Source: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Report:
The First Lady, Madame DiCarlo, Dr. Abdullah, Minister Cassis, head of delegations, Ladies and Gentleman, Colleagues, Ambassador Yamamoto.
It is an honor to be here in Geneva. Let me take this opportunity to thank you, our international partners.
Thank you for partnering with us to convene eleven non-pledging and pledging conferences since 2001. Those were held in Bonn and Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris and Tokyo, and have been extremely important in setting direction and consolidating support.
We are also grateful for the many NATO summits, where critical resources were committed for the support of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and the ISAF and RS missions.
We would like to thank all the donor countries—your governments and, particularly, taxpayers—for your continuous and principled support. We pay tribute to your fallen sons and daughters –3,458 of your finest made the ultimate sacrifice between 2001 and 2014 in Afghanistan, and 59 more since assumption of responsibility for security by Afghan forces on January 1, 2015.
Thank you to more than a million veterans, and families of the fallen, who have an unmatched appreciation, concern and understanding for our people and our country.
We would also like to specifically recognize the commitment in blood and treasure that the United States has shown since 2001 as our key ally. The South Asia Strategy of President Trump has been a game changer, allowing us to focus in earnest on self-reliance, reforms and peace. Because it is a conditions based strategy.
We also thank our neighbors near and far and regional partners who have provided immense assistance on a bilateral basis, as well as via the Heart of Asia/Istanbul process, RECCA, and other forums. Finally, we thank the UN for co-hosting this conference today, and the Swiss government for its presence, and all of you distinguished leaders for attending.
This conference captures both continuity in our mutual interests, but also a marked change in Afghans taking ownership of our problems and leadership for the solutions.
When we last convened to discuss Afghanistan’s peace and development trajectory in Brussels two years ago, and I would like to thank High Representative Mogherini for very careful stewardship of that conference and her colleagues. Our nation had just entered its Decade of Transformation—a decade that would see intensive government reforms in order for us to achieve democratic stability, economic self-reliance, and more accountable systems of government.
What are the emerging patterns at the midway point in this Decade of Transformation? I will describe three significant patterns of change.
First, Afghan men and women are now appropriating the values of our constitution—especially the provision on the equality of all citizens, rights and freedoms— as values to be treasured and defended. Afghans are embracing and embodying the notion of citizenship.
There is no better demonstration of the emergence of the active citizen than the long lines of voters we witnessed on October 20 who defied threats of violence and rocket attacks to cast their ballots in the parliamentary elections.
Second, there is a renewed consensus that the constitution is the rulebook that binds us as free citizens of a democratic polity. Stability, therefore, is derived from the will of the people. Afghans have shown that we believe inclusive, transparent, and timely elections are the key to the renewal of bonds between us and our elected government. Our people firmly reject any notions of extra-constitutional change.
Third, we are witnessing an unprecedented generational change. With great hope and optimism, we are seeing both women and men of the millennium generation take their rightful place at the table of leadership and management in government, society, and politics. The torch has not so much been passed to them, but instead they have risen up and claimed it. And Dr. Abdullah and I are proud to have been facilitated this.
What these new faces bring is the fresh perspective of our most well-educated and socially-engaged generation ever. They were born into war and grew up in it, and are now ready to lead our homeland to peace and prosperity. Whereas the old guard of political elite practice power politics rooted in fear and personalities, the millennium generation envisions a political climate that brings lasting stability—one that is built through strong institutions, public service, and democratic accountability and transparency.
This is the human element of reform. I turn now to the technical element of reform we have undertaken over the past four years to achieve a platform for state-building.
Believing that rule of law is the glue that binds the citizens and the state in a firm social contract, the government of national unity undertook systematic reform to build a legal foundation on the basis of the provisions of the constitution.
We promulgated or amended close to 390 laws, edicts and regulations since 2015. For the first time in Afghanistan’s history, we have a penal code that is in line with UNODC requirements, and an anti-corruption law. We have a new municipal law for the first time in 100 years. New mining and oil and gas laws have allowed us to start to accountably and legally open up this sector to private investment.
