Charles Nailen/The Hoya U.N. Ambassador to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi speaks in Gaston Hall Thursday evening after receiving a diplomacy award from Georgetown.

Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Afghanistan, spoke to a crowd of about 70 people in Gaston Hall on Thursday evening as the recipient of the 22nd Jit Trainor Award for Distinction in the Conduct of Diplomacy.

Introducing the main speaker as a “distinguished practitioner of the art of diplomacy,” School of Foreign Service professor in the practice of diplomacy Donald F. McHenry described Brahimi’s background as an Algerian ambassador to Egypt, Sudan, the U.K and adviser to the Algerian president. Brahimi was noted as having a long career with multilateral organizations and advocating support for Afghanistan while it was off the radar screen of most major countries.

“[Ambassador Brahimi] has demonstrated dedication to the cause of peace and willingness to take on causes that others have looked upon as impossible,” McHenry said.

Attempting to dispel the false images people often have of ambassadors as simply “talking at meetings and mingling at dinner parties,” Brahimi spoke about the truth behind many ambassadorships. It is a 24-hour job because one must focus on potential problems and opportunities in the current political environment, he said. He further stated that it is a “thankless job,” as the best work ambassadors accomplish is the work people never hear about.

Brahimi then moved on to Afghanistan and the issue of its redevelopment. Before Sept. 11, he said, Afghanistan drew purely humanitarian support from only the U.N. and non-governmental organizations. He blames this period of obscurity and inattention for Afghanistan becoming a breeding ground for “fundamentalism and terrorism.”

Brahimi talked about the Dec. 5, 2001 signing of the Bonn Agreement, which formally put an end to the Taliban and “sketched out a broad outline for a peace process.” He said that today, a year after the signing, there have been some positive effects as over one million refugees have returned home, but a great deal must still be accomplished.

“Two thousand and three is a critical year for Afghanistan to see if the peace process is fully entrenched,” Brahimi said.

He stressed that what is needed for the peace process to succeed is a new army and police force, constitutional reform, election preparation, reconstruction and development. He said that Afghans care about their security the most, and there must be necessary support for troops outside the capitol. Even after President Hamid Karzai’s signing of a decree providing grounds for reform of the Afghan army and Ministry of Defense, there remains instability and suspicion.

In addition to judiciary reform and the curtailment of drug trafficking, Brahimi emphasized the tremendous importance of constitutional reform. A current committee will be expanded into a larger commission to listen to Afghans across the country and make a constitution to meet the needs of these citizens, he said. Issues that will necessarily need to be addressed are human rights, as well as rights of minorities and women. He further stated that the constitutional effort will need the support of the international community in financing and expertise.

The Bonn Agreement called for elections to be conducted in Afghanistan by June 2004. Yet there are currently no institutions capable of conducting legitimate elections. “And only Afghan leadership can craft a consensus among citizens for an electoral system.”

Broadly speaking, Brahimi said that economic recovery was key for the political process to recover, as more refugees will return. Afghanistan will depend on international aid that will be used to generate employment and invest in an infrastructure.

Brahimi said that just over one year into the Bonn process, it is too early to draw conclusions about the peace process. “If Afghan authorities search for themselves attainable objectives, if the international community can help them help themselves, if we can admit that we don’t know what’s better for them than they do, then we can be optimistic about the stabilization of the peace process,” Brahimi said.

Recipients of the award in recent years include Wesley K. Clark, His Excellency Kofi Annan and the Honorable Walter F. Mondale.

This event was sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

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