Two weeks ago in New York, I underlined to leaders in the United Nations that today’s conference is a unique opportunity for the rest of the world to show that it cares about supporting a stable Afghanistan. This is why I am very glad to welcome 75 countries and 25 international organisations here this morning. And I especially want to greet President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah and all the representatives of the Afghan government who join us as co-hosts.
In today’s world, responsible nations face many serious challenges at the same time. Despite this, the interest and level of engagement in Afghanistan show that the international community’s commitment remains strong, even after 15 years.
As of 2017, the EU and its Member States will be the largest donor of development assistance to Afghanistan. We will be supporting international efforts and local capacity building with around 1.3 billion euros this year, and will maintain this effort until 2020. More than 4,100 EU nationals are assisting local security forces, primarily through the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support, but also through the EU’s police training mission in Kabul.
These contributions reflect a strategy for a self-reliant Afghanistan, built on security, democracy, economic development and the rule of law.
In many ways the strategy is succeeding, thanks to the joint efforts of the Afghan authorities and international partners. To give a few examples. In 2001, only one million children were in school and almost all of those were boys. Today, more than 9 million children, nearly 40 per cent of them girls, are enrolled. During the same period, access to primary healthcare has increased from 9% of the population to more than 57%. And reform actions have been overall encouraging, especially in the area of public finance management, and in other sectors including justice, anti-corruption and human rights. More must now be done to make these things a reality in everyday life in Afghanistan.