Text of the Keynote Speech by The Chief Executive of The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah At the Geneva Conference On Afghanistan “Side Event- Food Security and Livelihood in Times of Drought”

Palais De Nations- Council Chamber, Geneva
27 November, 2018

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Switzerland, to the UN family and to all those who have organized and supported this important event.

We are all here today to discuss the unfortunate but timely and crucial topic of food security and livelihoods of the Afghan people in times of drought.

As you all might know, Afghanistan is currently facing a severe drought in 22 out of 34 provinces. The findings of the latest government-led and WFP- and FAO-supported food security assessments showed that this drought is causing famine-like conditions for more than 3.6 million people; It is also exacerbating already existing food insecurity for an additional 6.5 million more people nationwide. Prior to this year’s harvest season, hundreds of thousands of people – many of them women and children – migrated to provinces such as Herat, Badghis and Ghor, stretching the capacity of urban centers and creating social, logistical and financial stress on them. The drought has also resulted in a 25% increase in the number of children under five who are suffering from acute malnutrition, totalling over 600,000 children at higher risk of death in the affected provinces. Such malnutrition, if it continues, could have severe implications for the future of our next generation.

As winter approaches, our biggest concerns are for those rural households who are living in the areas most affected by the drought. These are also the areas with the highest levels of undernutrition and food insecurity. In the short term, we need to make sure that we have a sufficiently large emergency response so that we can lessen their food insecurity and the higher risk of mortality that comes with it.

Both the Government of Afghanistan and the international community have shown their commitment to tackling this drought since the very beginning. The response has been a collaborative effort carried out by the Government, the UN and the donor community, as represented by today’s panel.

The NUG has shown its commitment by mobilizing 60,000 tonnes of wheat from its strategic grain reserve to feed 1.4 million people in need. It has shown its leadership by chairing the emergency drought response meetings over the past many months. But, the support of the international community has also been crucial in this response – both in terms of coordination and financial support. I would like to especially thank USAID, the UK, the Governments of Australia, Japan, Canada, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and other friendly nations and organizations for their generous contributions that helped assist 1.4 million people in need over these past months.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At this stage, we must think about the long term, because worldwide trends show that in the long term, droughts are not going to cease. We know that the climate is changing, and droughts and other extreme weather events will only get worse. So, while we must continue with urgent humanitarian actions, we must also think about building the resilience of affected countries like Afghanistan for the future.

One way of building resilience that is very pertinent to todays’ event is through agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the Afghan economy: around 65 percent of our population rely directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods, which provides food security for most rural people.

However, agriculture and related sectors are under threat from extreme weather events, as demonstrated by the current drought that leads to land degradation and desertification, causing lower production, food insecurity, economic degradation, displacement and loss of lives.

In our case, loss of livelihoods and income can also force individuals to turn to criminality or, in worst case scenarios, make them vulnerable to recruitment by anti-government armed groupings.

In the case of Afghanistan, endowed with natural resources, one way to mitigate and manage natural and man-made disasters, is to make good use of our strengths and capabilities. We have come to agree that good water management and use of adaptable irrigation systems are going to be especially important in the coming years if we are to become, once again, self-sufficient in key agricultural and livestock sectors.

There is obviously room and need for improvement on our part in terms of how we can mitigate and manage current and future challenges. Nonetheless, experience from across the world demonstrates that multi-stakeholder engagement is the key to addressing both emergency responses and the long-term needs of affected communities.

In this regard, I am heartened to see that in the Afghan case there is a strong willingness on behalf of the international community and various governmental, multilateral and non-governmental stakeholders to be engaged, and to continue providing support to achieve common objectives.

Effective coordination and coherence in our planning, programming and implementation can trigger constructive transformation and offer solutions to the affected communities.

To address both immediate crisis and the long-term needs of the Afghan people, we welcome the establishment of partnerships and platforms such as the Afghanistan Food Security and Nutrition National Agenda (AFSeN) and the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster of Afghanistan as well as Afghanistan joining the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement.

The alignment of the non-Government partners’ strategic plans to the Government’s development policy framework will also allow us to conceive programmes focused on both emergency response and livelihoods creation, in the same manner that the creation of safety nets can prevent families from falling below the poverty line.

Dear friends and colleagues,

At this stage, when Afghanistan is facing a multitude of challenges, it is important to continue mobilizing resources for the current drought, but also to sustain these multi-partner platforms and translate plans into action.

The steep road that leads to development, progress, and peace in Afghanistan is touched by a threatening drought. We are here today to recommit ourselves to working together to decrease the impact, track and reach those who are affected, help them cope with the immediate crisis, then help them rebuild resilient livelihoods and improve food security conditions.

As we look to Afghanistan’s future, I am confident that our humanitarian and development partners will work with us, not only to implement programming that focuses on increased social, environmental and financial resiliency, but also to build sustainability through institutions and capacity-building.

I look forward to a fruitful discussion on improving food security and livelihoods in Afghanistan at this critical juncture and on seeking long-term solutions.

Thank you.

Source: http://ceo.gov.af