The 97th Anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day
Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of Afghanistan in Australia and New Zealand
23 of September 2016
Ms Lyndall Sachs, PSM Chief of Protocol.
Mr Andrew Barr, Mla, chief Minister of ACT
Commodore Katherine Richards, Representing the Air Chief Marshal Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force.
Dear colleagues of the Diplomatic Corps
Dear Representatives of Government
Dear Representatives of International Organisations and the Economic Sector
Dear Members of the Afghan Community
Dear Colleagues of the Embassy
Ladies and gentlemen, Good afternoon and welcome.
Today we have gathered here to celebrate the 97th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. It was 97 years ago that King Amanullah Khan, declared Afghanistan’s independence from the British Empire. In subsequent decade, King Amanullah Khan embarked on a deep reform process to transfer Afghanistan into a modern nation-state. His reforms aimed to enhance women’s’ rights, promote education, rule of law enforcement and most importantly build strong state institutions. Although, he failed to implement all of his reform agenda, he opened a new era in Afghanistan history. In fact, his legacy is a critical juncture in the modern history of Afghanistan and continues to inspire Afghans to this day.
King Amanullah connected Afghanistan with the major countries around the world, establishing diplomatic relations based on mutual cooperation and friendship. Despite many challenges that Afghanistan has faced for almost a century since its independence, strong relationship with the international community and its neighbours is the central element of its foreign policy.
Today, in celebrating our 97th National Independence Day, we also pay tribute to all brave men and women in our security and defence forces that continue to fight against terrorist groups and protect our country and fellow citizens. The support that Afghanistan has received from the international community since 2001 also indicate that in today’s globalised world the fight against terrorism has strategic significance not only for Afghanistan but for all countries of the world. In other words, the terrorist groups in our region are not just posing a threat to Afghanistan’s security; they also pose a threat to everyone in an interconnected world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Afghanistan and Australia’s relation is based on common interest and mutual respect and the two countries have established a strong partnership to cooperate in areas such as development and the fight against terrorism. Our diplomatic ties maybe recent but our people to people relationship goes back to as far as early1860s. Since the 1990s, Australia has welcomed thousands of Afghans in very difficult times, further deepening the ties between our peoples. Since 2001 our bilateral relations has strengthened tremendously. Australia has supported Afghanistan in the war against terrorism and has provided critical development support to Afghanistan. Since 2001, Australia has generously provided Afghanistan with over 1 billion dollars, contributing to economic development and our efforts to promote governance and empower women and girls rights. I would like to use this opportunity to thank Australia and the Australian people for all of their support.
I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight and express our gratitude for the international support that has helped Afghanistan achieve important progresses. Since 2001, Afghanistan has made tremendous improvement in education, health and economic sectors. In the last fifteen years, Afghanistan’s GDP increased more than eightfold, meaning GDP per capita increased from 190 $ in 2002 to $620 in 2015. Similarly, exports increased from $69, 10 million in 2002 and to 570, 50$ million in 2015.
Afghanistan has also expanded its education sector, making modern education available to women and girls and thereby assisting them to enter the work force. For instance, over 9.5 million Afghan children attend school every day; 3.5 million of them are girls. Fifteen years ago these attendance figures for girls, were unthinkable. Furthermore, today, around 300,000 students study at our universities; the new generation of our educated class will represent a generational shift and offer the necessary human capital for our future economic growth.
Not surprisingly a rise in school attendance has led to an increase to literacy. In 2001 the literacy rate in Afghanistan was 12% while in 2016 it has increased to 40%. Moreover, today, Afghanistan has 150 universities and 15000 schools which are vital for development and enhancing marketable skill for new generation.
A high education rate has also meant that more women are now entering the work force and actively taking part in the development of their country. Thousands of women now work with Afghan security forces while thousands more work with the media. Such achievements would not have been imaginable under the Taliban.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me give you some other examples of changes in Afghanistan during the last decades. Fifteen years ago, under the Taliban regime, there was no internet in Afghanistan; watching and owning a television was illegal as was the presence of women in the public sphere. Today Afghanistan has a vibrant media sector with 75 television channels, dozens of radio stations, and more than one thousand print publications. Today, in terms of communication facilities, more than 70% of the whole population have mobile phones; Under the Taliban, only 1% of the people had access to a small number of landline phones. Moreover, 5 million people have access to the internet. There was no internet in Afghanistan in 2001. These achievements are playing crucial roles in promoting transparency, good governance and the fight against corruption and making it possible to shift towards electronic-governance in the country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
All these achievements were not possible without the support and assistance of friendly countries such as Australia. Australia has made a critical contribution in supporting Afghanistan’s security and defence forces, promoting social development and human rights. Australia supported Afghanistan in Warsaw summit which took place in July 2016. Australia maintains a strong role in supporting the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan that continues to enhance the capacity of Afghan defence forces in their fight against terrorism as a common threat against all of us. Australia strengthened its commitment to Afghanistan and the Afghan people in a very challenging time. At the beginning of the year, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, the Prime Minister of Australia visited Afghanistan whilst the Defence Minister, Senator The Hon Marise Payne, visited Afghanistan just last month. So, we appreciate Australia’s ongoing support and friendship.
I would like to note, that despite all significant achievements that we have made to date, security is still the biggest concern for Afghanistan. For the last fifteen years Afghanistan has been and continues to be the real victim of terrorism. Our innocent people and security forces are targeted on a daily basis by different terrorist groups such the Taliban, ISIS and their affiliated groups in the region. As the recent attacks on peaceful protestors on the 23rd of July and the American University of Afghanistan on 24th of August show very clearly, these terrorist groups target civilians and civilian institutions indiscriminately. The brutality and scale of these attacks once again demonstrate the need for our collective response and closer cooperation at all levels.
As I mentioned at the beginning, in today’s interconnected world the security challenges facing Afghanistan are not Afghanistan’s problem alone. This threat has global dimensions and presents a challenge against the state-based order of international cooperation. Cooperation with the international community and regional countries in our neighbourhood is the core policy of Afghan government.
The lack of cooperation in the region on one hand, and the presence of sanctuaries of the terrorist groups outside our borders on the other, have been hampering Afghanistan’s efforts to bring peace and stability in the country. Despite these challenges, we as Afghans, work hard to go forward, and will not surrender to terrorist groups and their supporters and sympathizers.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me also touch on Afghanistan’s potential for investment, development and economic cooperation. Afghanistan has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Mining and resource exploitation has a long history in the country. Even after thousands of years of artisanal exploitation, vast reserves of more than 1400 minerals remain largely untouched throughout the country. According to an estimate, Afghanistan’s unexploited mineral wealth is worth over 3 trillion USD. It is a great opportunity and huge potential for investment, development and cooperation
Moreover, Afghanistan has recently passed new legislations that makes it easier for foreign investors to invest in the county. We have improved bidding systems, enhanced consultancy and joint venture framework under Afghanistan’s legal and institutional facilities. In short, Afghanistan is ready for investment and development, as it is ready and determined to fight for stability and promote cooperation in the region.