Sabrima jokes with her twelve year old adopted daughter Siamo in the kitchen of her home in Sandara Village. Unable to have children herself, Sabrima adopted Siamo and her sister after her mother died during childbirth. Credit: Alixandra Fazzina/Oxfam
Afghan government must protect civilians and secure the rights of women

NGOs highlight priorities ahead for the next Afghan government

“Over the last eight years Afghanistan has made significant progress, enrolling over six million children in primary school and expanding access to healthcare.”
Grace Ommer
Head of Oxfam in Afghanistan
Published: 15 October 2009

Afghanistan’s next government must urgently devote greater resources to building up to 6,000 new schools, training upwards of 5,000 new midwives and professionalizing the police force to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans, aid agencies working in Afghanistan said today.

In a seven point plan outlining priorities for the next Afghan government, a group of national and international non-governmental organizations including Oxfam International, Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF) and Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), also highlighted the importance of improving governance, protecting civilians and securing the rights of women.

These recommendations should take hold regardless of the election outcome. With recent focus on the problems of fraud during the election process, the pressing needs of Afghans have been ignored. Now more than ever, the new government will need to make the Afghan people a priority.

Mary Akrami, head of the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Center (AWSDC), said: “Life expectancy is still only 43 years and in many areas the rate of maternal mortality is the highest in the world. Half of all schools in Afghanistan don’t have buildings. The country needs more health workers, more teachers and better infrastructure. Afghans are desperate to see improvements in all these areas.”

Grace Ommer, head of Oxfam in Afghanistan, said: “Our recommendations are ambitious, given the increasing violence in Afghanistan. But they are not impossible. Over the last eight years Afghanistan has made significant progress, enrolling over six million children in primary school and expanding access to healthcare.”

“Positive change can happen in Afghanistan, but there must be political will in Kabul and long term support from the international community.”

The new recommendations highlight the reforms needed in governance. The report suggests ensuring government appointments are made on merit and that human rights and criminal records are thoroughly checked. Access to justice remains limited and despite modest improvements in the Afghan National Police, the force needs more reforms such as better oversight and improvements in pay.

Mirwais Wardak, Program Director for Cooperation for Peace and Unity (CPAU) said: “Afghans overwhelmingly want their government to deliver basic services and maintain law and order. But too much waste and inefficiency and a lack of access to justice has frustrated Afghans and undermined confidence in the government.”

The organizations called for international donors to improve transparency and provide complete information to help the Afghan government track and coordinate foreign aid, which funds around 80% of its budget. The international community must also do more to help meet the needs of the Afghan people and ensure that aid is spent effectively.

Dr. Hamid Saljuqi, Director of Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), said: “Too often aid delivery is opaque or distorted by the conflict, rather than being spent according to need. Donors should provide complete information about the aid they give, and devote more funds to long-term projects aligned with the Afghan National Development Strategy.”

As the Afghan National Security Forces start to take on more military operations protecting civilians should also be a priority for the new government. There should be more checks and balances to prevent abuses and to investigate when they do occur. An autonomous forensic investigation unit should be set up to address allegations that pro-government forces have harmed civilians.

The recommendations highlighted the progress made for women since the fall of the Taliban whilst noting that many of these fragile and limited gains are in serious danger of being reversed. Oxfam said the government should secure the rights of women enshrined in the Afghan constitution, for example by fully enforcing the Elimination of Violence Against Women act, which criminalizes rape and provides greater protection for female survivors of violence.

Notes to Editors

The recommendations were contained in a “Memo to the President”.

The signatories to this memo are: Afghan Development Association (ADA), Afghan Peace and Democracy Act (APDA), Afghan Women’s Skills Development Center (AWSDC), Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF), Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA), Cooperation for Peace and Unity (CPAU), Education Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ETC), Helping Afghan Farmers Organization (HAFO), Human Rights Advocacy and Research Consortium (HRRAC), Oxfam International, Organisation for Human Welfare (OHW), Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), Saba Media Organization (SMO) and Skills, Trainings and Rehabilitation Society (STARS).

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