FRANCIS MATTHEW Every country in the Gulf has powerful reasons to see Afghanistan return to peace and normal government. The violence and instability fostered there have a direct impact on the security of the Gulf States, even if they are not direct neighbours. The economic potential of a successful Afghanistan would be of great benefit to the Gulf. And the lingering threat from violent radical terrorists is still an issue which worries Gulf States. All too often the situation in Afghanistan is seen as a threat, but it is wrong to treat it only as a problem. Any look ahead has to embrace some kind of hope that things will get better and the country will return to normal. And having got that far in thinking, it is necessary that any plan for action has to include some first steps on how to move towards that eventual hoped-for goal. This is the importance of the UAEs call this week for more Muslim countries to get involved in Afghanistan. Let us be mindful that encouraging investment in Afghanistan is of long-term benefit not only to Afghanistans economy, but also to the economy, prosperity and security of all the countries in its wider neighbourhood and the world, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the first Afghan International Investment Conference, which was held on Tuesday in Dubai. The UAE has taken a lead in trying to mobilise regional support for Afghanistan. In addition, Afghanistans presence in the Gulfs wider region gives it a much more immediate reason for the UAE to want it to return to peace. The UAE used this weeks conference to create an ad hoc body called the Afghan International Investment Friends, which seems to be an informal mechanism to maintain any momentum on specific proposals at the conference, with the potential to grow into a more formal body later, if required. This means that the Afghan International Investment Conference will not be a one-day wonder, and has a mechanism to allow it to provide continual back-up. In a useful coincidence, how to achieve an all-important sustainable economic and social growth was also being discussed at this weeks meeting of the World Economic Forums annual brainstorm at the Global Agenda Council held in Dubai. What came out loud and clear was the vital underpinning to any long-term national planning of a linked strategy to handle water, food, and energy. These three are the essential ingredients at the core of any economic plan, because without a supply of any of these three elements, other more ambitious social plans are doomed to fail. Without enough food to keep the population healthy, and enough water to supply the population and agriculture, and a continuous supply of power to homes and workplaces, none of the bigger social plans will take off. Hopes for investment in better schooling, building institutions with stronger governance, planning growth areas in the economy, all founder if the people to take advantage of these ideas are in fact running around trying to feed themselves and find enough water to get through the day. Afghanistan needs all the friends it can get, and it is important that the UAE is ready to put itself forward to act as a focus for activity to mobilise support. These efforts will mesh into the programmes that are already in place, but are still not enough. But the best investment programme in the world cannot succeed without effective governance taking a grip, and there the Afghan government will have to put its own house in order, as it also works to take over responsibility for security from NATO and ISAF. There also its friends are ready to help, but the Afghan government needs to be ready to admit its failings and to seek help. This week in Dubai showed that the international community, including private and public sectors and non-government organisations, are willing to be involved in Afghanistan, and are looking for effective avenues to translate their interest into action. This is why the Afghan International Investment Conference can make a difference. Gulf News