Since the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan 17 years ago, the international community has been supporting the country on its way to lasting peace. On 27 and 28 November, 70 states and international organisations gathered for a conference in Geneva at the invitation of the United Nations to discuss current progress and future support for Afghanistan. Germany was represented by Foreign Minister Maas.
Steps of hope on the way to peace
Despite the difficult security situation, the Afghan Government has recently seen successes on the thorny path to peace that give cause for hope. In February 2018, President Ashraf Ghani’s Government expressed a willingness to engage in peace talks with the Taliban without imposing conditions. Then in June, weapons on both sides were silent for the first time in a long while during a three day ceasefire. Furthermore, in October 2018, the first parliamentary elections under sole Afghan responsibility were held. Despite numerous attacks and massive intimidation attempts, a large number of people made use of their right to vote. More than ten times as many candidates canvassed for the 250 seats in the House of the People, including many well educated young women.
Peace can only be achieved by the Afghans themselves
The form future support for the peace and reform process in Afghanistan should take is therefore one of the central themes of the Geneva Conference. All parties are aware that ultimately, lasting peace can only be achieved by the Afghans themselves. For this to succeed, all relevant stakeholders and groups must receive appropriate consideration.
Germany, like other countries, is making its further support for Afghanistan dependent on the implementation of domestic reforms. These include the resolute continuation of democratic governance, the fight against corruption and respect for human rights. The experiences gleaned from the parliamentary elections need to be channelled into the organisation of the presidential elections scheduled for April 2019 and shortcomings be addressed. That is the only way to bolster public confidence in democratic structures and processes.
Foreign Minister Maas calls for concrete steps in the reform process
At the opening of the Conference, Foreign Minister Maas emphasised Germany’s willingness to continue its comprehensive engagement for Afghanistan. He said that the path to peace in Afghanistan required long term support and multilateral cooperation. He expressly commended the peacebuilding initiative launched by President Ghani, but also called for concrete steps in the reform process. Maas stated that Afghanistan needed a government that would ideally include all groups in society. He went on to say that ultimately, a political solution was the only option for the conflict in Afghanistan.