This year, our efforts to improve the business climate for private sector investment were validated when the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators report recognized us at the top reforming country. Our Access to Information law has been recognized as the best in the world. The legal turn has been accompanied by appointment of reforming Chief justice and Attorney General, six judges of the Supreme Court, and a major reform of the systems and processes in both the courts and the Attorney General’s office. Demonstration of respect for judicial independence and respect for separation of powers has been a hallmark of our administration.
In short, we have advanced in providing a legal foundation for a modern economy, society, and the state.
Defying predictions of collapse and failure, our national security and defense forces have fought valiantly, befitting of patriots dedicated to the well-being of our country. While fighting for our dignity and freedom, as well as for global security, we also carried out a complete overhaul of our security sector. Shamefully, it had become a hotbed of corruption and our troops on the frontlines were bearing the consequences.
We amended the inherent law to lower the age of retirement. This year, 1,052 higher-ranking military officers were retired—prior to 2015, retirement was an exceptional occurrence. The reform allowed desperately needed generational change in leadership and management. An appointments board has also created transparency and mobility for officers, in a merit-based system. We have focused relentlessly on resource utilization in the security sector, bringing order to the procurement process where Dr. Abdullah and I personally oversee the procurement process.
As we approach the end of the first year in our four year security plan, I am pleased to share that our commando force is doubling and our air-force is tripling in size. Reform of the police is underway, with biometric registration to eliminate ghost soldiers making significant progress, and human resource management systems now fully in place.
As we strengthened our forces, we also restored trust with our allies and partners. The government of national unity signed the Bilateral Security Agreement and Status of Forces Agreement on its first day in office. We worked relentlessly to deepen and broaden our partnerships based on mutual interests and shared democratic accountabilities. Today, the Afghan state and people not only are more connected globally than ever before, but we have also become a regional leader in cross-border initiatives that are of strategic importance to the entire region.
At the core of all reforms is self-reliance—we must create the fiscal basis of a functioning state, through utilization of all our capital—human, natural, institutional and financial. Having inherited a $400 million deficit upon assuming office, we focused relentlessly on increasing revenue and enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of expenditure and budgeting processes. We managed to increase domestic revenue by 70% between 2014 and 2017. Dr. Qayoumi, our distinguished finance minister, has shared the good news that 2 days we met the revenue target agreed with the IMF for this year.
We inherited a system where corruption was the rule rather than the exception, bribe-taking and exploitation were common practice, and administrative processes were largely un-documented. Lack of rule and law and credibility in the justice sector had caused many to lose faith in the government.
After inaugurating our National Strategy to Counter Corruption in 2017, we have already achieved half of what we said we would, and have now recently developed a new set of benchmarks to take our anti-anti-corruption efforts to the next level. We are prosecuting those who are corrupt, including high-level former government officials; we have taken unprecedented steps in extending access to justice for women in the provinces; we have cleaned house in our justice sector, ensuring that the message of intolerance for corruption is engrained.
The problem of corruption is systematic, thus the solution also had to be. In the past five years, we have set the tone of intolerance, and created the mechanisms to shine a light on it, matched with a strong political will. Does this mean we have eliminated corruption? Absolutely not. We want it to happen faster, but meaningful change cannot be rushed.
We have applied the same systematic approach to governance, from the village level up to the presidency. At the presidential level, for instance, we have instituted a series of high councils, which include civil society and private sector, who convene to share in the policy-making process. The presidency is no longer centered on the aspirations and ego of a single individual, but instead, the functions of the president assigned by the constitution are held to account in a transparent arena of discussion and debate that includes an array of stakeholders.
An overhaul in our public recruitment systems allowed us to to begin transforming the civil service from a network of nepotism to a cadre of qualified public servants recruited transparently based on merit. Our dynamic Civil Service Commission fielded applications from over half a million applicants from every province, hiring 22,000 new civil servants, over 17,000 of them new teachers. Because we leveled the playing field, the number of women in the civil service rose from 5 to 16%.
Likewise, at the subnational level, we focused on rejuvenating leadership. For example, urban citizens can now apply to be mayor of their city, and candidates are selected based on their qualifications, as opposed to a single individual being hand-picked by the president without a recruitment process being in place.
What I have seen through these recruitment reforms is widespread generational change—literally, the face of government across the country has changed.
I believe these young people, particularly the women, will prove to be the greatest and most consequential generation in our contemporary history.
