International Development Committee Announcement



The International Development Committee today released its report, Reconstructing Afghanistan. The report points out that after 30 years of conflict Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world and that the risks of abandoning it and the consequences for global security are significant. The international community therefore has a responsibility to assist Afghanistan to achieve lasting peace, stability, reconstruction and development. This is a long-term commitment which will require the UK to remain in Afghanistan for many years.

Afghanistan has made progress in health, education, economic growth and governance since 2001. These tangible achievements deserve to be recognised.

The Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, said:

"Afghanistan is a desperately poor country which has suffered from years of conflict. We have to be realistic about what can be achieved in the short term. It is vitally important that the UK and other donors stay committed to the reconstruction effort since the insurgency will not be defeated without tangible improvements in people's lives."

"We are concerned about the recent deterioration in political relations between the Government of Afghanistan and the UK. We recognise that the civilian and military effort is entirely dependent on the goodwill of the Government and people of Afghanistan. But there is a risk that the tone and timing of recent comments by the Government of Afghanistan which are critical of the UK could undermine British public support for the UK's long-term commitment to Afghanistan."

The report urges donors to work together to build the capacity of the Government of Afghanistan to deliver services to the Afghan people. More than 50% of donor expenditure in 2007 did not go through Government of Afghanistan channels. The Committee argues that projects and programmes which do not use Afghan goods and services or are not aligned with the Government of Afghanistan's priorities are counter-productive because they do not build local capacity. The Chairman said:

"Reconstruction must be an Afghan-led process. DFID puts 80% of its funding through Government of Afghanistan channels. This has helped the Government deliver basic services and is building Afghan capacity. But other donors, notably the US, put far less funding through the Government and this is preventing the Afghans having ownership of the reconstruction of their country."

There will not be a sustained reduction in poppy cultivation unless greater resources are put into rural livelihoods including agriculture, technical services, irrigation, livestock and the provision of credit. Any enforced wide-scale eradication would have significant negative political and economic consequences, especially in already insecure provinces.

An effective counter-narcotics strategy will also require criminal prosecution of big traders and the extension of the rule of law to rural areas since the opium trade is controlled by powerful criminal gangs who operate with impunity in a lawless environment.

The position of women in Afghan society has improved since the fall of the Taliban but these gains could easily be lost. Insufficient attention has been paid to reform of the justice sector by the donor community and this needs to be addressed urgently. The Chairman said:

"There is a dangerous tendency to accept in Afghanistan practices which would not be countenanced elsewhere, because of "cultural" differences and local traditions. We believe that the rights of women should be upheld equally in all countries. The Government of Afghanistan has a vital role to play in this by ensuring that the international human rights commitments which it has made are fully honoured and given greater priority."

The Committee commends the efforts of the joint civilian and military Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand which is trialling new methods of working in a challenging environment. However it notes that civilian movement is restricted by the security situation and local capacity is limited. The Committee cautions that political objectives for Helmand need to be aligned with Afghan capacity in order to ensure that the reconstruction process is Afghan-led.

Notes to editors: Development gains since 2001

1. Access to basic health care has increased from 9% to 82% since 2001. The un