September 29, 2016
Guest blog post by Jovita Sandaite, Alexis Stergakis, Aurélie du Châtelet, Magali Garcia, Lucile Grosjean – Action Against Hunger (ACF).
The Afghan Conference taking place in Brussels on October 4-5 will mark an opportunity for Afghan, European and International leaders to take decisions for a better future of Afghan people and reaffirm financial commitments to the Afghan self-reliance.
Action contre la Faim (ACF–Action against Hunger) published a report on the situation of Afghanistan population in 2016, which highlights the crucial need for aid and development policies that reflect and address the direct needs of the Afghan population. What is called for today, is an end to the use of aid for political goals and a more coherent and rational approach to the aid delivered in Afghanistan: working to contextualize, evaluate and adapt it to local needs and to implement effective monitoring systems focusing as much on project quality and impact as on good management.
Overview of humanitarian context
The security situation in Afghanistan has continued to deteriorate in the last years despite the attempts from many international actors to stabilize it. The withdrawal of NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) on 31 December 2014 officially marked Afghanistan as a post-conflict nation. However, whilst the war was officially declared over, the internal conflict among different actors intensified. In 2016, the security context of Afghanistan can be described by a growing number of attacks on civilians, health facilities and humanitarian workers. With a number of areas under de facto control of Armed Opposition Groups, the Afghan state is supposed to take more responsibilities in the management of foreign aid. At the same time, Afghanistan is facing a widespread humanitarian crisis where humanitarian needs are fast growing, especially due to the increase of civilian casualties and displaced populations. Simultaneously, obstacles to humanitarian aid are rising, with an escalation of attacks against health workers and shrinking humanitarian space. In the first six months of 2016, the number of civilian casualties reached a record number since 2009. It is also estimated that in 2015 compared to 2014, the number of people forcibly displaced by conflict increased by 96% , child casualties increased by 14% whilst women casualties increased by 37% .
Past commitments: the exclusive state building approach
During the Senior Official’s Meeting held in Kabul on 5 September 2015, the National Unity Government (NUG) repeated its call for continued donor support, under a narrative of self-reliance and economic development. President Ashraf Ghani called for donor governments to reaffirm their support towards reinforcing security, governance and the rule of law, stability in finance, economic development, private sector and aid effectiveness. As a result of the Kabul meeting, the Self-Reliance Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) was adopted, detailing the partnership between donors and the Government regarding the reconstruction of Afghanistan in the next decade.
In the meantime, the civil society actors emphasize the need for greater donor accountability towards human rights and humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. Donors need to recognize that Afghans continue to suffer in a state of emergency which cannot be erased from Afghanistan’s journey to development progress and economic independence. The current aid system does not sufficiently address the real needs of Afghan people as more funding is currently allocated to development aid and although this funding is very necessary, the programs designed according to this model often do not take into account recurring urgent needs of the people and are not flexible enough to respond to reappearing emergencies. In addition, although the state building and governance approach, dominating development programs, seeks to provide long term economic, social and political solutions for the people of Afghanistan, the immediate needs in this highly unstable country have to be addressed promptly.
In need of humanitarian and population-focused development aid
On the 4th-5th October 2016, European decision makers and donors together with Afghan representatives and other partners will gather in Brussels to reaffirm financial commitments to the Afghan self-governance. Security and development challenges facing Afghanistan will be discussed, in addition to the need to work together for ensuring Afghanistan’s way to self-reliance. The Brussels Conference provides an important time to highlight priorities in aid as well as challenges addressing needs in Afghanistan. It should explicitly acknowledge that the purpose of aid is primarily to address the needs of the population in Afghanistan, not international interests or state-building concerns. This should be done by setting not only long term development, but also short term clearly defined and measurable population based goals aligned with the long term development objectives of Afghanistan. Reinforcing Afghanistan’s governance and institutions stands as a long term goal which remains unachievable without addressing the primary needs of the most vulnerable Afghans as well.