The Finnish media had the opportunity to enquire into the situation in Afghanistan when a group of members of the country’s Parliament took part in a discussion organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 2 December 2011.
The visiting eleven members of the Parliament of Afghanistan spent a week learning about Finland’s administration. The study trip was a part of the development cooperation project, funded by Finland, in which the International Organization for Migration (IOM) trains Afghan decision-makers and administrators on refugee and migration issues.
The focal points of discussion were support for democratic governance and the transfer of responsibility for security from international forces to the Afghans themselves. The intention is for the transfer of responsibility for security from international forces to the Afghans, which began in summer 2011, to be completed by the end of 2014.
“It isn’t enough merely to transfer responsibility for security; at the same time, extensive change is needed in society, in consequence of which the Afghans will assume full responsibility also for all civilian functions of society,” Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja stated.
Dr. Jafar Mahdavi, head of the Afghan delegation, highlighted the importance of the international community’s support in building democracy and emphasised that Afghanistan will need support in future especially in dealing with social and economic challenges.
“Above all we need the international community’s support in educational and health issues,” Dr. Mahdavi said.
Support is also needed in improving the system of education. “We hope the Government of Finland will in future give more support than previously to university cooperation between the two countries,” Member of Parliament Lailoma Hakami stated.
The status of women also rose to the fore in the discussion. “In Afghanistan, the role of women in building peace has always been important. The women of our country are very brave, and despite the challenges they do their best in order to build a functional society,” Hakami stressed.
“Women’s input in a democratic society is truly important, and Afghan women have the same enthusiasm to develop our country as men,” Member of Parliament Mohammad Yousuf Saber added.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja assured the visitors that Finland’s support will continue after the year 2014. In the name of sustainable development, Finland is committed to long-range investment in the country.
“Equality and human rights are the priorities of our cooperation. I will also convey this message in Bonn at the international conference on Afghanistan taking place on 5 December,” he continued.
During their week-long study trip, the Afghans learned about the Finnish system by meeting members of Parliament and representatives of various ministries and civil servants from different administrative branches. In addition, they had discussions with civil society representatives and met Afghans living in Finland.
Corresponding study trips in conjunction with the project Continued Capacity-Building Programme on Migration Management for the Afghan National Assembly and Civil Service have been organised twice previously; in 2009 for members of Parliament and in 2010 for civil servants from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior.