29 January 2013, Geneva, Switzerland – Dr. Omar Zakhilwal, the Minister of Finance of Afghanistan, signed a Letter of Agreement with UNITAR’s Local Development Programme (LDP) to implement a Master Degree Programme in Development Policies and Programmes, tailored to meet the career and training needs of senior level officials at the Ministry of Finance. The programme will be jointly implemented by UNITAR and the Graduate Institute of Geneva, under the coordination of the Human Resources Directorate of the Ministry, led by Mr. Musa Kamawi, its Director.
The two-day Geneva tour began with a visit to the offices of UNITAR, where Executive Director, Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles, warmly received the Afghan delegation including Ambassador Tarzi, Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Mr. Safir Sahar, Commercial Attaché at the Mission and Mr. Musa Kamawi, Director of Human Resources at the Ministry of Finance. A briefing about the United Nations was provided by Mr. Alex Mejia, Manager of LDP, who set the work of United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) in context by discussing its wide-ranging remit including UNITAR’s capacity building and training programmes, and 2013 strategic plan.
The UNITAR briefing was followed by a visit to UNOG and a tour of the Palais des Nations. In the afternoon, a bilateral meeting was held between the Minister of Finance and Sally Fegan-Wyles during which the goals of the customized Master Executive Degree programme were reaffirmed and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) formally signed. Following the signing, a lunch hosted by UNITAR’s Executive Director was held for the visiting delegation in the scenic Delegates’ Dining Room. Later that afternoon, Finance Minister Zakhilwal gave a press briefing to announce the newly signed UNITAR-Afghanistan Ministry of Finance MoU and also answered questions put to him by journalists accredited to UNOG from the Associated Press, and Radio Télévision Suisse among other news outlets.
After the press conference, the Afghanistan Delegation paid a visit to the Villa Barton Campus of the Graduate Institute of Geneva, UNITAR’s implementing partner for the Afghanistan Executive Master Degree Programme in Development Policy and Practice. The delegation met with Graduate Institute Director, Philippe Burrin, in an elegant 18th century salon once used by the Institute’s benefactor to entertain Sir Winston Churchill, Vyacheslav Molotov, and other leading diplomats and statesmen of a bygone age. Seated around an oval table in this historic setting, the Ministry of Finance delegation together with representatives from UNITAR and the Graduate Institute learned of Afghanistan’s growing economic development, its capacity building needs and future prospects. Responding to the Minister’s comments, Director Burrin expressed his desire for further cooperation with Afghanistan and discussed the future expansion of the Graduate Institute including plans currently underway for a new building. Minister Zakhilwal closed the meeting by expressing his confidence in UNITAR and the Graduate Institute and his delight at being able to visit the graduate school’s Villa Barton campus.
In addition to the signing of the MoU, the other highlight of the visit was a library talk on “The Post-Conflict Reconstruction of Afghanistan: The Outlook Beyond 2014,” delivered by Minister Zakhilwal on the second and final day. The event was hosted by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of UNOG and Chief Librarian, David Chikvaidze, who warmly welcomed Mr. Zakhilwal. Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles, UNITAR Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General made closing remarks bringing the final event of the Minister’s visit to an end. More than filled to capacity, the Library Talk was well-attended by members of the diplomatic corps in Geneva and international civil servants marking a successful close to the Minister of Finance’s visit.
Image 1 - UNITAR Executive Director, Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles and Afghan Finance Minister, Mr. Omar Zakhilwal shake hands after signing the MoU in the Slovenia Room at the Palais des Nations, United Nations Office in Geneva.
Image 2 - Finance Minister of Afghanistan, Mr. Omar Zakhilwal responds to journalist’s questions at a press conference held at the Palais des Nations headquarters of the United Nations Office in Geneva as UNITAR’s Executive Director, Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles looks on.
Image 3 - Left to Right: Manager of the Local Development Programme, Alex Mejia; Afghanistan Minister of Finance, Mr. Omar Zakhilwal; and Ministry of Finance Director of Human Resources, Mr. Musa Kamawi in discussion at the Villa Barton campus of the Graduate Institute of Geneva.
Image 4 - Afghanistan Minister of Finance, Mr. Omar Zakhilwal speaks at the podium during the library talk. Seated left to right is Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles, UNITAR Executive Director; Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, UNOG Director-General; Ambassador Tarzi, Afghanistan Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva; and Mr. David Chikvaidze, UNOG Chief Librarian.