Thursday, 24 November 2011

NGOs Call for Policy Change in Afghanistan

Thanks to NATOWatch for the following report regarding the future of Afghanistan to the attention of NATO Monitor.

Oxfam, together with more than 20 other NGO partners, has published a joint position paper on the future of Afghanistan, ten years after the original Bonn conference, with a view to influencing the 5 December Conference that will examine longer term political perspectives for that country.

Their prescription for what needs to be done to build a secure future for Afghanistan’s people shows the gap between traditional development work and the COIN strategy currently being pursued by ISAF. One key finding of the report is that:

Over the past decade, too much aid has been spent to meet the short-term military objectives of ISAF-contributing nations rather than to address the needs of Afghan men, women and children.

This is surely correct, and Oxfam and the other NGOs are right to say in their recommendations that:

Agree clear new commitments on how they will provide long-term development assistance in a coherent and sustainable way. Such assistance must address the needs and rights of Afghans, and not be subordinated to security and military objectives. It should not be overly focused on areas in the country affected by conflict at the expense of more peaceful, but still poor, areas.

This would be the best for the economic development of the entire country, but it is not to say that the conflict ridden areas of Afghanistan do not need aid as part of reducing support for insurgents. The problem, of course, is that the Afghan government has next to no legitimacy, being fiscally corrupt and having been elected through a process that was so blatantly a perversion of the electoral process as to be meaningless.

Unfortunately there is an assumption running through the position paper that the central government of Afghanistan can be brought to a position where it can have control of the entire country, something which has never really been the case. It is doubtful in the extreme if it can be brought about now.

Neither ISAF nor international NGOs will be able to mould Afghanistan into a western vision of what it should be. The best that can be hoped for is that Afghans themselves, acting within their own cultural context, can act over time to repair the damage done by decades of outside intervention.

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