Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Afghanistan: Dangers of militarized aid in Afghanistan

Source - ActionAid; Afghanaid; CARE; Christian Aid; Concern; Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC); Oxfam; TrĂ³caire

Every half hour, an average of one Afghan woman dies from pregnancy-related complications, another dies of tuberculosis and 14 children die, largely from preventable causes. Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, the humanitarian and development needs in Afghanistan remain acute.

Undoubtedly, Afghans have seen some improvements, particularly in the expansion of access to healthcare and education. While it costs approximately $1 million a year to support the deployment of one US soldier in Afghanistan, an average of just $93 in development aid has been spent per Afghan per year over the past seven years.2 Far too much aid has focused on "quick fixes" and band-aid approaches rather than on what will produce positive and lasting results for Afghans over the long term.

As political pressures to "show results" in troop contributing countries intensify, more and more assistance is being channelled through military actors to "win hearts and minds" while efforts to address the underlying causes of poverty and repair the destruction wrought by three decades of conflict and disorder are being sidelined. Development projects implemented with military money or through military-dominated structures aim to achieve fast results but are often poorly executed, inappropriate and do not have sufficient community involvement to make them sustainable. There is little evidence this approach is generating stability and, in some cases, military involvement in development activities is, paradoxically, putting Afghan lives further at risk as these projects quickly become targeted by anti-government elements.

As seven non-governmental organizations, working in Afghanistan for up to fifty years and currently serving over 5 million Afghans across the country, we are deeply concerned about the harmful effects of this increasingly militarized aid strategy. As leaders from 70 nations gather in London to debate the future of Afghanistan, we urge them to revaluate this approach to development and reconstruction.

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