Speech minister Blok at Geneva Conference on Afghanistan

Speech by minister Blok at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, on 28 november 2018.

In June of this year, I visited Afghanistan during the Eid celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan. It was a special visit at a special moment. A time when we saw powerful signs of hope:

In the streets of Kabul, I witnessed a ceasefire taking hold: a sign that the peace Afghans crave really is possible.

During a training session of Afghan special forces, I saw firsthand how Afghans are taking charge of their own security.

At the offices of Zan TV, I saw the empowering effect that freedom of speech can have in the hands of educated women.

Indeed, 17 years after the end of brutal Taliban rule, a great deal of progress has been made. But this progress cannot be taken for granted. The situation remains complex and volatile. A lot of effort is needed to maintain and improve the results.

Unfortunately, the Afghan people’s call for peace has so far been met with more violence by the Taliban. And the Islamic State in Khorasan province continue their brutal and heinous acts of terror. As a consequence, Afghans are still hampered in their dreams and development, and continue to seek security and shelter elsewhere.

So it’s in all our interests to continue working together to improve Afghans’ prospects of a meaningful future at home. One thing is clear. To achieve this, we must invest all our energy in the peace process. An inclusive process that is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, with a meaningful role for the powerful women of this country.

Of course, as everyone realises, this is not a simple task. We must be in it for the long run if we want to reach a stable and enduring peace in Afghanistan.

But progress is possible, provided we are all willing to move in the right direction: forwards, not backwards. So what does that mean?

Firstly: that all parties, including the Taliban, partipate in the peace process. I reiterate our call for them to come to the negotiating table.

Secondly: that we remember that security has more dimensions than the military one. Security is multidimensional, which means our approach must be too. 

Thirdly: that we build on progress that’s already been made. Progress so many have worked so hard for. For example, with regard to the position of women and girls, who are now entering education in large numbers. Or with regard to access to justice - we need to keep up the good work. The same goes for the process of reforms – we need to redouble our efforts.

The Netherlands will remain an active and reliable partner for Afghans striving for peace. Bilaterally, and with our partners in NATO, the EU and the UN. In the knowledge that security solutions will also have to be found in a regional context. Working in a multifaceted approach.

Earlier this year, the Dutch government announced a significant increase in our contribution of military and police officers to the Resolute Support Mission, until the end of 2021. Our development ties are substantial: in Brussels we pledged 250 million US dollars for the period up to 2020. The difficult humanitarian situation has led us to pledge additional funds. And we also contribute to the EU’s development efforts in Afghanistan.

This will be money well spent if it is used wisely, effectively, in a coordinated way and for the benefit of the Afghan people.

Therefore, we urge the Afghan government to strengthen good governance and the rule of law, and to show clear results. Results on the reforms we agreed on. Results in combating corruption and in ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers.

A new generation of Afghans is knocking at the door of a new Afghanistan. Young, educated, talented women and men who don’t want to return to the dark ages of clerical rule. A generation that’s working with just one goal in mind: one neatly summarised by Ramiz Bakhtiar, Afghanistan’s UN youth representative, whom I’m proud to have met in person:

‘An Afghanistan that is a stable and reliable regional and international partner, a democratic society and a country that stands up for human dignity and the rights of our most marginalised groups.’

This is the future Afghanistan we must all keep in mind. It’s a future that may seem distant at times. But with thoughtful engagement and resolute pursuit of peace by all, it’s a future that is possible.

Thank you.