Afghanistan has always relegated its two majorities—women and youth—to a minority in political and public spheres. But no more. Because we now have a level-playing field and political will, women and youth have risen to the surface to claim leadership positions they have never before held. We now have female mayors, deputy governors, and district governors —a first for our country. In Wardak province, the entire leadership of the provincial council is women.
We are extremely proud of the leadership that Afghan women have taken in reclaiming their rightful place in society and politics. The most telling indicator about the future and current direction of this country is what happens to Afghan women. I am delighted that the First Lady’s focus on listening, facilitation and advocacy is bearing results in formation of national networks of empowered women who are embodying the discourse and practice of citizenship.
Where once the potential of half our citizens was suppressed, today it is embraced. Women’s rights are human rights and are protected by our constitution. Furthermore, we want the country to progress and we recognize women’s role in that.
Let me be clear—women’s participation is of strategic importance to our country’s national security and economic development. If there is any lingering question about whether the rights or opportunities of women will be given up, I can guarantee you that they will not be. The proud people of Afghanistan, men and women, also guarantee it. Our women leaders here today and around the country guarantee it. We stand together, the women and men of Afghanistan, for the rights of all Afghans.
Half-way through our decade of transformation, we have fulfilled many promises to implement key reforms.
Some of our initiatives have yet to bear fruit, and moving forward, some require renewed focus and acceleration. We face multiple challenges on multiple fronts—as the saying goes, we have been building a house while putting out a fire.
The unrestrained war unleashed upon the Afghan people, society and state is taking a huge toll, making peace and security our top national imperative.
We have exercised strategic patience in the face of unspeakable horrors and have extended the hand of friendship and delivered concrete proposals for cooperation to all of our neighbors. This generation of Afghans has sacrificed tens of thousands of lives on the front lines of a global war on terror, and yet unfortunately an Afghan life is hardly worth a headline in the international arena. We deserve peace.
Afghans are not only haunted by violence, but also poverty. Over 40% of our people are living below the poverty line. At the heart of our development strategy are women, youth and the poor—these demographics must be included if poverty is to be addressed meaningfully.
Educating a girl, it has been demonstrated, impacts five generations to come for the better. On the other hand, a female-headed household living in acute poverty condemns generations of women and their children to further poverty and abuse. Stunting due to malnourishment is still a widespread problem. Child and maternal mortality, while substantially reduced, still remains unacceptably high. And over a million children are not attending school.
We could not meet the millennium development goals but need to focus in earnest to meet sustainable development goals.
What should now be very clear to all of us is that a project-based approach to development is completely insufficient and will never create the rate of growth that would allow for a substantial reduction of poverty. We need to agree on an inclusive model of growth and how to work together to achieve it and make it inclusive.
Our most significant hurdle to growth is in the agricultural sector, where 40% of the population earn their living. The development of high value crops such as saffron, pomegranate and pistachio can compete with opium at the farm-gate level. Importers associations in your countries, and scientists and experts in your universities can support us in creating the value and supply chains that would bring mutually profitable relationships.
We have provided power to more provinces in the last four years than in the last hundred years combined and the national grid will be completed in the next two years, thanks to Dr. Qayoumi’s visionary leadership and managerial skills. Our vast renewable potential, however, is in need of urgent attention. Because without power we cannot power the engine of growth.
The criminal economy poses a huge challenge to security, stability and inclusive growth. Moving forward, coordinated approaches to both market-building and state-building must fall into place.
Despite having implemented over half of the benchmarks laid out in our National Strategy to Combat Corruption, the pushback has been immense. As we take one step forward in this uphill trek, we are pushed two steps backward by powerful corrupt networks who see the writing on the wall. At our back are the Afghan people, who demand that immunity and impunity be stopped.
I would like to be explicit here about the issue of impunity.
There are a number of “irresponsible and illegal armed groups” still active throughout the country. They are illicitly armed via corrupt networks, and some of their commanders still claim government titles, yet they operate like criminal militias—extorting local populations with fear, intimidation, and illegal fees, in exchange for some level of physical security. They are a menace to the population and a significant driver in illegal land-grabbing and the drug trade.
We, the government, have asked ourselves a strategic question: should the law be imposed regardless of a person’s stature or power, or should exceptions be made to try and preserve short-term stability? I have asked my fellow Afghan citizens this question. Their reply is that the rule of law is meaningful only when there are no exceptions.
