The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan kicked off on Tuesday with an event on regional economic cooperation and another on women's empowerment.
With the overall aim of generating international support for the Afghan reform process and ensuring continued international political and financial support to bolster Afghanistan's economic stability, development and state-building processes over the next four years, the two-day Brussels Conference on Afghanistan is bringing together leaders from more than 70 countries, 20 international organizations and agencies, and a vast range of stakeholders.
A self-reliant, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan is a priority for the European Union, Afghanistan, its neighbors and the international community at large.
The first event of the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan brought together high-level participants and panelists from across the international community, including the First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani.
They discussed the ways and means of empowering Afghan women to build a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, as well as reinforcing the political and human rights of Afghan women and how to realize those rights in everyday life.
"The empowerment of women is not only a matter of human rights and social justice; it is also about development; it is about human growth; it is about security; it is about fulfilling the potential of Afghanistan", said the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, during her welcome address.
"A commitment towards women is a commitment towards stronger, richer and more just societies and as European Union we are supporting this process both politically and as the biggest financial contributor to the country's new National Action Plan for Women", she added.
The event featured many high-level participants and speakers, including the welcome address by Mogherini, as well as speeches by the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and President Ashraf Ghani.
Senior Afghan government officials as well as representatives of the international community, including civil society, business, academics and other key stakeholders, also took part.
Participants took stock of developments in the country over the last decade, and concluded that while many positive changes have occurred in the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, further improvement of the situation of Afghan women is essential for the country's development and should remain a priority.
In this context, the Afghanistan outlined its plans for increasing women's participation in society and the economy, while the international community present, and notably the European Union, affirmed its commitment to supporting the authorities in their efforts.
The next event of the day was the Regional Economic Cooperation meeting that brought together traditional and new donors to emphasize the importance of political support and economic integration at the regional level.
Representatives from around the world, including Afghanistan's regional partner countries, as well as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, other multilateral organizations and representatives of the Afghan private sector discussed how best to mobilize support for projects with a regional impact and how to promote regional trade and development by linking policy reforms, infrastructure and regional connectivity.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, stressed: "We all have much to gain from a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. By building better regional infrastructure,
respecting the rule of law and fostering a business-friendly environment, Afghanistan – and its regional partners - can become a vibrant regional economic hub. Today's discussions are timely to identify and cultivate the common regional economic interests of Afghanistan and its neighbors."
Participants underlined that regional economic cooperation can create win-win results but requires dedicated, long-term and reliable partnerships. This is especially true for regional infrastructure where financial investments, also by new partners, will begin to pay off in the years to come.