Written evidence from Christian Aid |
- The UK Government should support more actively
the search for a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan.
- The peace process should be an inclusive one
and any agreement that emerges should not lead to the undermining
of the rights of the most marginalised groups in Afghan society,
- Security and development in Afghanistan is linked
to the wider stabilisation and development of neighbouring countries.
- In addition to working for a political settlement,
the UK should continue its efforts to build up Afghan institutions
but should increase its focus on supporting Afghan actors that
can hold the executive to account.
- Aid should not be used to achieve military objectives.
1. THE UK GOVERNMENT
1.1. The conflict - defined as the fighting between
the Afghan Government and NATO forces and the insurgency - is
currently the biggest block on development in the country. It
has engulfed most of the South and East of the country and is
now spreading to formerly peaceful areas in the North and the
West. The Taliban have de facto control of many districts
in the South and the East and have a strong presence in all the
Southern provinces. By contrast, the Government's authority there
is weak if non-existent. In these areas the insurgency is significant
and receives relevant support beyond the Afghan borders. The conflict
is interrupting development; it is leading to significant human
casualties and human rights violations; it disrupts economic growth
and damages the credibility of the Afghan Government; it contributes
to the instability of the wider region.
1.2. We do not believe there can only be a military
solution to the current crisis. There is an important challenge
of ensuring the rule of law and stability in the country - a prerequisite
for development. The international community is supporting these
efforts in different ways. However, it is crucial not to lose
sight of the fact that this process will only succeed if the state
institutions fulfilling these tasks enjoy broad legitimacy in
Afghan society and are accountable, and if human rights are respected.
It is imperative that all efforts to reduce and end violent conflict
in Afghanistan must by framed within the context of a political
strategy which places primacy on supporting efforts to reduce
and end violent conflict in Afghanistan in a sustainable and legitimate
This is clear when one considers what Afghans who
live in the South and feel marginalised under the current system
identify as the main causes of the conflict:
the weak legitimacy of the Government coupled with the presence
of international forces. Any strategy which does not address
both these conflict drivers is unlikely to succeed.
1.3. In light of the picture presented above, Christian
Aid believes that the UK must play a more active role in bringing
an end to the conflict promoting a political strategy that is
inclusive of all ethnic and social groups. The UK Government should
further encourage peace talks amongst all the main parties to
the conflict. As an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
contributing nation and a party to the conflict, the UK is not
a neutral player. Therefore, the process requires an impartial
mediator to be engaged for this task: the United Nations, regional
multilateral bodies, or countries within the Arab League are possible
options which ought to be explored. In order to be successful,
the talks must address the question of the length of the presence
of international forces. They should also consider different ways
in which insurgents can be encouraged to re-join the political
1.4. The UK Government's current position on the
question of a political settlement is inadequate because, firstly,
it is only supporting a limited process of dialogue between the
Afghan Government and insurgency, where the latter must agree
to lay down their arms (the Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation
Programme) but without addressing the root causes of the conflict
or any major concessions in return; and secondly, it is ignoring
the question of its own role and that of other NATO countries
in the conflict.
1.5. Donors are planning to allocate significant
sums of money to support the implementation of the new Afghanistan
Peace and Reconciliation Programme (APRP).
Some elements of the APRP do have value, such as the setting up
of Peace Councils to manage peace talks with the Taliban and other
armed groups. However, we think that in the absence of a national
peace agreement it is going to be very difficult to meet the objectives
relating to the local level re-integration of former Taliban fighters,
whatever the incentive may be not only economic but also in terms
of power sharing. This problem is even acknowledged in the APRP
These issues should be addressed before large sums are spent on
the new programme.
2. THE PEACE
2.1. Afghan civil society can play an important role
in a future peace process. There are a number of international
examples where civil society initiatives have helped to increase
trust and cement peace in conflict-affected countries:
- In Guatemala Asemblea de la Sociedad
Civil paralleled the two-year official peace negotiations.
Eventually two thirds of their proposals made their way into the
- In Northern Ireland a survey was commissioned
where 3,000 people submitted testimonies to a Norwegian academic.
A number of the recommendations on human rights were adopted into
the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the commission proved influential
in creating an atmosphere of inclusiveness.
2.2. There is clearly a risk that a settlement which
involves a stake for the Taliban in the country's government will
lead to an undermining of the progress made since 2001 in the
area of women's rights (for example, better access to education
and healthcare, greater livelihoods opportunities and increased
participation in politics). There is also the real possibility
of smaller ethnic and religious groups being unrepresented in
any power-sharing deal. If the UK moves towards a policy of full
support for a political settlement, it should make its support
contingent on any deal being both inclusive - in terms of a meaningful
role for civil society and the aforementioned marginalised groups
- and protective of human rights. Each of these twin pillars serves
to strengthen the other.
3. THE NEED
3.1. The success of international efforts
to promote security and development in Afghanistan is linked to
the wider stabilisation and development of its neighbouring countries.
In this framework, both the United Nations and the United States
have adopted a regional approach to promoting stability in Afghanistan.
The issue of regional cooperation is included in the Security
Council's Resolution 1806 (20 March 2008) and entails both launching
a political dialogue among regional capitals on the Afghanistan
issue and fostering regional cooperation on urgent issues in order
to make progress towards regional security.