A criminal is a criminal, regardless of ethnicity, province, religion, power, or wealth.
Let me be clear—lasting stability for Afghanistan is not the absence of bullets, it’s the fair application of the rule of law and the protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms. The constitutional order we have been working to establish will become stable when our people trust in the blind application of the law.
This fact is also crucial for achieving the long-lasting peace we seek.
As people lay down their arms following a peace agreement, they have to be able to trust in the rule of law and in the government’s commitment to implementing agreements that safeguard their rights and ensure their safety.
Of equal importance is the need for us to redouble our focus on technical systems and processes. Afghans now have the capability and capacity to think through processes ourselves.
The areas that require urgent attention are infrastructure, policing, revenue generation, and business practices for the private sector.
We request that our partners in infrastructure development reach an agreement with us on an outcomes-based approach. With this, we can create the necessary capabilities both in the Afghan government and the private sector through innovative approaches on program engineering and supervision.
While the top echelon of the police is being reformed and the police force has performed heroically against terrorism, citizens oftentimes face harassment or demands for bribes by their local police.
A reform package is necessary to ensure proper attention to all the police.
While our revenue collection is impressive by all comparative accounts, we still have fallen short. We need to implement a comprehensive regime of customs control and revenue gathering. Here again, the inherited culture of impunity and nepotism has been a significant obstacle. We have a plan for reform, and we need your support to implement it, particularly through information sharing on imports and exports from our neighbors and trading partners.
We have also made headway in reforming business practices, including setting up a one-stop shop to provide quick and reliable services for registration and licensure for businesses. But we still have a long way to go in this area.
National demand for quality education and skill developments is immense, and with over 60% of our population under the age of 25, it is also a matter of strategic importance to our economic development and national security.
Earlier this year, we introduced a comprehensive reform package for the education sector and allocated resources to build 6,000 schools within two years, and hire 30,000 female teachers in the next five years. Utilizing our flagship national development program, the Citizen’s Charter, has meant communities are intensely involved in this process and contributing in-kind to the construction of schools, lowering the cost of building a school from $250,000 to $30,000.
We are also committing ourselves to vocational and technical education, which has been a driver of growth in Scandinavian countries and right here in Switzerland. We have to foster skills in our citizenry that will result in jobs and will address market needs. If we don’t, we will simply be producing youth who have a university degree but no employable skills, who are thus vulnerable to criminality, radicalism, and immigration.
Despite the progress we have made in increasing transparency, alignment and public consultation in our budgeting processes, the national budget is yet to become the true instrument of policy that we deserve. For this to happen, we propose to shift from project-based to outcome-based compacts, with full mutual conditionality on reform and accountability, with all of our donors. This is the only way to align the needs of our people with our financial resources.
I hope that I have provided a balanced picture of our accomplishments but also our challenges, and our priorities moving forward.
Before moving forward, I want to reiterate the human element of reform. During the last six months, I visited more than 17 provinces. What I have found extremely impressive is the emergence of the new generation, across Afghanistan. I keep coming back to them because of their strategic importance to the future of my country and so that they will not be overlooked by our partners sitting in this room.
This generation is changing the politics of our country. Around 2,500 stood for parliamentary elections in October this year and if preliminary information is an indication of overall results, a generational change is likely to take place in the next parliament.
Afghan women speak for themselves and the Afghan people. I am delighted that across the provinces, but especially the war-ravaged ones, I hear demands from elders, the ulema and women leaders, for girls’ education. Some have taken this matter into their own hands and issued requirements punishable by fines if families do not send their daughters to school. Afghans have converged on the value of education. We, the government, now must provide the quality.
Our reform agenda is synthesized in the Islamic theory of the circle of justice—it creates the foundation of the economy, security and political legitimacy. There is not one reform that the majority of our citizens have not welcomed. The majority’s main criticism, which they tell me, is that the government is not reforming fast enough.
Let us not forget that Afghans are excelling in diverse fields, from religious studies to sports. An Afghan scholar recently won first prize in Moscow in a Holy Quran recitation competition. Our champion national cricket team the Blue Tigers broke all conceivable barriers to become one of the top 10 teams in the world.
