Foreign Secretary William Hague:
On 9 September 2013, I updated Parliament, Official Report, column 40WS, on the work of the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) as it prepared for closure in late March; this was in line with President Karzai’s request that all PRTs in Afghanistan must close by the end of 2014.
Today is the final working day for the Helmand PRT, having operated for over seven years as a UK-led platform. I would like to acknowledge the Team’s accomplishments and the dedication of the staff who served it, in improving the lives of people in Helmand.
Working closely with Afghan partners, the Helmand PRT has helped almost 18,000 young people to benefit from vocational training courses, including 5,000 women. Over 800 community elders involved in mediation have attended workshops in Afghan law and the constitution, with a particular emphasis on the rights of women and children. The teacher training colleges in Lashkar Gah and Gereshk currently have almost 700 students enrolled, 446 of which are female. All health facilities and 61% of schools in the province are now open. Many more advances have been made in the delivery of public services and the PRT has worked closely with the Afghan provincial government to improve administration, planning and budgeting.
The United Kingdom’s presence in Helmand has been part of a wider strategy to help rebuild Afghanistan, which involved 33 PRTs led by 15 different countries. All but three of these PRTs will be closed by the end of March, as part of the political and security transition in Afghanistan.
The UK has put a particular emphasis on the sustainability of its reconstruction work in Helmand to ensure our investment continues to deliver benefits into the future. Training trainers within the Afghan Uniformed Police and using local designs and materials for infrastructure projects are just two examples. We have also helped prepare the Provincial Government to assume its full range of responsibilities.
The drawdown of the PRT has involved the handover of many activities to the Afghan Government, while other work programmes will be led from the British Embassy in Kabul. The UN is also becoming increasingly active in Helmand, delivering programmes including on justice, Human Rights and gender, supported by UK, Danish and Estonian funding. The PRT has helped to build a strong platform for future governance and development in Helmand. It is right that the Afghans take increasing responsibility for their future prosperity and security and we will continue to support them as they do so.
Closure of the PRT marks a change in the UK’s relationship with Helmand, but does not mark its end. The UK has made an enduring commitment to Afghanistan and the British Embassy in Kabul will continue to work with the Afghan Government and the Helmand Provincial Governor to ensure public services in the province continue to improve.
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