AFGHANISTAN: ICG report calls on donors to "make decisive change"
KABUL, 7 February 2008 (IRIN) – The international community must “accept mistakes” it has made in the past six years or more in rebuilding and developing Afghanistan, and should now “summon the means and resolve to make a decisive change”, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report.
The report “Afghanistan: The need for international resolve”, released on 6 February, comes amidst growing calls for a dramatic change in the way international donors have engaged militarily and politically, and spent over US$15 billion on reconstruction, development and humanitarian activities in Afghanistan since late 2001.
Oxfam International and some other aid agencies have also called for an “overhaul” of international aid policy towards Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is not lost but the signs are not good,” warns the ICG. “The international community would do better to accept that mistakes have been made and rectify them,” it said.
According to the ICG, although international actors have never maintained executive authority in Afghanistan they still control most of the military and financial resources available to the war-torn country.
Poor coordination mechanisms among about 60 donors, and between donors and the Afghan government, have increasingly been highlighted as the fault-line of rebuilding and development efforts in Afghanistan.
Major donors and international actors in Afghanistan such as the USA, the UK, the European Union, NATO and the UN have managed large resources and identified priorities through separate and mostly uncoordinated structures, the ICG, Oxfam and other aid organisations say.
The ICG report said: “Despite growing calls for ‘coordination’, international efforts are marred by inability to agree on priorities and plans, even with regard to counter-insurgency.”
The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) – which has 23 international and seven Afghan members and is tasked with overseeing progress according to the Afghanistan Compact – has failed to work effectively at home and has only become a “travelling jamboree”, attending meetings around the world, the report said.
There is a need for the establishment of a “Contact Group” of key international players who should regularly meet in Kabul, New York and other capitals to “steer strategic planning of the international engagement”, and enable the JCMB to concentrate on work inside the country, the ICG recommended.
Strengthen UN’s role
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) – which was established in March 2002 and whose mandate has been endorsed by the UN Security Council annually – played a leading role in implementing the December 2001 Bonn Provisional Arrangements on Afghanistan.
However, in recent years UNAMA has lost “much of its policy leadership role” due to a lack of coordination among multiple actors and the way international involvement has been designed, the ICG report said.
“The UN has failed to seize the initiative and perform the function of coordinator and driver of international efforts set out in its mandate,” it said.
Dan Mcnorton, a UNAMA spokesman in Kabul, said the ICG report highlighted some of the key challenges facing Afghanistan, and which need to be addressed by the Afghan government, donors and other players, but he rejected ICG’s statement that UNAMA’s leadership role had diminished.
“The situation now is different to what it was two or three years ago, but UNAMA is not weak,” he said.
UNAMA has over 200 international and about 800 national staff in 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
The UN Security Council has tasked UNAMA with promoting humanitarian coordination, in addition to its critical role of harmonising the promotion of reconstruction, development and human rights in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
The ICG has called on the UN Secretary-General to ensure that UNAMA receive sufficient resources to fulfil its mandate. It also calls on UNAMA to improve coordination with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and other major players.
“Afghanistan is a multilateral effort… it is a test not just in itself or of nation-building and conflict management, but of 21st century multilateralism,” the ICG report said.