The rags-to-riches story of our cricket team is one that has not only given us a sense of pride and encouragement on our darkest days, but it is also a story that epitomizes who we Afghans are as a people.
I want to thank the Afghan people today. Thank you for being our greatest national treasure; thank you for your resilience against all adversity; thank you for your collective iron will and sheer determination to live in peace and security. You assure us that we will be able to overcome the past and secure the future.
And how will we do that? Our urgent national imperative moving forward is peace.
I am pleased to announce today that after several months of intensive consultations with citizens across the country, we have formulated a roadmap for peace negotiations. We have formed the required bodies and mechanisms to pursue a peace agreement. We are now moving ahead into the next chapter of the peace process.
We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society, respecting the following tenets:
1) The Constitutional rights and obligations, of all citizens, especially women, are ensured.
2) The Constitution is accepted, or amendments proposed through the constitutional provision.
3) The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and civil service function according to law.
4) No armed groups with ties to transnational terrorist networks or transnational criminal organizations, or with ties to state/non-state actors, seeking influence in Afghanistan will be allowed to join the political process.
For the past eight months, I have listened to men women from all strata and all over the country, in Kabul but also the provinces in my trips. Peace must be built from the ground up so citizens own this peace agreement, not just elites.
There are three threads of consensus I have heard from our citizens: 1) on the credibility and importance of the Constitution, 2) the necessity of our foundational partnership with the international community, and 3) that Afghan government and society must lead and own the peace process.
We take these forward into peace negotiations.
We have formed our 12 person negotiating team comprised of both women and men, and led by presidential chief of staff Rahimi, a man with both eminent Jihadi and civil society credentials.
We also formed a peace advisory board to input into the negotiations as they happen. The advisory board consists of nine diverse committees representative of Afghan society today.
The High Peace council will be restructured to focus on post-peace scenarios and play an advisory role.
Presidential elections in the spring are key to successful peace negotiations. The Afghan people need an elected government with a mandate to obtain ratification, implement a peace agreement, and lead the societal reconciliation process. As implementation will take minimum of 5 years, given the need to reintegrate six million refugees and internally displaced people, the key confidence-building measures will have to be frontloaded during the first year. Our offer of peace is unconditional, but peace is conditional.
Moving forward, connectivity will be absolutely central to our vision of stability, security and prosperity and peace.
Let me highlight a case in point. Our location at the heart of Asia provides a unique platform for economic cooperation. We have utilized this geographic advantage to the benefit of the entire region—regional power transmission lines, gas pipelines and transport, railway corridors and highway projects have moved beyond the phase of design to actual implementation. Currently $11 billion investment is taking place on connectivity projects.
We have already experienced some of the tangible economic gains of connectivity—our exports increased by 30% this year. The air corridor program links Afghan products to China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Central Asia, and Europe.
To ensure sustainable connectivity, we need to take the following steps.
First, we need to agree on rules of the game for transit, trade and investment. We firmly believe that political differences among neighbors should not be an obstacle to a rules-based system that could lift millions out of poverty.
We need to invest in the infrastructure. The rapid expansion of infrastructure is transforming Asia from a geographical notion into a continental economy. We must, therefore, maintain momentum.
We must swiftly shift from an aid to trade economy to take advantage of the large Asian market.
In short, we Afghans are pursuing connections: relations between people, established on the basis of cooperation in pursuit of mutual advantage. Such connections are the antidote to both radicalism and criminality and also a path to inclusive growth.
Peace is our national imperative. But while we pursue peace, we must also continue implementing the reforms agenda, and simultaneously address critical immediate needs of millions of our people.
Conflict and poverty has been compounded this year by a severe drought causing immense humanitarian suffering. Three million Afghans and three provinces face emergency conditions and an additional 8 million in 26 provinces face conditions of crisis. The drought has reached a crisis. We are addressing this in the immediate, medium and long term.
We immediately appeal for the continuation of humanitarian assistance to enable those hit by this drought to cope until the next harvest season.
In the medium-term, we request your partnership in developing a framework for dealing with environmental change. Data shows that Afghanistan has become 1.8 degrees centigrade warmer in the last 30 years, and Southwest Afghanistan has become 2.5 degrees centigrade warmer. Drought now comes every 2 to 5 years, instead of once every 30. We simply are not equipped to cope with this.
