Colombo: Senior Assistant Secretary-General of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Lilakshini de Mel called on Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari on October 29, 2019 to discuss his efforts to form a Sri Lanka-Afghanistan Business Council, following his recent meetings with the Colombo Chamber of Commerce.
They agreed to first form a Sri Lanka-Afghanistan Business Desk within the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, which would work with this Embassy to establish the Council as a shared goal. Ambassador Haidari welcomed the proposal and looks forward to forming the Desk soon.
Read Ambassador Haidari's recent article in the Sunday Observer on "Sri Lanka and Afghanistan: A Growing Partnership."
The Ambassador recently discussed this with Deputy Director-General of the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) Idrees Malyar, who noted that such capacity was acutely needed to help address the long-term water needs of Afghansitan to irrigate arable lands for continuing to boost the Afghan economy, while ensuring environmental sustainability, as Afghanistan remains one of the most vulnerable countries to the adverse effects of climate-change.
Remarks by Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari at the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Conference on "Regional Economic Integration: A Catalyst for Socioeconomic Prosperity in South Asia"
Colombo - October 18, 2019
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you in participating in this timely Conference, and wish to thank the leadership of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry for inviting all of us for fruitful and results-oriented discussions on a key issue of common interest to all member-states of SAARC, including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Regional economic integration can indeed be a catalyst for the social and economic development of South Asia, one of the most economically promising and resourceful regions in the world. At the same time, regional economic integration remains the only option for addressing the longstanding, protracted interstate tensions in South Asia. We know this from the bitter experiences of old Europe—of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries Europe—where the pursuit of zero-sum foreign policies and militarism led to the utter destruction of the whole continent in the two World Wars.
In the wake of the end of the Second World War, Europeans realized that what unfortunately remains the status quo in South Asia would no longer serve their shared best long-term national security and economic interests. That is why they gradually but steadily moved towards long-term economic integration, which they realized could help address their short- and long-term human and protective security needs that were increasingly intertwined and could no longer be ensured by the pursuit of zero-sum approaches that cost them two devastating wars.
And this bitter experience of Europe and the resulting Western Europe’s adoption of a common economic market soon began inspiring other regions of the world to form such regional groupings as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Eurasian Economic Community, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Pacific Islands Forum, the African Union, the Union of South American Nations, to name a few. As we know, however, not all these regional groupings have achieved their dream of meaningful economic integration on a par with that of Europe. SAARC stands out in having lagged far behind others because two of its key member-states remain hostile to each other. This continues to hinder efforts by the other member-states, including Afghanistan, to make steady progress towards regional economic integration, which underpins the vision and mission of SAARC when it was established in 1985.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we continue advocating for cooperation against confrontation among our neighbors, Afghanistan has consistently pursued a foreign policy that promotes regional economic cooperation against zero-sum hedging strategies. We strongly believe that the replacement of confrontational policies at the regional level with those of cooperative, win-win partnerships would gradually minimize the existing interstate tensions in South Asia. And this enables SAARC to realize its vision, knowing that South Asia is an extremely young and naturally endowed region where our youths demand jobs and a secure future. Indeed, this wouldn’t come to pass, unless the South Asian governments made tough choices against the status quo to help ensure their shared prosperity and security throughout our promising region.
The Government of Afghanistan has done our part and continues to do so. Despite the imposed security challenges facing our nation, we have put forth a strategic solution for adoption and implementation by our near and far neighbors: The Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process (HOA-IP) on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan and the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA). These Afghanistan-led processes were established to help secure regional cooperation for Afghanistan’s stabilization and sustainable development, thereby ensuring regionwide stability and prosperity.
Even though HOA-IP and RECCA remain underutilized so far, it is in the best short- and long-term interests of the countries — including India and Pakistan — that participate in the two processes to achieve the shared goals of the two platforms. Of course, every tangible step they take to utilize these interconnected processes will help minimize these and other nations’ security and socioeconomic vulnerabilities against the terrorist-extremist-criminal nexus that mostly victimizes Afghanistan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This constructive thinking is the foundation of our fast-growing ties with the friendly Government and people of Sri Lanka, with whom Afghanistan shares an ancient civilization. Since I took up my assignment last year, we have worked to further expand our bilateral relations with a focus on promoting full-spectrum connectivity that builds deeper economic, defense, cultural, and people-to-people ties between Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and the rest of South Asia. In this light, we have met with numerous businesses, including members of Sri Lanka’s chambers of commerce, to discuss the vast bilateral trade potential that needs to be realized.
