Afghan women make voices heard at Bonn Conference

The International Afghanistan Conference

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
arrive for the 10th annual international Afghanistan conference on December 5,
2011 in Bonn, Germany. Representatives from a variety of countries are meeting
to discuss the future of Afghanistan, despite the absence of delegates from
Pakistan following an incident in which NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani border
guards recently. In a recent interview Karzai stated that his country will need
foreign assistance for at least another decade once NATO troops leave.

When President Karzai asked in November 2010 whether Germany would host this Afghanistan Conference, we were glad to comply with this request, stressed Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at a dinner with the delegations on the eve of the Conference. Security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan were in the interest of the entire international community, the Foreign Minister went on to say.

Support for Afghanistan had now reached a new phase, said Westerwelle: the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan security forces had begun and there were to be no more foreign combat troops serving in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

However, this would certainly not be the end of the international engagement. It would simply change – focusing more on reconstruction and development. Three key steps had already been taken on the road to full Afghan sovereignty:

Alongside the gradual handover of responsibility for security, a process of national reconciliation had also begun. Furthermore, it was decided at the Afghanistan Conference in Istanbul last month that regional cooperation in the security and development spheres would be improved.

Afghanistan will not be forgotten

“Tomorrow we will lay the foundation for a new relationship between a fully sovereign Afghanistan and the international community”, said Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the dinner on the Petersberg. A clear message would be sent to the people of Afghanistan: “We know our responsibility and we will continue to support you”.

This long-term international support needed to be clearly defined. Westerwelle proposed three pillars for this: continued civilian reconstruction, sustained support for the Afghan security forces and help for the country in unlocking its enormous economic potential.

A peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan was achievable. Westerwelle stated that “we owe it to the people of Afghanistan, and to ourselves and our values” to succeed.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle welcomes President Karzai

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai arrived in Bonn on 2 December and was welcomed at the airport by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “We are looking forward to this major Conference”, said Westerwelle. Karzai emphasized that his return to Bonn ten years after the first Afghanistan Conference in that city was a very special occasion for him.

Germany was an old friend of Afghanistan and, especially during the last ten years, had played a prominent role in the efforts to help his country and “had made sacrifices for its stabilization”.

Ten years after the Bonn Conference of 2001, the international community is meeting in Bonn again on 5 December 2011. Together with Afghanistan, the goal is to give concrete shape to the international community’s long-term joint engagement and to advance the further political process in the country.

“Afghanistan must become a stable community that is no longer a threat to peace”, wrote Westerwelle in a joint newspaper article with his Afghan colleague Zalmai Rassoul on 2 December.

At the NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010, the Government of Afghanistan asked the German Government to hold a Foreign Ministers Meeting to be led by Afghanistan. A total of around 90 delegations with 1000 participants are expected. Afghanistan is presiding over the Conference and Germany is hosting it. The United Nations is also playing an important role.

The Bonn Conference is focusing on three issues:

  • the civil aspects of the process of transferring responsibility to the Government of Afghanistan by 2014,
  • the long-term involvement of the international community in Afghanistan after 2014 and,
  • the political process that should lead to a long-term stabilization of the country.


Afghanistan’s youth need a better future


This political process must progress on two levels: the reconciliation of the country’s various population groups must remain a process that takes place inside Afghanistan. The renunciation of violence, dissociation from international terrorism and respect for the Afghan constitution, including its provisions on the protection of human rights, are of fundamental importance.

At the same time, the process must be secured by Afghanistan’s neighbours and regional powers. The stabilization of Afghanistan has to be seen in the context of the political stability of the entire region, to which all countries in the region contribute.

Celebrating Women for Women International-Afghanistan

What you help us do in Afghanistan

Our programs in Afghanistan include direct financial aid, rights awareness classes, job-skills training and emotional support. The one-year program was developed for Afghanistan’s special challenges and demands, and includes job-skills training that helps women earn an income and support themselves, with courses in:

Gem-cutting — taking advantage of Afghanistan’s rich natural resources and giving women a skill to help them earn an income by cutting gems for jewelry
Poultry — women in Afghanistan’s Parwan and Nangarhar provinces are trained in producing fresh eggs for local markets
Vegetable greenhouses – to give women access to a source of food, as well as produce to be sold at market

Other vocational training tracks include:
Goat keeping
Rug weaving

Our Success

Women for Women International has operated in Afghanistan since 2002. We are privileged to have Sweeta Noori as our Country Director, overseeing programs that have helped more than 20,000 women in 16 communities.

Among Women for Women International-Afghanistan program participants and graduates:
94% report improvements in their physical health
88% are actively participating in key household decisions
94% train and mentor other women in their community
83% are earning an income

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