ESCAP to support Afghanistan transition from conflict to development

The United Nations stands ready to support Afghanistan’s transition from conflict to development by helping to connect it with the regional engines of economic growth, the world body’s top Asia-Pacific official told a forum of international stakeholders here.

Addressing the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA V), also attended by the Presidents of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, outlined a regional economic development strategy in support of nation-building in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan matters. The future of Afghanistan is important to the Asia-Pacific region and to our world. Regional economic cooperation, in turn, is key to ensuring long-term stability and prosperity in Afghanistan,” Dr. Heyzer told the 26-27 March conference in the Tajik capital which discussed ways to promote Afghan stability and prosperity.

Delegates from some 80 countries and international and regional organizations, as well as civil society and private sector leaders, attended the conference.

Noting that Afghanistan’s strategic location as a “land bridge at the heart of Asia holds significant economic and social potential,” Dr. Heyzer said that ESCAP and its member states would work with the country to “unlock this potential through a renewed partnership focusing on three areas of work: resilience, connectivity and greater integration of Afghanistan into the Asia-Pacific regional economy.”

“ESCAP is well positioned and committed to sharing the key learnings of other Asia-Pacific experiences in the economics and social investment of successful transitions,” Dr. Heyzer told the conference.

Least developed and landlocked developing countries, like Afghanistan, are at the centre of ESCAP’s focus on improving Asian regional economic connectivity. “We have already made great progress on initiatives such as the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway networks,” said Dr. Heyzer. “By providing essential transport links, we can transform landlocked countries like Afghanistan into ‘land-linked’ countries – connecting dry ports with sea ports and helping to integrate them with regional and global production and supply chains.”

Turning to the role of resilience in development, Dr. Heyzer added: “An important message to be drawn from other successful transitions in Asia and the Pacific is that positive transformation requires the strengthening of the social fabric. This means placing people – especially women and youth – at the centre of the policy agenda. It also entails building social and economic resilience – to ensure that hard-won development gains are not wiped out by external and internal shocks and upheavals.”

The ESCAP Executive Secretary also pointed to Asia’s emergence from the global economic crisis as the most dynamic economic region in the world. “The key to sustaining this dynamism, in light of reduced demand from the West, is the development of our own regional markets. Central Asia is a critical part of this development, which is another important reason why ESCAP stands ready to support the further integration of Afghanistan and other Central Asian economies into broader Asian regional growth.”

During the conference, Dr. Heyzer also held bilateral talks with the President of Tajikistan H.E. Emomali Rahmon, the Foreign Minister of Tajikistan, H.E. Hamrokhon Zarifi, and the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul.