Select Committee on International Development First Report


(a)We believe that, in the absence of a complete picture, there was a tendency for international agencies and NGOs to generalise from the specific, which may account for some of the differences of opinion as to the scale of the problem that arose early in the crisis (paragraph 14).
(b)The UK is one of a small number of donors with a good record of turning promises quickly into cash. We encourage DFID to work with those donor countries which also responded rapidly to encourage other donors to ensure that their pledges are converted into real commitments and actual money (paragraph 18).
(c)There is a desperate need to ensure that the Donor Alert is properly funded and that pledges are converted into resources: pledges alone cannot be spent (paragraph 20).
(d)The UN is faced with an ever-increasing number of commitments around the world and is repeatedly having to seek funds from donors. It is inevitable that an element of donor fatigue will creep in as will the temptation for UN agencies to inflate their requests knowing they are likely only to receive a fraction of what they ask for. We believe it is time for the UN to review the way humanitarian operations are funded. We suggest assessed contributions providing the core funding topped up by voluntary appeals through donor alerts (paragraph 22).
(e)We recommend that the Government announces a timetable against which the UK intends to reach the 0.7 per cent target (paragraph 23).
(f)We recommend a similar streamlining of donor procedures in multilateral donations to reduce the burden on UN agencies particularly with regard to the large numbers of requests for additional information (paragraph 25).
(g)If the EC is to play an important part in the longer-term post-conflict reconstruction of Afghanistan it should re-evaluate its Asia aid programmes. At the very least, the Commission should ensure that the money it has pledged to the Afghan crisis is turned into firm commitments forthwith (paragraph 26).
(h)The cutbacks in refugee programmes by UN agencies provoked a reaction from the Government of Pakistan which closed its borders and began deporting refugees. Thus, a lack of interest by the donor community at a crucial juncture destroyed almost twenty years of goodwill, and created the lasting legacy of today's closed border policy (paragraph 33).
(i)We can understand Iran and Pakistan's reluctance to accept large numbers of refugees; donors must ensure that the long-term refugee problem that faces both countries is resolved as part of the reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan (paragraph 37).
(j)Once the WFP had adapted its procedures the insecurity in the country and not the bombing by coalition forces seemed to be the major barrier to primary and secondary food distribution (paragraph 54).
(k)We remain to be convinced that the food delivered into Afghanistan can be distributed to all those in need, primarily because of poor security (paragraph 58).
(l)If the security problems cannot be resolved and food distributed, there may be a need to resort to less successful methods such as airdrops or risk further displacements of population, which in the winter could be catastrophic (paragraph 58).
(m)We believe that food should not be counted as distributed until NGOs and local partners contracted to carry out the distribution have confirmed that the food has been distributed (paragraph 58).
(n)Secondary distribution has been the weakness in the current crisis. The security situation and absence of international staff have hampered secondary distribution more than primary distribution. However, we have not seen any evidence to suggest that secondary distribution is being ignored; the WFP has demonstrated a flexible approach by allowing urban logistic hubs to be bypassed and securing additional trucking capacity (paragraph 59).
(o)We believe that donors should be working to allow the WFP to make greater use of local purchases by giving cash rather than in-kind contributions (paragraph 62).
(p)DFID should continue making cash contributions wherever possible. Such a policy will maximise the value for money of the UK's contribution by providing the greatest utility to the aid agencies (paragraph 62).
(q)We believe that the money spent on dropping humanitarian daily rations would have been better spent through the co-ordinated donor response (paragraph 64).
(r)Everyone we spoke to, whether in London or Pakistan, stressed to us that the most serious barrier to humanitarian assistance has been and remains poor security (paragraph 65).
(s) Security needs to extend to the secondary distribution network as well as to the supply route into Afghanistan. Delivering food into the country is not enough - it must be distributed as well (paragraph 65).
(t)We invite the Government to set out the measures in place for the protection of humanitarian aid workers in international law and to outline its policies for ensuring greater protection of aid workers and non-combatants in complex emergencies (paragraph 69).
(u)We urge coalition forces to put more effort into co-ordinating and sharing information to assist the humanitarian effort (paragraph 71).
(v)Communication was notoriously difficult even before the Taliban banned its use and more attention could have been given to communications in the preparation for the crisis as far back as June 2001 (paragraph 75).
(w)We welcome the funding given by DFID for co-ordination and the formation of the Joint Logistics Centre. We see this as an important means of gathering, collating, verifying and then sharing what sparse information is coming out of Afghanistan (paragraph 76).
(x)We encourage DFID to work closely with the UN agencies on their reform and restructuring. The UN has a vital role to play - bilateral donors cannot be everywhere but the UN can. But governments must help the UN fulfil this universal role; donors must stop asking the UN to do its job with one hand tied behind its back and should properly resource its activities (paragraph 81).
(y)More could be done to track what is happening in failing states. UNICEF told us that it currently classifies 31 states as being in a state of emergency or crisis with an additional 35 on a watch list. While it has no definition of a failing state it assesses levels of conflict, violence, political tension, the occurrence of natural phenomena (such as floods or earthquakes), environmental hazards (such as pollution or water scarcity) and health conditions (paragraph 82).
(z)We hope the Government's response to this report will address the issue of failing states, how they are monitored and what level of preparedness the international system can maintain to respond to problems in these failing states (paragraph 82).
(aa)We would be interested to know what plans DFID and the Government have for using, in Afghanistan, the pooled resource on conflict prevention and the lessons learned in rebuilding Sierra Leone (paragraph 90).
(bb)In order to ensure that women's needs are properly reflected in the long­term reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, it will be necessary to ensure that women, as well as men, control budgets for development programmes (paragraph 93).
(cc)DFID should address the lack of secondary education for Afghan girls in order to create a larger cadre of women who are equipped to play a leading role in the local, regional and national government and in the reconstruction of Afghanistan (paragraph 95).
(dd)Longer-term reconstruction will have to deliver both security and economic prosperity while safeguarding human rights and ensuring access to health and education (paragraph 99).
(ee)The issues of repatriation and returnees must be included in any discussion on the reconstruction of Afghanistan (paragraph 100).
(ff)There is an urgent need to increase the resources available for the removal and disposal of mines and unexploded ordnance (paragraph 111).
(gg)DFID should comment on its plans for supporting education in Pakistan in its response to this report (paragraph 114).
(hh)The five key conclusions are that:
  • the primary distribution of food has, despite all obstacles, been delivered in adequate quantities but the failure of the secondary distribution systems has prevented its delivery to all those in need;
  • secondary distribution been inadequate because of the lack of security over large parts of Afghanistan. The collapse of the Taliban did not bring the safe humanitarian space which had been hoped for, it often substituted one security concern for another. Banditry and lawlessness replaced military conflict;
  • local Afghan people, particularly women, kept humanitarian and other development assistance going during the crisis and demonstrated they should be central to the future development of Afghanistan;
  • the unwillingness of donors to match their pledges with hard cash has resulted in gaps in provision;
  • the ability to prepare adequately has been limited by the general under­funding of the UN agencies.

Ultimately, the success of the continuing humanitarian relief operation depends on adequate levels of funding and crucially, either stability returning to Afghanistan, or the provision of security for humanitarian relief operations by the international community. We will return to the subject of Afghanistan's reconstruction and monitor the shift from food aid assistance to strategies for long-term sustainable development that must ultimately ensure Afghanistan ceases to be the poorest country in the world (paragraph 115).

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