As Afghanistan's transition picks up pace, regional engagement becomes even more important, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as the country's partners met in neighbouring Tajikistan. Afghan authorities are working with the international community so that by 2014 they can assume full responsibility for security in all of the country's 34 provinces. They are also working towards taking greater ownership of the country's development. "Economic cooperation is basic to laying the foundation for a secure future. A stable security environment is also essential if development is to take root," Mr. Ban said in a message delivered on his behalf by his Special Representative to that country, Jan Kubi, to the fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan. The conference, held this year in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, began seven years ago as a meeting of representatives of 11 countries to help promote stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. Mr. Ban said it is encouraging that the conference has grown to include delegates from some 80 States and international and regional organizations, as well as leaders from civil society, the private sector, the arts and academia. "We must work together so that Afghans can see tangible improvements in their daily lives," he said. "With this in mind, I welcome your focus on investment, trade and transit, as well as infrastructure and human resource development." He also voiced full support for continuing the conference as an "Afghan-centred and Afghan-led process" focused on reaching concrete objectives and mobilizing the resources needed to achieve them. In a briefing to the Security Council last week, Mr. Kubi said that the transition process remains on track despite recent tragic incidents, adding that efforts continue to strengthen the capacity of national institutions to maintain rule of law and provide services to the population. "The transition so far has been on track and on target and the Afghanistan National Security Forces have proven that they are up to the task," he said, referring to the gradual transfer of security responsibilities from the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force to national authorities. In his message, Mr. Ban also stated that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the 28 UN agencies, funds and programmes present in the country remain committed to increasing the capacity of the Afghan authorities and institutions to meet the needs of the Afghan people.