As Elections near, Afghanistan's Development Needs Still Being Sidelined, aid Agency Says

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As Afghanistan prepares for its August 20 presidential election, aid group World Vision warns that the country's pressing development needs are still not getting appropriate attention from the U.S. government and other international donors. World Vision cautions that uneven distribution of aid, lack of donor coordination and some duplication of services are weakening efforts to build a free and stable Afghanistan. A development strategy, distinct from the counter-insurgency strategy, that provides resources for civil society to support education, livelihoods and job creation, good governance and agricultural alternatives will be essential.

Success in Afghanistan requires a coordinated development strategy

As Afghanistan prepares for its August 20 presidential election, aid group World Vision warns that the country's pressing development needs are still not getting appropriate attention from the U.S. government and other international donors. World Vision cautions that uneven distribution of aid, lack of donor coordination and some duplication of services are weakening efforts to build a free and stable Afghanistan.

"If this month's elections can be carried out peacefully and with broad-based participation, that will be a very positive step," said Christine Beasley, World Vision's country program manager who recently returned from western Afghanistan. "But at the same time, Afghans I've spoken with don't feel invested in these elections because they're not seeing progress or a viable government in their own communities.

"There is a critical need for assistance to be more equitably distributed across all of Afghanistan's remote communities--not just areas in the south and east struggling against Taliban control," said Beasley. "You don't secure the whole country by focusing only on a part."

World Vision is calling on the U.S. government to create a clear development strategy for Afghanistan that is separate from the Department of Defense's counterinsurgency strategy. Such a plan should support the Afghan government's own comprehensive National Development Strategy, or ANDS. Resources for civil society to support education, livelihoods and job creation, good governance and agricultural alternatives to the poppy trade are crucial to progress.

"Success in Afghanistan requires a coordinated development strategy," explained Rory Anderson, World Vision's deputy director for advocacy and government relations, who traveled to Afghanistan in May. "That means, for example, measuring the number of children in school and the content and quality of their education, not just the number of insurgents defeated.

"An economic development strategy is not the same as a counter-insurgency strategy--although the end goals may align, the operational approaches are very different and they follow different timeframes," said Anderson. "If a free and peaceful Afghanistan is the goal, forcing square pegs into round holes won't work."

The aid group believes a separate and coordinated development strategy would help promote a more equitable and effective distribution of U.S. assistance across the country, and better define the roles and space between the military and the civilian reconstruction effort.

"Without a distinct development strategy, the 'civilian surge' is understood to be a military surge, which by itself will not help Afghans take control of their own country," said Anderson.

"If we care about Afghanistan's future, we need to be thinking about what happens after this election," said Beasley. "The focus should be on strategically identifying and replicating throughout the country those development projects that can bring about lasting stability and economic progress for the people of Afghanistan."

World Vision has worked in Afghanistan since 2001, supporting health, food security and agricultural livelihoods along with emergency food aid in three western provinces. Current programs include midwifery training, child survival programs, nutrition, cash for work grants funded by USAID and a food for education project funded by the US Department of Agriculture.

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World Vision's Afghanistan experts in Washington, D.C., are available to brief journalists traveling to cover the elections. Please contact Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz at 202.615.2608.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Visit worldvision.org/press.

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