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The Dangers of Militarized Aid in Afghanistan

Published: 26 January 2010

As eight non-governmental organizations, working in Afghanistan for up to fifty years and currently serving over 5 million Afghans across the country, we are deeply concerned about the harmful effects of this increasingly militarized aid strategy. As leaders from 70 nations gather in London to debate the future of Afghanistan, we urge them to revaluate this approach to development and reconstruction.

The militarized aid approach is not working for Afghans, and more of the same is unlikely to yield different results.

The overemphasis on military issues at the expense of efforts to promote genuine development and good government matters not only because of the resulting human cost, but also because poverty, unemployment and weak, corrupt government are important drivers of conflict. Ultimately, these factors must be effectively addressed if there is to be any sustainable improvement in security and a lasting peace for Afghans.

Recommendations

In order to address the problems of militarized aid and focus on solutions that work for Afghans, we urge world leaders meeting in London to:

  • Provide stronger support for successful programming like Community-Based Education. Ensure that these programs remain separate from the work of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and are not recipients of military funding.
  • Establish and implement a plan to gradually phase out PRT-provided and other militarized forms of aid. At the same the time, the capacity of and funding for national and international civilian organizations should be increased.
  • Increase the ability of local organizations to design and implement development projects.
  • Ensure that aid is equitably delivered throughout the country based on development and humanitarian needs, and in line with national development plans.
  • Improve the capacity, responsiveness and transparency of local government. Afghans overwhelmingly want a government capable of delivering basic services and the rule of law, yet these systems remain weak and largely ineffective at the local level.
  • Support the UN to take on a greater role in delivering and coordinating aid, particularly in under-resourced provinces and districts. The UN must also be more forceful in coordinating aid efforts, preserving their independence and improving their effectiveness, accountability and transparency.