"Not only in my capacity as German development minister, but also on behalf of the EU Presidency, I promised President Hamid Karzai that we would continue to stand by his country and its people," said German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul after meeting the President at the Afghanistan Development Forum in Afghanistan's capital. At the two-day conference, representatives of the international donor community and the Afghan government jointly deliberate ways of continuing and enhancing the support provided to Afghanistan.
"President Karzai and I exchanged views on the challenges at hand. The President expressed his thanks for the efforts undertaken by Germany and by the international donor community. We agreed that we would not be discouraged by the increased difficulties. People here in Afghanistan have already achieved major progress on reconstruction. The economy is growing at a rate of 14 per cent. Per capita incomes have doubled over the past five years. More than 7 million children are in school again. Over 90 per cent of the people have access to basic medical services. However, we must not relent in our efforts. I greatly welcome the fact that President Karzai wants to reinforce the fight against corruption and drug production in his country. In that context, it will be vital to provide people in rural areas with real income alternatives. Our development cooperation is making a significant contribution to that. Moreover, it is important that drug producers be prosecuted by the justice system with determination - especially large-scale producers, not just the small ones," said Wieczorek-Zeul.
The German Development Minister is visiting Afghanistan in her capacity as representative of the German EU Presidency. It is her fourth visit to the country since the fall of the Taleban five years ago. In addition to attending the Afghanistan Development Forum in Kabul, the Minister will visit the country's north in order to learn about reconstruction there.
"This country continues to need our support. This year, we increased our resources for bilateral development cooperation with Afghanistan from 80 million euros to 100 million euros. Above all, we want to use this funding to further strengthen the education sector. We support the new national education plan of the Afghan government. This nationwide program is intended to provide support to schools, especially schools for girls, and for the construction of new schools in the country's south. Education is a central prerequisite for Afghanistan's peaceful development and for the country's democratization. What is particular important in that regard is to include the country's women and girls. I will continue to give very strong personal support to that," said German Development Minister Wieczorek-Zeul.