THE huge but fragile gains made in improving the lives of Afghan
people could be lost unless the international community maintains
its financial support, civil-society groups warned last week.
As the year-end deadline for the withdrawal of NATO troops draws
near, agencies are urging donors not to pull out with them.
"Afghanistan has made huge strides forward since 2001," Jawad
Nade, the director of the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan
Group, of which Christian Aid is a member, said on Monday.
"Although there is still much to be done, there have been massive
improvements in health, education, and infrastructure. Life
expectancy is up, girls are going to school, and, for the first
time, many people have a clinic in their village.
"But we're worried that if the international community turns its
back on Afghanistan as the foreign troops leave, then this progress
could stall, or even go backwards."
Mr Nade was speaking before the London Conference on
Afghanistan, hosted on Thursday of last week by the Prime Minister,
and the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani. A survey of Afghan
delegates found that three-quarters (73 per cent) of them had seen
their funding fall in the past year, and 90 per cent feared that
this was imminent.
A communiqué published by the Afghan government at the end of
the conference said that the international community had reiterated
its commitment to providing "significant but declining financial
support". Two-thirds of the country's annual budget of £4.8 billion
is dependent on foreign assistance. The Foreign Secretary, Philip
Hammond, said that the Government would continue to support
Afghanistan - it has committed itself to maintaining aid of £178
million a year until 2017 - but that the Afghan government must, in
return, "demonstrate to the taxpayers of donor countries that their
assistance is being used wisely".
Mr Ghani told delegates: "You do not need to remind us that
corruption is a problem, or institution-building. We own them, and
His election in September constituted the first ever democratic
transfer of power. The UN's under-secretary-general for political
affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, told the conference that this represented
"a key milestone in the political rebirth of the nation". But he
warned of "faltering growth, dimishing revenue, and a burgeoning
illict economy . . . Corruption, weak rule of law, and lack of
respect for human rights, including women's rights, remain
Last week, Zulaikha Rafiq, the executive director of the Afghan
Women's Educational Centre, a Christian Aid partner, said that the
situation for Afghan women was "still dire", but "we have come a
long way since the Taliban regime. . . We are optimistic that the
new leadership will keep the women's-rights agenda in the forefront
of their priorities, especially since both leaders have signed a
list of priorities that women's-rights groups had presented to them
before they were elected."
Violence in Afghanistan is at its highest level since 2001: 6000
soldiers and police and about 3000 civilians have been killed this
year. A survey of Afghan delegates found that 60 per cent felt less
safe in their work than they had a year ago: half stated that
either they or their colleagues had suffered intimidation or death