3.2. Achieving progress in this area will take time.
It will require trust and dialogue among the states, as well as
a greater recognition of what are the shared vulnerabilities and
interests of the countries concerned. Questions about neutrality
and sovereignty are at the heart of much of the distrust: the
failure to resolve a number of ongoing conflicts, such as the
Kashmir question and the dispute over the Durand Line between
Pakistan and Afghanistan, the nuclear affair between Iran and
the international community, competition over resources that involves
a more assertive engagement by China, concerns about the scope
of Russian influence in Central Asia, and the presence of NATO
and American troops in the region, are all unsettled issues that
have direct impact on trust between states in the region.
3.3. We believe that to achieve long-term peace in
Afghanistan a regional strategy is required that creates platforms
for dialogue and encourages trust-building measures among the
countries in the region. The UK Government could play an important
role in such efforts. Finally, countries should refrain from using
Afghanistan as a ground upon which to settle their unresolved
geographical disputes and political grievances.
4. IN ADDITION
THE UK SHOULD
- BUT SHOULD
4.1. The UK should continue its work of strengthening
the efficiency and legitimacy of the Afghan State through institution-building.
DFID has committed over £700 million over the next four
years to Afghanistan, at least 50% of which will to be channelled
through Afghan government systems via the Afghan Reconstruction
Trust Fund (ARTF).
We support the UK's policy of channelling over half of its aid
through the Afghan Government and its lobbying of other donors
to increase the proportion of their aid spent in this way. This
is essential if state capacity is to be developed.
4.2. However, the serious problems of corruption,
poor performance and lack of transparency mean that it is important
that institutions also exist and grow that can hold the executive
accountable for its actions. Both the Afghan Parliament (especially
the Lower House, or Wolesi Jirga) and civil society organisations
have a critical role to play in this respect. Our long experience
in the area of civil society development - capacity-building of
grassroots NGOs, rural development and support for the delivery
of essential services - convinces us that more Official Development
Assistance should be allocated to this task. Christian Aid would
welcome the extension to Afghanistan of such civil society programmes
that DFID runs in India and Bangladesh to improve the capacity
of national civil society (including development NGOs) to deliver
services - where government provision is lacking - and engage
better in local decision-making processes.
5. UK SUPPORT
GOVERNMENT - INCREASING
5.1. As one of the major donors to Afghanistan, the
UK should support a country-wide strategy to strengthen the accountability
of the Government at sub-national level through governance and
justice reforms. Whereas we recognise the importance of the UK's
efforts in supporting the central Government in strengthening
governance sectors, particularly in the justice and public administration
reforms, we believe there should be a focus too on improving sub-national
governance, which includes support to NGOs for service delivery.
The UK should work closely with the Afghan Government
as duty-bearers, to enable state institutions to fulfil their
responsibilities in a way that is accountable to poor men and
women in Afghanistan. Civil society plays a vital role in this
respect: both working with poor Afghan men and women to increase
their understanding of their rights and the duties which the state
bears to them (and they to the state), and empowering them to
claim these rights and enact these responsibilities.
6.1. Christian Aid firmly opposes the use of aid
to achieve military objectives. We believe that using scarce resources
for development and poverty eradication programmes will produce
greater benefits and increased stability in the long term. We
therefore remain concerned by the proportion of the UK's aid that
has been spent in Helmand province, and by the fusing of the aid
and military strategy in the form of Provincial Reconstruction
Teams (PRTs). PRT Quick Impact Projects are of limited development
value and we are sceptical of their ability to "win hearts
and minds" in a conflict zone. We call on the Government
to undertake a thorough review of its policy in relation to aid
projects managed by PRTs. The findings of such a review could
be used to inform planning around the proposed Stability and Reconstruction
6.2. Furthermore, the UK should follow more closely
the existing UN guidelines on the involvement of military forces
in the provision of humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies,
as well as the civil-military guidelines drawn up specifically
for Afghanistan in 2007-08 and agreed by UNAMA, NATO and NGOs.
6 October 2010
2 See the independent Report commissioned by DFID on
this question in 2009. Interviews were held in two Southern provinces
(Wardak and Kandahar) and the wider Kabul area. The interviewees
were government officials, tribal elders, religious leaders, youth
groups, women's groups, traders and businessmen, as well as Taliban
combatants and Hizb-i Islami commanders. Back
The APRP document estimates that it will cost $129 million to
implement just the first year of the Programme. Afghanistan
Peace and Reconciliation Programme, National Security Council,
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, July 2010, p. 33. Back
Ibid., p.14. Back
5 T.Paffenholz,CivilSocietyandPeacebuilding:ACriticalAssessment,2010. Back
6 "CountriesneighbouringAfghanistanhaveanessentialroletoplayinprovidingsupporttotheGovernmentofAfghanistan'seffortstobuildastablestatewithsecureborders.SecurityCouncilresolution1806(2008)highlightstheneedforUNAMAtosupportregionalcooperationtoworktowardsstabilityandprosperityinAfghanistan",SecurityCouncilSpecialReportoftheSecretary-GeneralpursuanttoSecurityCouncilresolution1806(2008)ontheUnitedNationsAssistanceMissioninAfghanistan,3July2008. Back
The UN has established a Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy
for Central Asia based in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, with the mandate
of initiating regional dialogue and projects around common threats. Back
Cf. UNOCHA, Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence
Assets to Support United Nations Humanitarian Activities in Complex
Emergencies, March 2003, http://ochaonline.un.org/mcda/guidelines Back