More recently, we met with the representatives of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the Colombo Chamber of Commerce, the National Chamber of Commerce, as well as the International Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka to discuss the formation of an Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Business Council to promote exchange of trade delegations, business-to-business meetings, and business match-making conferences, which should facilitate bilateral investment between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. To this end, we look forward to finalizing and signing with Sri Lanka an MOU on trade and investment promotion and protection.
This step together with our bilateral air services agreement should facilitate the establishment of a direct passenger and cargo flight between Kabul and Colombo. When this happens as one of my key goals, Afghans and Sri Lankans should be able to reconnect with our shared heritage through tourism, trade and investment, education, and cultural exchange. Indeed, the achievement of this bilateral goal will help South Asia as a least connected region make a giant leap forward towards regional economic integration—effectively connecting SAARC’s northernmost member-state, Afghanistan, with its southernmost counterpart, Sri Lanka.
NEPA Deputy Director-General Idrees Malyar Addresses the UN Global Campaign on Sustainable Nitrogen Management
Colombo: - Mr. Idrees Malyar, the Deputy Director-General of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) paid an official visit to Colombo on October 23-24, 2019. Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari received the Deputy Director-General and accompanied him to some of the events organized as part of the launch of the UN Global Campaign Sustainable Nitrogen Management in Colombo. Director-General Malyar addressed international delegates from 31 countries at the launching of the UN Global Campaign on Sustainable Nitrogen Management. A full copy of the transcript of his remarks is below.
Afghanistan Country Statement for the United Nations Global Campaign on Sustainable Nitrogen Management
Colombo, Sri Lanka
23–24 October 2019
In the Name of God, The Merciful, The Compassionate
Your Excellencies, Honourable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure and privilege to address this Ministerial Session on Nitrogen for life as part of the United Nations Global Campaign on Sustainable Nitrogen Management. At the outset, I would like to recognise the hospitality of our hosts, Sri Lanka, and the example set by H.E. Maithripala Sirisena, who in his capacity as President and Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment has given great direction in the field of environmental sustainability in this country. I would also like to recognise the action taken by the United Nations Environment Programme under the leadership of Ms. Inger Andersen in addressing this issue. This Global Campaign is a positive move towards reaching the objectives of the resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management adopted by the United Nations Environment Assembly in March of this year, and we applaud all involved in the initiative.
Afghanistan is a developing country coping with the impacts of nearly four decades of conflict and various forms of environmental degradation. Nevertheless, the people and government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are committed to building a prosperous and healthy future, which includes sound management of chemicals and combatting pollution. We recognise the negative impacts of nitrogen pollution on the environment and human health. However, as a country whose people predominantly depend on agriculture, nitrogen is central to food security and livelihoods. Balancing the positive and negative aspects of nitrogen necessitates urgent steps being taken towards its proper management in our country, as in the rest of the world.
Large-scale industrial production in Afghanistan is nascent, and we do not currently have significant industrial sources of nitrogen and only 13% of emissions are from fuel combustion. Instead, our nitrogen emissions are mostly from agricultural sources, particularly direct and indirect emissions of oxides of nitrogen from managed soils that together account for over 80% of total nitrogen emissions.
However, detailed assessments of sources of nitrogen and potential means to manage these sources have yet to be undertaken. As our economy grows, safeguards will prove essential to ensuring that our development is sustainable and does not contribute to avoidable nitrogen emissions. In order to reduce pollution and promote sound chemical management, our government has developed a number of relevant regulations, guidelines and standards including a regulation on the reduction and prevention of air pollution as well as national standards on air quality and industrial pollution.
Furthermore, Afghanistan is signatory to a number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements on pollution and chemical management, including the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Minamata conventions. As part of our commitments under these conventions, we have established a National Chemicals Unit and a National Chemical Committee to strengthen institutional coordination on chemical and pollution management. These and other recent achievements will enable us to undertake further regulatory action for enhanced management of nitrogen such as:
- revising policies to include the sustainable management of nitrogen;
- developing national standards for management of nitrogen and other chemicals;
- strengthening the capacities of relevant agencies to enforce the Environment Law;
- establishing a research programme and laboratory to detect and monitor hazardous chemicals;
- introducing alternative energy sources and appropriate technologies and practices to reduce nitrogen emissions; and
- education and awareness raising among farmers.
However, to maintain this momentum and continue advancing our achievements, support from international partners is needed. In particular, we require technical assistance related to knowledge, technologies and best practices for reducing pollution and improving chemical and nitrogen management. Capacity development support is needed to strengthen our institutions to be able to tackle nitrogen management and develop strategic plans for long-term actions to reduce pollution. Likewise, financial assistance is also needed to implement these technical and capacity initiatives, as well as bring to fruition our actions to combat nitrogen pollution.
