Minister Paatero's speech at the International Afghanistan Conference

International Afghanistan Conference, London 4 December 2014. Mrs. Sirpa Paatero, Minister for International Development of Finland.

(Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister /Ministers)  Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank our British hosts for their warm hospitality.

The international community has come together here today to reconfirm its support for Afghanistan, based on the mutual accountability expressed in Tokyo two years ago.

This conference is convened at a time when a process of historic dimension is being concluded in Afghanistan. Our common goal is a self-reliant Afghanistan, which is able to shape its own future based on a successful transition. This requires renewed efforts, cooperation and hard work.

Compared to the situation in 2001, Afghanistan has made real progress in nation building, fostering economic growth, improving health and education, and rebuilding infrastructure. However, formidable challenges remain in security, poverty reduction, job creation and service delivery. As we all know, these challenges are interconnected. Sustainable progress in them is mutually reinforcing.

Post-transition development will depend on reforms in key sectors. The ownership of Afghanistan remains the foundation for Finland's support. I therefore welcome the National Unity Government's Commitment to Reforms and Renewed Partnership. It is a well written and clear plan for Afghanistan.  Indeed, the time for reform is now.

Making progress is not only about convincing the international community. It is first and foremost about convincing the Afghan people. It is about restoring their faith in their own government and about offering them a future. Keeping everybody on board is a key challenge. It is easy to destroy and much more difficult to build. Ownership and participation by the whole Afghan society are needed - a common will to develop the country together.

Afghan women must have a role in society. Their future is connected to a better future of the whole country. I would like to congratulate Afghanistan for the strong ownership shown in implementing the UN Security Council resolution 1325.

This thematic session addresses transparency and anti-corruption. Finland encourages the Afghan Government to tackle the underlying drivers of corruption. The Government paper contains a good road map and we fully support the implementation of it.

During the past 13 years, Finland has been contributing to the efforts to rebuild and stabilize Afghanistan. We have sent troops to ISAF, participated in civilian crisis management and contributed over 220 million euros in development and humanitarian assistance. Our annual support now stands at 30 million euros per year. We are ready to continue this long-term support and keep our funding at the current level.

I would like to point out that domestic support for our national contribution is closely linked to the efforts of the Afghan Government. There is a particular interest in improvement of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.  This became clear when the Finnish parliament recently discussed our support to Afghanistan.

Our own historic experience has shown us the need for closer regional cooperation in promoting security and development. This is also the case in Afghanistan. I would like to recall the importance and responsibilities of neighbors and regional partners in this regard.

I sincerely hope our joint efforts will contribute towards a more peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan, and I wish the best of success to the new Afghan Government.

Thank you very much