Afghanistan: Development and Humanitarian Priorities

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This paper outlines urgent action necessary to address immediate challenges in Afghanistan and to avert humanitarian disaster. It does not seek to address all issues of concern but focuses on essential policy change in development and humanitarian spheres. While aid has contributed to progress in Afghanistan, especially in social and economic infrastructure – and whilst more aid is needed – the development process has to date been too centralised, top-heavy and insufficient. It is has been prescriptive and supply-driven, rather than indigenous and responding to Afghan needs. As a result millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas, still face severe hardship comparable with sub-Saharan Africa. Conditions of persistent poverty have been a significant factor in the spread of insecurity. Donors must improve the impact, efficiency, relevance and sustainability of aid. There needs to be stronger coordination and more even distribution of aid, greater alignment with national and local priorities and increased use of Afghan resources. Indicators of aid effectiveness should be established, and a commission to monitor donor performance.
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    Afghanistan: Development and Humanitarian Priorities Contents SUMMARY....................................................................................................................................2   1 AID EFFECTIVENESS..............................................................................................................4   2 NATIONAL GOVERNANCE.....................................................................................................5   3 RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND SUB-NATIONAL GOVERNANCE.........................................7   4 PROVINCIAL RECONSTRUCTION TEAMS...........................................................................8   5 AGRICULTURE........................................................................................................................9   6 COUNTER-NARCOTICS........................................................................................................11   7 EDUCATION...........................................................................................................................13   8 HEALTH..................................................................................................................................14   9 PROTECTION.........................................................................................................................16   10 COMMUNITY PEACE-BUILDING........................................................................................17   11 REGIONAL ACTION.............................................................................................................19   January 2008  2    Afghanistan: Priorities  ,  Oxfam, January 2008  Summary This paper outlines urgent action necessary to address immediate challenges in Afghanistan and to avert humanitarian disaster. It does not seek to address all issues of concern but focuses on essential policy change in development and humanitarian spheres. While aid has contributed to progress in Afghanistan, especially in social and economic infrastructure – and whilst more aid is needed – the development process has to date been too centralised, top-heavy and insufficient. It is has been prescriptive and supply-driven, rather than indigenous and responding to Afghan needs. As a result millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas, still face severe hardship comparable with sub-Saharan Africa. Conditions of persistent poverty have been a significant factor in the spread of insecurity. Donors must improve the impact, efficiency, relevance and sustainability of aid. There needs to be stronger coordination and more even distribution of aid, greater alignment with national and local priorities and increased use of Afghan resources. Indicators of aid effectiveness should be established, and a commission to monitor donor performance. Despite progress in some ministries, government capacity is weak and corruption is widespread, which is hindering service delivery and undermining public confidence in state-building as a whole. Further major reforms are required in public administration, anti-corruption and the rule of law. Urgent action is required to promote comprehensive rural development, where progress has been slow, through building local government to deliver essential services, reforming sub-national governance, and channelling more resources directly to communities. Whilst Provincial Reconstruction Teams may be necessary in some areas, they have significantly exceeded their interim, security mandate. Through diverting resources, they have impeded the development of effective institutions of local government and PRT projects are no substitute for long-term, community-led development work. Military projects can also compromise the neutrality and scope of humanitarian work. PRTs should therefore adhere to their mandate: to facilitate the development of stable and secure environment, and should only undertake relief or development work where there is a critical need and no civilian alternative. In accordance with their interim status, each PRT should develop a phased, conditions-based exit strategy. Agriculture, and connected trades, is the mainstay of the nation, supporting 80% of all Afghans, yet it is severely under-funded. A multi-stakeholder strategy should be developed to ensure the provision of agricultural support at local level, covering arable and livestock farming, rural trades, and improved land and water management. It must ensure relevant support for the economic and occupational activities of rural women. Neither aggressive eradication nor licensing will reduce opium production. The Afghan government and donors should support a long-term, comprehensive approach which seeks to promote sustainable rural development and which prioritises support for licit agriculture – and not only in those areas which grow poppy.   There needs to be rigorous and balanced implementation of the existing counter-narcotics strategy, with greater outreach to community elders and action against major traffickers. Despite dramatic improvements in education, still half of Afghan children – predominantly girls – are out of school and drop out rates for girls are particularly high: large-scale investments are required in teachers, education infrastructure, combined with systemic reform. Whilst significant progress has been made in the provision of health care, overall public health remains poor. Donors and the government should do more to expand the provision of health care in remote areas; strengthen institutional capacity, coordination and security at sub-national level; expand and improve hospital care; and increase the number of female health workers.  