To address drought in the long-term, preserving natural capital is key. Failure of past administrations to focus on management of our water resources has resulted in vicious cycles of drought followed by intense flood. To address the water issues, we have prioritized completing existing dams, and building new dams and water pipelines. But the time required is in years, not in months. We ask our international partners to share with us effective water management methods.
Environmental change does not recognize political boundaries. Creating a framework for cooperation and response, developing shared systems of early warning and joint programs for accessing global environmental resources will benefit us all and save lives in time.
All things considered, what does the future hold for Afghanistan?
Uncertainty has haunted us Afghans for decades. But over the past four years, we have turned around, looked it in the eye and dealt with it. This kind of earnest reckoning has allowed us to forge a critical path to reform amidst a multidimensional war.
What has emerged in the past four years of National Unity Government are new Afghans leading a new Afghanistan. Born in conflict, they grew up in adversity but came of age during the dawn of new opportunities, opened up by global engagement in 2001. They have mastered the world, and even more importantly, the harsh paradoxes of Afghan reality. They have what is needed to manage the second half of this transformation to 2024 and beyond.
To the young generation—I encourage you to have the courage and selflessness it takes to embrace adversaries, unite, and continue to move this country forward.
While I am assured by our young Afghan leaders, the future, to a large extent, depends on whether or not the international and regional partners find common cause and mutual interests with these new Afghans.
The ideal scenario would be a partnership with this generation of change, whereby the decade of transformation is completed, peace is concluded and self-reliance becomes a reality. A stable and democratic Afghanistan would be the outcome, providing the conditions for investment in our natural resources. We would be able to welcome back our refugees, and mobilize the global Afghan diaspora. Women would accelerate in their rise to the top as key actors in the economy, society and polity. There would be massive reduction in poverty. No longer would our rich ethnic, or linguistic, or sectarian diversity be used as a tool to divide us, as we will be truly embracing one another as equal citizens of a united and prosperous Afghanistan. For the first time in 40 years, the world would be able to experience Afghanistan as she truly is: a place of rich national heritage, beautiful and captivating landscapes, a hospitable Islamic culture that values tolerance, and a people committed to hospitality and friendship.
In short, we would re-tell the unbelievable rags to riches story of our cricket team, this time in all spheres of our lives.
However, if we succeed in peace but abandon the reforms agenda and do not complete the transformation decade, we would be lowered into a different scenario of perpetual crisis. A political deal made amongst elites but disguised as a peace agreement, would walk back precious gains made in key governance reforms, short change the democratic process, and deny our young generation the realization of their vision for principled politics and stability. Poverty and inequality would increase. Peace would most likely be short-term, and God forbid, followed by a renewal of a cycle of conflict and disunity.
The third scenario would involve neither peace, nor completion of the reforms agenda, resulting in an abandonment of Afghanistan by both international and regional partners. Untold misery and pain would be the outcome, and I need not elaborate on what I am sure you can imagine. We Afghans have lived through it—we don’t have to imagine it. This would be a completely tragic and unacceptable outcome, particularly after so much sacrifice, investment, and hard earned gains over the past 18 years.
I want to emphasize that these are not predictions but instead probable projections of verifiable trends. I propose them here to alert us all to recognize these patterns and emerging trends now before it is too late.
Honesty and commitment to the wellbeing of our people—citizens of my country and of your countries—demand us to highlight both the opportunities and risks inherent in the present.
The title of this conference captures our commitment: securing the future: peace, self-reliance and connectivity. We the people and the government of Afghanistan are dedicated to achieving the first scenario of transformation.
Discipline and strategic patience are essential but what is most required for success is to develop sound strategy, and not fall into the traps set by political timelines.
We urge you, our friends and partners, who have stood with us through thick and thin, to now join us in completing the journey that began in the wake of the tragedy of 9/11.
Democratic Afghans will decide in the forthcoming April presidential elections as to which direction to choose. Dr. Abdullah and my task task as leaders of the government of national unity is to ensure that our people are able to cast their ballots in a free, fair and inclusive process.
We hope that the people will give their next government a clear mandate for the scenario of transformation. Meanwhile, we will accelerate the reforms to fulfill our social contract with our fellow citizens and our compacts with the international community. May God bless our efforts to secure the future.