Thank you for your attention.
Colombo: - Following his radio interview with the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) to discuss with the public a wide range of issues of interest to Afghanistan and SriLanka, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met the Corporation's leadership to explore opportunities for an exchange of delegations between the two countries' media, including public and private outlets. The Ambassador noted free media in South Asia can play a major role in helping forge closer people-to-people ties, focusing governments on addressing the common needs of the region's youthful populations.
Afghanistan has the freest media in South Asia and Central Asia, thanks to the strong commitment of the leadership of the Government of Afghanistan to ensuring freedoms of express and press in the Afghan society. As a key member of the civil society, Afghanistan's free press has played a seminal role in helping further institutioanlize the country's developing democracy. In one of his recent articles in the Diplomat Magazine, Ambassador Haidari discussed "How Free Press Has Strengthened Democracy in Afghanistan."
Ambassador Haidari Interviews on SLBC to Discuss People-to-People Ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka
The Ambassador also remarked on these issues at the recent National Day reception of Afghanistan in Colombo. And he further communicated them to the Sri Lankan public through his article on "Sri Lanka and Afghanistan: A Growing Partnership," which has been concurrently published in major national and international dailies and Sunday papers, including those depicted here.
Ambassador Haidari Represents Afghanistan in the Galle Dialogue-2019: International Maritime Conference
Moreover, he said, "It goes without saying that maritime security, on which much else depends, is interconnected with events in landlocked countries. Afghanistan is a prime example: over the past forty years, geopolitical tensions have imposed destructive conflicts on what is one of the most naturally endowed countries at the heart of rising Asia. In absence of peace in Afghanistan to enable sustainable development that secures the future of its youthful population, poverty permeates the Afghan society." He added that "this provides an enabling environment for such maritime security challenges as terrorism, drug trafficking, arms smuggling and human trafficking—among others."
Read Ambassador Haidari's article in The National Interest Magazine on how "Afghanistan's Stabilization Can Ensure Maritime Security."
Colombo: - This month, Afghanistan took over three leadership positions in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including the Chairmanship of the Governing Board of the SAARC Cultural Center, the Chairwomanship of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Women Entrepreneurs Council (SCWEC), as well as the Vice Presidency of the SAARC CCI.
Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari commented on these major gains: "Afghanistan has consistently pursued a foreign policy agenda that advances regional security and economic cooperation across South Asia. We will utilize these leadership positions in the next two years to build on our gains of the past eighteen years, further enhancing full-spectrum connectivity among our governments, businesses, as well as youthful populations, who share common needs and who demand common opportunities and socioeconomic facilities."
The Ambassador added that "this can only be achieved through sincere, results-driven regional security and economic cooperation. The case of the European Union is a clear example. Lose-win designs would hardly benefit any member-states of SAARC, while economic cooperation and integration would benefit them all."
Afghanistan Takes Over the Chairwomanship of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce Women Entrepreneurs Council
Afghanistan Takes Over the Chairmanship of the Governing Board of the SAARC Cultural Center in Colombo
Colombo: - On October 19, 2019, Afghanistan assumed the vice presidency of SAARC Chamber of Commerce (SAARC CCI). Ambassador Haidari congratulated Mr. Khairuddin Mayel, the Vice Chair of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI), on assuming his position as the new SAARCCCI Vice Chair for the next two years.
Mr. Mayel enjoys the full support of the private sector, Minister of Commerce and Industry Ajmal Ahmady, as well as his colleagues in all other Afghan Chambers, including the Afghan Women's Chamber of Commerce (AWCCI).
Ambassador Haidari looks forward to supporting Mr. Mayel in his new role.
Afghanistan Takes Over the Chairmanship of the Governing Board of the SAARC Cultural Center in Colombo
Colombo: - On October 19, 2019, Afghanistan took over the Chairmanship of the Governing Board of the SAARC Cultural Center in Colombo for the next two years.
Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met and congratulated Mr. Abdul Moqim Afghan, who'll represent Afghanistan in this position. A dynamic leader, Mr. Afghan, Director-General of Policy and Plan of the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, has already initiated reforms and programs to be implemented by the SAARC Cultural Center, including a SAARC Archaelogy and Heritage Management Training Workshop in Kabul and a SAARC Non-Violence Day to be celebrated in Afghanistan, which sadly remains a victim of an imposed terror campaign, having killed and wounded more than 10000 innocent citizens of Afghanistan this year alone.
Ambassador Haidari looks forward to working with Mr. Afghan in the coming two years to make Afghanistan's Chairmanship of the #SAARC Cultural Center Governing Board productive and an exemplary success for emulation by other member-states in the future.