Warsaw, 13 November 2010 - “DYSFUNCTIONAL” GOVERNANCE IS HOLDING BACK PROGRESS IN AFGHANISTAN, EXPERT TELLS NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
On the ninth anniversary of the fall of Kabul, the security and development situation in Afghanistan continued to face serious challenges, experts and officials told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Saturday. Unsatisfactory local governance and the central government’s lack of credibility were key problems, but the underlying factors were more complex and deeply rooted, the parliamentarians heard.
Afghans will tell anyone who asks that the three most important things are “security, security and security”, according to Akbar Ayazi, regional associate broadcasting director for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.
But the various levels of government are more engaged in struggling with each other than providing that security, losing the faith of the people, he told members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly gathered in
“Government at national level is basically run by power brokers”, he said in a presentation to the Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security, and was seen by citizens as “predatory”, with little interest in the welfare of the population.
Leadership at the provincial governor level “in most cases is corrupt”, he said, adding that actors were often working against national government. At a district level, the office of chief was often still vacant, or else corrupt and acting against both provincial and national authorities, he said.
Ayazi added that the Provincial Development Councils, directly elected bodies designed to address this problem by liaising between civil society and government at the provincial level, were in practice “completely irrelevant and dysfunctional”.
And the 69-member Peace Council established by President Hamid Karzai this summer to lead reconciliation efforts was unlikely to achieve its goal, as its members are largely unacceptable to the Taliban. The council should include more respected tribal leaders and civil society representatives, he said.
The official institutions were further alienating the population by not properly reflecting the country’s ethnic demography, he said. Majority ethnic Pashtuns from the South were underrepresented in the national police and army. People were unlikely to trust the results of September’s elections either, he added, after around 20 per cent of ballots were nullified amid allegations of fraud. In Ghazni province, invalidated ballots meant that Pashtuns failed to secure a single seat in the lower house, despite making up half the population, he said.
The international community was “partly to blame” for the situation, said Vitalino Canas, presenting his report, Governance Challenges in Afghanistan, to the committee, but he maintained things were not as bleak as Ayazi made out.
The Socialist member of the Portuguese parliament said NATO’s approach to the rule of law in
The Community Development Councils were an example of a successful governance mechanism already in place, he said. These elected grassroots consultation bodies, set up under a 2003 initiative by the Afghan government, were “widely seen as a successful experiment in local empowerment and ownership”, he said.
The Afghan authorities and the international community had reinforced their commitment to development and accountability in the country at the Kabul Conference in July, he said, with respective pledges titled A Renewed Commitment by the Afghan Government to the Afghan People and A Renewed Commitment by the International Community to
Looking forward, Canas said it was “essential” to channel more aid through
But he acknowledged that NATO’s role in building peace in
Overall, the committee’s Rapporteur said he was optimistic for the future. “The combination of a more coherent and Afghan-led effort in support of the National Development Strategy, and of NATO’s new counterinsurgency strategy, provide a genuine opportunity for decisive progress, including on strengthening governance.”