Here is a plea - not just from me - but from my generation of young Afghans. The soldiers you have lost did not die in vain - the money you have spent has not been wasted - PLEASE - don't throw away what you have achieved. We are going to need your help for a few more years yet. It won't be forever - but it will be longer than two and a half years.
We're no longer the same UN. We're more and more in conflict zones. And we've taken certain decisions that mean we're no longer seen as neutral. The UN flag is now a target instead of a shield. That means we have to change how we go about things, because right now our colleagues and their families are paying too high a price.
It was enormously rewarding to be able to bring the British Council to work in partnership with the Society to bring the honoured Awardees to London to share their experiences with the UK and receive their awards. The British Council's mission is to build trust and understanding between the UK and the rest of the world through the sharing of knowledge, creativity and art.
I think I may have been living in a war zone for too long, and it is taking its toll. Before Christmas I was talking with a friend who had been working in regions of conflict exclusively for 10 years and he described that there are something like 59 symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he exhibited 43 of them.
There is nothing 'soft' about the UK's arts and creative industries, two of our biggest economic assets. Neither is there anything soft about our continuing work through the recent unrest in the Arab world and the British Council remaining on the ground during the last decade in Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan.