Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala visited Kabul, Afghanistan, from 18 to 21 November. She talked with the country’s political leaders, international actors, and representatives of civil society. In addition, she gained insight into daily development cooperation by visiting a reproduction health project supported by Finland and a project promoting women’s employment. Development cooperation is carried out in Afghanistan under extremely challenging conditions.
In her talks with Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul and Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, Minister Hautala underlined Finland’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan’s development. It is important that Afghanistan implement its pledge to strengthen governance and eradicate corruption. Finland’s priorities are equality, human rights and good governance. Other topics taken up during the discussions were Afghanistan’s economic and security situation and preparations for the presidential elections of 2014.
The meeting with Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani focused on the prerequisites for environmentally sustainable mining industry, as also highlighted by Finland’s recent experiences. Income from the mining industry could form the backbone of the Afghan economy, as long as the security situation allows the investments needed for the operations and mining production can be started.
There are many active representatives of civil society in Afghanistan. Minister Hautala had the opportunity to exchange views, for instance, with representatives of civil society organisations, prominent women, and parliamentarians. One of the most prominent women met was Minister of Public Health Suraya Dalil. Concern for the status of women and girls and the need for the international community’s support for human rights were highlighted in discussions with many actors. Much progress has been achieved but more remains to be done. During her visits to the projects, the Minister also had the opportunity to talk with ordinary Afghan women and girls about their lives.
“Those fighting for the rights of Afghan women are brave and deserve our full support,” Hautala stressed during the meetings. “The next few years will be crucial for Afghanistan’s development. The progress made within the last ten years must not be discarded. People see their future as positive but at the same time threatening. Afghans are in the process of assuming responsibility for their own security, but they also need support to get to their feet as a society. This is one of the most crushed countries in the world, and the people suffering the most are the most vulnerable women and children.”
Most of Finland’s development assistance to Afghanistan is channelled through the World Bank and UN organisations. Minister Hautala met with the leaders of the organisations and exchanged views on the future direction of the country.
Photos of Minister Hautala’s programme in Kabul: