On January 31, 2007, we marked the one-year anniversary of the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year integrated agreement between the Government of Afghanistan, the United Nations (UN), and the international community. Canada has been and continues to be a major participant in the Compact and has worked together with the international community to help move this country towards a brighter future. This anniversary provides an opportunity to highlight Canada’s many contributions to the Afghanistan mission and to review progress to date.
The Afghanistan Compact is comprised of a framework for coordinating the work of the Afghan Government and its international partners by outlining expected results and timelines in the areas of security, governance, and development. Canada pledged its full support and was instrumental in ensuring the January 2006 Compact included a mechanism to monitor programs and to promote momentum. Canada is addressing the three pillars of security, development, and governance through the work of Canadian development experts, diplomats, civilian police, correctional services, and military personnel. We are also working closely with Canadian and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), at the request of the democratically-elected Afghan government, which is part of a UN-sanctioned and North American Treaty Organization (NATO)-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Significant progress has been made in Afghanistan since the signing of the Compact one year ago. Progress has been made in the areas of: women, education, health, economic and social development, assistance and community-led development, security, and the clearance of mines. There have already been two nation-wide democratic elections and more than five million children (one-third girls) now attend school. Women now have better access to healthcare, the economy has tripled, and over four million refugees have returned home.
Canada also helps fund the National Solidarity Program, through which more than 17,000 villages – more than half of all Afghan villages – have seen the building or repair of schools, clinics, roads, irrigation canals, and wells in their communities. The program has the added advantage of assisting Afghans elect village councils, made up of men as well as women, and helps them in building infrastructure to improve their access to health services and education for their children.
In addition to our large ISAF presence, Canada is also one of the top five donors to national Afghan development programs, a key partner in United Nations de-mining work, and is the lead donor for the highly successful Microfinance program for small business, which has benefited at least 300,000 Afghans.
Rebuilding Afghanistan following decades of war is a slow and complex process. The results of Canadian efforts to date are encouraging and are a testament to the will and commitment on the part of the people of Afghanistan and the international community to succeed in moving forward. Canadians can take pride in knowing that our efforts to help Afghanistan, continues the long Canadian tradition of taking a proactive role in bringing stability and lasting peace, to parts of the world that have witnessed great turmoil and upheaval.