Norwegian Foreign and Defense Ministers speak about Afghanistan
This week two conferences on Afghanistan were arranged in Oslo. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre spoke at one conference, while Defense
Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen spoke at the other.
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre opened conference
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), the Norwegian Peacebuilding Center, and the Norwegian Ministry of Defense arranged a conference on November 17th to 18th called "From Coherent Policy to Coordinated Practice: Are We Delivering Coherently in Afghanistan?"
The conference was opened by the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre. Minister Støre started out by saying it is important to stick to what was agreed upon at the Paris summit - to work more closely together, under Afghan leadership, to support the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), and to improve coordination. The Foreign Minister stated that there are several challenges still ahead of us, among others the security situation, the increasing numbers of civilian deaths, and severe drought and failing harvest. He also emphasized the importance of continue with security assistance, Afghan ownership of the process, reconciliation between Afghan groups, and moving towards an approach of engagement with Afghanistan’s neighbors in the region.
The Foreign minister also commented on the election, commending the work of voter registration and the fact that also many women were now registered. He also commended the work of Kai Eide and UNAMA, and emphasized the importance of the support of the international community. Such support can be difficult, he said, because it might include giving up control over national pet projects. Hopefully the UNAMA budget evaluation ends up with Kai Eide and his team getting the resources needed.
The Foreign Minister also said it was important for the PRTs to be an own section on the agenda, because of the practice of nations earmarking large amounts of funding to "their own provinces", the provinces where they run a PRT. He asked the question of whether or not the PRT model of today is the right one. Støre also emphasized the need for humanitarian space in such conflict areas as Afghanistan.
He concluded by saying that the next step in Afghanistan must be to take the crucial steps towards reconciliation, as there can be no sustainable peace without that. However, these steps must be taken with efforts from Afghans, and not the international community.
Defense Minister Erichsen spoke as one of the panelists at conference
The Norwegian Red Cross together with the International Peace and Research Institute in Oslo organized a conference on November 18th and 19th focusing on the challenges and opportunities for civil, military and humanitarian actors in Afghanistan. Addressing the conference the Defence Minister of Norway Ms. Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen said that it was important that local as well as international actors worked together in Afghanistan to make it a good model, however it required a long way to go and a firm commitment.
She emphasized that security and development went hand in hand in Afghanistan and it was important that the line was kept clear, however in some cases, where the military intervention was the only solution for humanitarian aid, the arm forces could operate as relief worker.
She said it what was important to Afghanize the efforts in that country and that the coordination of international engagement in Afghanistan with the government development strategy was equally important. She continued that strengthening of the international organizations like United Nations should not mean taking up the government role. The role of ISAF and UNAMA in Afghanistan was to provide political support to the government and to remind it to expedite its efforts to in improving the situation.
On behalf of the government of Norway, she expressed willingness that the Norwegian Provincial Reconstruction Team in Maimana Province of Afghanistan was ready to pilot for introducing any other alternative model to the PRTs now.
She also welcomed the vision of US President elect Obama to find solutions for the problems of Afghanistan with a broader approach involving regional actors.
On the issue of dealing with the narcotics production and trafficking in Afghanistan she said that it was impossible to reach lasting stability in Afghanistan without seriously dealing with it and she said it required a broader strategy focusing on finding means of reliable alternative livelihood and also long term international commitment was required.