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Members of Parliament Participate in Consultation on Infrastructure Development in Afghanistan
Members of Wolesi Jirga (Afghan Parliament) participated in a conference on “Afghanistan Reconnected” organized by the EastWest Institute (EWI) in Istanbul, from April 9-11, 2013. Focusing on “The potential for Afghanistan to act as an economic land bridge”, the conference included discussions on local and regional perspectives on infrastructure development, trade and businesses with the aim to chart new measures to strengthen the Afghan economy. It is the first conference within the “Abu Dhabi Process 2013/2014”, a high-level consultation series over the next two years on the issue of “Economic Security in Afghanistan Post-2014”.
“Achievements on the security front will be fleeting unless they are underpinned by sustainable economic development,” Ambassador Fatih Ceylan of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned participants at the opening of the conference. Many reiterated the point that the market won’t wait for those in power to make decisions necessary for economic development.
The business communities of the region voiced their interest in unimpeded trade and more business opportunities, discussing the challenges in developing the hard and soft infrastructure required to enhance Afghanistan’s connectivity. Attendees agreed that Afghanistan’s economic potential will only be optimized when it becomes a transit route for trade and continental transport connecting people and markets in East and South Asia, Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Another key issue at the conference was the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the need to enhance regular trade in line with the Afghanistan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA).
Several participants from Pakistan and Afghanistan recognized the existing trust-deficit in the region as a major obstacle to developing its full potential. Najlla Habibyar, head of Afghanistan’s Export Promotion Agency, also emphasized the potential for her country to move from being an importer to an exporter of energy with the right infrastructure in place.
Despite the enormous hurdles, participants believed that there are tremendous regional possibilities.
The conference agreed on a number of recommendations to aid the development of the infrastructure network within Afghanistan and beyond in the short, medium and long term.
About 40 high level representatives of governments, parliaments and the private sector from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, the United States and Europe, as well as from regional and international organizations, attended the conference. The initiative of integrating parliamentarians into the "Abu Dhabi Process 2013/2014" is funded through the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a means to enrich the debate and to offer parliamentarians the opportunity to partake in informal consultations on issues in the public interest and in consultations regarding tenders and large-scale infrastructure projects.
The participation of Members of Parliament as representatives of the end-users and of the public at large who can take full account of the realities on the ground has been greatly appreciated by leading experts and other participants. Together with Afghan government representatives the parliamentarians vowed to take swift action and expressed the commitment to follow up on these recommendations.