3    Afghanistan: Priorities  ,  Oxfam, January 2008 High numbers of civilian casualties are being caused by all parties to the conflict. There must be continued condemnation of the actions of armed opposition groups which cause civilian casualties, including summary executions, suicide bombs, roadside attacks and the use of civilian locations from which to launch attacks, all of which are wholly unacceptable. International forces must ensure that the use of force is proportionate both in air strikes and house searches, and even more determined efforts must be made to ensure the security of Afghan communities in insurgency-affected areas. Actions that undermine the good-will of the people ultimately undermine both stability and opportunities for development. The separation of NATO and US-led coalition commands creates inconsistencies in operating standards and in civil-military coordination: there should be unified NATO command of all international forces, close coordination with Afghan forces and universally applicable standards of operation, rigorously enforced. A new multi-stakeholder entity should be established through the UN to investigate and monitor alleged abuses. International forces should establish a system to ensure compensation or other reparation for civilian casualties and the destruction of property. The UN’s capacity for humanitarian response and coordination, at both central and regional levels, should be strengthened significantly. According to the UN there are 130,000 long-term displaced people in Afghanistan, and recent fighting has displaced up to 80,000; there has also been a substantial influx of refugees and deportees from Pakistan and Iran, respectively. Donors should ensure sufficient resources are available to respond to these increasing population movements. Local level disputes have a significant cumulative impact on peace, development and the wider conflict. There should be a national strategy for community peace-building, which strengthens social cohesion and enhances community capacities to resolve conflict; it should be led by community leaders and civil-society, and fully-supported by donors. It should include measures to ensure the participation of women in peace-building activities. As a land-locked country, with vast, largely porous borders, Afghanistan is unavoidably affected by the policies of its neighbours. They should do more to help the country on refugees, security, narcotics, and trade, which is in their own long-term interests. To address underlying problems, the international community in Afghanistan must achieve a deeper level of engagement on regional issues. Military action by a foreign power against Iran, or against groups in the Afghan border areas of Pakistan, could be seriously destabilising for Afghanistan. A clear majority of Afghans support the international presence in Afghanistan, 1  but the development process has made only a limited difference to their lives, and with spreading insecurity a change of course is now essential. The policy changes proposed in this paper would represent a step towards achieving that and they should therefore be incorporated into the revised Afghan National Development Strategy. 2   Peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without improving the lives of ordinary Afghans. This requires strong leadership by the Afghan government and sustained and concerted action by donors and neighbouring states. It requires more determined efforts by all donors, with greater direction from the United Nations, which is severely under-resourced, and the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB). A resolute, substantial and long-term commitment by the international community is essential not only to secure development progress but to halt the spread of insecurity. As by far the largest donor and troop-contributor, the role of the United States in Afghanistan will be critical. However, all   donors and troop-contributing states have a crucial role in pressing for urgent action to meet the challenges facing Afghanistan: millions of lives depend upon it. Further information: for more details please contact Matt Waldman, Policy and Advocacy Adviser, Oxfam International, Afghanistan. 3     4    Afghanistan: Priorities  ,  Oxfam, January 2008  1 Aid effectiveness Since 2001, Afghanistan has received more than $15 billion in assistance, and the US House of Representatives has approved $6.4 billion more in economic and development assistance. 4  Aid will be crucial to Afghanistan’s development for many years and, as this paper argues, many areas are under-resourced. However, too much aid to Afghanistan is provided in ways that are ineffective or inefficient. For example, Afghanistan’s biggest donor, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) allocates close to half of its funds to five large US contractors in the country. 5  As in Iraq, too much aid is absorbed by profits of companies and sub-contractors, on non-Afghan resources and on high expatriate salaries and living costs. Each full-time expatriate consultant costs in the region of $200,000 a year, and in some cases up to half a million dollars a year. 6  According to the former NATO Special Civilian Representative the cumulative impact is that some 40% of aid to Afghanistan flows out of the country. 7   The Afghan government has significant budget execution problems, due to insufficient or ineffective donor efforts to build the institutional and implementing capacities of line ministries. Some two-thirds of US foreign assistance bypasses the Afghan government that officials say they want to strengthen. A number of donors, including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), provide significant funds through the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which provides a predictable and accountable source of funds for recurrent government expenditure. However, it is regrettable that DFID has very substantially reduced its funding for Afghan and international NGOs, who play an important role in grassroots capacity building, rural development and support for delivery of essential services. There is insufficient direction and support provided by the UN and JCMB, both of which are substantially under-resourced, and too little coordination between donors and the government of Afghanistan. Of all technical assistance to Afghanistan, which accounts for a quarter of all aid to the country, only one-tenth is coordinated among donors or with the government. 8  Nor is there sufficient collaboration on project work, which inevitably leads to duplication or incoherence of activities by different donors. Funding for development is a fraction of that spent on military operations: the US military is spending $65,000 a minute in Afghanistan ($35 billion for 2007). 9  Aid funds are following the fighting: USAID concentrates more than half of its budget on the four most insecure provinces; DFID allocates one-fifth of its budget to Helmand; Canada allocates one-third of its aid budget to Kandahar. 10  Promoting development in the south is essential but, as we have seen over the last two years, if other provinces are neglected then insecurity could spread.
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