BOSTON — Oxfam has today (Jan 31st) written to President Bush and other world leaders on the situation in Afghanistan.
It is two years since the international community and Afghan government launched the ‘Afghanistan Compact’, in which donors pledged over $10bn of aid to the country. They resolved ‘to overcome the legacy of conflict’ by promoting development, security, governance, the rule of law and human rights.
It must now be acknowledged that many of the Compact’s targets are not being met, and that too many of the commitments made remain unfulfilled.
There has been undoubted social and economic progress in Afghanistan, but it has been slow and is being undermined by increasing insecurity.
Oxfam, which has had operations and supported partners in Afghanistan for nearly twenty years, wants world leaders to support a major change of direction in order to reduce suffering and avert a humanitarian disaster.
Oxfam believes there are five guiding principles which should underpin this change of course.
- Recognition that development and security are inextricably connected. It is inevitable that some Afghans turn to narcotics, criminality, or even militancy, if they cannot feed their families. Military action addresses symptoms, not the underlying causes or conditions. Bringing real improvements to Afghan lives, and better prospects, is not only the right thing to do, it is an essential, long-term means of reducing vulnerability to the spread of militancy.
- Assistance must be prioritized according to needs and impact. The majority of Afghans live in rural areas and depend for their livelihoods upon agriculture and rural trades. Yet only a fraction of international assistance has supported agriculture, rural development, or sub-national governance. What the US military spends in Afghanistan in six days, some $600 million, exceeds the total amount of aid on agriculture over the last six years.
- A comprehensive and long-term commitment will be vital. To achieve peace, dialogue with a range of actors is essential but it is no substitute for sustained peace-work at local level. For centuries, communal or tribal councils of elders have been the central authorities in Afghan communities, yet little has been done to help these institutions promote peace and development. On counter-narcotics, aggressive eradication will only drive farmers into the hands of the insurgents, and, given the limits of government authority, proposals to license opium are unworkable and would not reduce the size of the illicit crop. Instead we need to prioritize rural development and licit agriculture, thus reducing the poverty which forces farmers to grow poppy.
- Afghan ownership of development is essential. Too much assistance is top-heavy, prescriptive and supply driven. Processes of development, and indeed peace and reconciliation, must be owned and led by Afghans. Only measures which support what Afghans want and need will be sustainable.
- Too much aid is slow, wasteful, ineffective or uncoordinated. Urgent action is required to achieve greater donor coherence and aid effectiveness.