Notes for an Address by the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the International Conference on Afghanistan

No. 2009/15 - The Hague, the Netherlands - March 31, 2009

Check Against Delivery

Chairpersons, honoured guests and fellow delegates.

I would like to thank the governments of the Netherlands and Afghanistan, and the United Nations, for convening this meeting.

I would also like to thank UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and President [Hamid] Karzai for their opening remarks. Canada appreciates and supports the role being played by Kai Eide [UN Special Representative in Afghanistan and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)] and UNAMA. We look to you to continue to lead.

Clearly, international commitment to Afghanistan remains strong. We must concretely and collectively deliver on our commitment by providing greater and smarter civilian assistance in addition to contributing more troops to ISAF [International Security Assistance Force].

I have just come back from Afghanistan. I saw the impact our efforts are making and how integral the regional dimension is to Afghanistan’s progress. In this spirit, Canada welcomes the U.S.’s strategic review and its increased regional focus.

There are four key areas we must focus on as we move forward.

First, economic growth, including in the areas of agricultural development, job creation and infrastructure, is a priority.

Second, we must continue supporting the Afghan government’s efforts to establish democratic and accountable national institutions. Afghans expect effective anti-corruption actions by their government—so do we.

This year’s elections must be credible in the eyes of Afghans. Afghans and the media must be able to express themselves freely.

Third, a just and secure Afghanistan requires greater attention to the rule of law and to police, justice and corrections.

Finally, a truly regional approach is required to address crosscutting challenges such as security, economic development, counter-narcotics and border management.

Canada has adopted a focused approach in Afghanistan, and I am heartened to see that our priorities are firmly in sync with those being discussed here today.

Our Dahla Dam irrigation project in Kandahar will generate up to 10,000 seasonal jobs. We are providing $35 million to support the upcoming elections. We recently announced $19 million for police salaries through the Law and Order Trust Fund, bringing our total to some $70 million. We will also double our deployment of civilian police advisers by this summer. These efforts and investments seek to ensure an Afghan-led security effort when we transition our combat mission out of Kandahar in 2011.

In the spirit of this conference, I am proud to say that Canada has facilitated a focused dialogue on border cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just two days ago, in Dubai, senior officials from both countries agreed on an ambitious and concrete action plan for cooperation. Canada sees its regional role as that of a facilitator, and we welcome a widened international partnership for projects identified. However, we recognize that our contributions will be effective only if they support solutions, initiatives and institutions that are locally led and locally owned. I’d like to acknowledge our Afghan and Pakistani colleagues for their commitment and leadership. Canada remains prepared to support in any way we can.

I am certain that today will represent another important step to help sustain international momentum on Afghanistan and the region.

Thank you.