Ten years after the international intervention in Afghanistan began and the Taliban regime fell, world leaders are this week gathering in Germany to discuss Afghanistan's future. Back in 2001 a similar group signed the international Bonn Agreement that aimed, in its own words, to ‘end the tragic conflict in Afghanistan and promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights in the country’. Important progress has been made since then, but unfortunately for the people of Afghanistan, the commitments and benchmarks set in Bonn ten years ago are still far from having been reached.
Now the international community and the Afghan government are meeting again in Bonn to discuss what may be next for Afghanistan, and this conference comes at a critical time.
Military ‘transition’ is underway with the majority of international troops set to withdraw by the end of 2014. Afghan security forces are already starting to take over responsibility for security across much of the country. Focus will likely begin to drift from Afghanistan as troops leave, but there is still so much to be done for the nation's people. The international community must make long-term commitments at this conference to give the support that's needed to ensure the provision of basic services, help communities support themselves and tackle poverty in Afghanistan.
We believe that the international community and the Afghan government should take this opportunity to set a strong new development agenda for Afghanistan, and in doing so make a real difference for the country's people. The conference should also be an opportunity for international actors and the Afghan government to make commitments to significantly improve development aid effectiveness and sustainability in Afghanistan, particularly by ensuring that:
- It is really Afghan-driven. So that Afghan civil society and communities are fully consulted and involved in the whole development process from the start – including decision making. To be successful, any aid or development activity is dependent upon the engagement and genuine cooperation of those that it is designed to serve.
- It is impartial. Development aid is based on needs and should be independent of political and military objectives. Such assistance must address the needs and rights of Afghans, and not dictated by security and military objectives.
- It is accountable. Adequate measures must be taken to ensure aid is delivered in a transparent and accountable way, including by involving local communities in the design, implementation and monitoring of projects and tackling corruption.
This week's conference in Bonn is a chance for the international community to get it right for the people of Afghanistan. We hope they take it.