the upcoming Geneva Conference, including state-building, peace-building and market-building.
We have just restructured our budget, increasing the development budget by 3% through cutting the recurrent budget – to invest in capitals and capabilities and ensure balanced human, social and spatial development. As national programs are the mechanism of linking policy through the budget to delivery, we are reviewing and restructuring all national programs to ensure the inclusion of reintegration of diaspora and empowerment of poor, women and youth – the three numerical majorities of our people. Harnessing of water to increase productivity of existing land and bringing an additional million hectares under cultivation, expansion of pastoral, rural and urban value chains and supply chains, transformation of our location into an Asian roundabout and an energy hub, implementing strategic development frameworks in our major cities, attracting international investment in our renewable energy to develop our mining sector are among the key measures that will get us to reach our goal of 9% sustainable growth by 2025.
Regional connectivity and cooperation is critical to achieving these objectives and we are delighted that Central Asia is looking south and South Asia is looking north, thereby becoming stakeholders in sustainable peace, sustainable development and political stability within the constitutional framework of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, we need help and a framework to avoid bad strategies – which is not absence of strategies but relying on approaches that have failed time and again to create a virtuous circle between desirability, feasibility, and credibility.
We are committed to working with our partners for an inclusive peace process that includes facilitating the voluntarily return of refugees, as well as the reintegration of ex-combatants following a political settlement.
Careful design and thoughtful execution will ensure that reintegration is used as another opportunity to build national unity, as opposed to a situation where limited resources yet again become a topic of division and conflict. My fellow Afghan men and women abroad have accumulated a wealth of human capital, skills and assets with which they can play a fundamental role in market-building, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan.
We must see them as an asset, to be mobilized and absorbed into society, to reinforce social cohesion within the strategic approach to peace-building and state-building.
This will require substantial assistance and cohesion from the international community and coordination with the Afghan government, governments of Iran and Pakistan and with the Afghan people, both inside the country and among our diaspora. We ask for your consistent support in this effort.