(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
Ladies and gentleman,
I am honoured to participate in this significant international Conference and I would like to express my congratulations to the governments of both the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan for organizing it.
This event is particularly meaningful since it offers us an opportunity to stress, before this distinguished audience of international investors and entrepreneurs, a new vision of Afghanistan and of the prospects for the full integration of its economy with the international one.
We have long considered Afghanistan to be, first and foremost, a country where our security was at stake. Both Western and Gulf states have fallen victim to terrorist attacks. However, especially after 9/11, we have come to understand that security is a global good that should be shared rather than accumulated in one corner of the world. That is why Italy has not left Afghanistan to its own fate and is still committed to ensuring its security and prosperity, also through a large military contingent reaching about 4.200 soldiers including more than 500 trainers. I stressed this commitment once again a month ago when I chaired a meeting in Rome with Minister Rassoul.
Our engagement reflects our holistic approach to security. Indeed, we are convinced that security cannot be seen just as a “vertical function” provided by foreign governments and armies. We are aware that we must work in a partnership that sees the beneficiary country become the protector of its own security. That is what we mean by transition, by true democratic ownership. It includes the essential human dimension: a “horizontal function” that strengthens the country by guaranteeing reasonable prospects of a good life – and hope for its civil society. Moreover, good results and economic figures just mentioned by my friend Australian Foreign Minister Rudd should further encourage all of us.
Building upon these assumptions, we have established a model of cooperation in Herat based on an inclusive dialogue with social and institutional stakeholders. We are encouraging these participatory processes, which are essential if Afghanistan’s economic and social fabric is to be restored. We have been investing hundreds of million dollars in Afghanistan. We are currently working to improve the investment climate by promoting access to credit and fostering local entrepreneurship. Our primary goal is to unleash a new process of development which should start from the Afghan people, from their traditional know-how and from the natural resources at their disposal.
The initiatives launched together with our Afghan partners have produced encouraging results. Especially in some of the sectors – the marble industry and agro-business – that are the focus of today’s meeting. In the case of the marble industry, the first supply contracts have already been signed. At the same time, the Italian private sector has an increasing involvement in the Afghan agro-business, especially as regards the expansion of traditional crops like saffron and fruit. These activities are all the more relevant since they can be profitable substitutes for opium.
Admittedly, we face several challenges. For example, investments are needed if we are to move on from the extraction of raw materials to local manufacturing and commercialisation. Infrastructure improvements are also required if the economy is to take off; and good governance and a proper legal framework are essential conditions for sustainable growth. A prosperous economy needs institutions committed to ensuring that contracts are respected and the law properly implemented and enforced. That is why Italy is also supporting the modernisation of the Afghan justice system.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Italy and the United Arab Emirates are linked by a very fruitful economic partnership. Many important Italian companies have found a very productive and friendly location here. I am confident that, building on this precedent, we can help together Afghanistan develop its huge potential.
The process is on the right path. The initiative to host this Conference is a vivid example of regional cooperation. I am sure that together we can achieve great results in the interest of our peoples and of the international community.