Development Issues

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Afghanistan, Development: 5.6 million returned refugees, another 5 million still in neighboring countries, and 500,000 internally displaced

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Reiterates Commitment to the Afghan People

(Kabul/New York, 11 May 2012) Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, reconfirmed the commitment of the humanitarian community to the people of Afghanistan at the end of her four-day visit.

“Afghans in acute need require timely relief and assistance, delivered impartially. We are and will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance where it is needed, but clearly this alone is not enough,” she stated.

More than a third of Afghanistan’s population has personal experience of displacement, including the 5.6 million returned refugees, another 5 million still in neighboring countries, and 500,000 internally displaced as a result of on-going conflict, recurrent and debilitating natural disasters, and the lack of rural development.

In parallel to humanitarian efforts, longer-term investment in human development and prevention measures are urgently needed to reduce vulnerability in the face of these challenges.

“We must also invest in efforts to strengthen the resiliency of communities themselves and the capacity of service delivery institutions,” she added.

“Much has been achieved over the past decade but Afghanistan remains near the bottom ranking of all human development indicators. There is still much more to do,” she said.

During the transition period the humanitarian needs of the people in Afghanistan must not be forgotten.

“Security is a priority. But for the Afghans I met, security is not just about physical security. It is also about the importance of investment in human development and the delivery of critical functions such as livelihoods, primary education, healthcare and the functioning rule of law. They need and deserve our continued support,” Ms. Amos stated.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit http://unocha.org/

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Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014

World Bank, May 2012: It has been said many times that Afghanistan is at a crossroads. This has never been truer than now. The withdrawal of most international troops by 2014 will have a profound and lasting impact on the country’s economic and development fabric. The Afghanistan in Transition report explores some of these ramifications. The decline in external assistance will have widespread repurcussions for Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape well beyond 2014.

Development progress since 2001 has been mixed. The country has recorded some major achievements such as rapid economic growth, relatively low inflation, better public financial management, and gains in basic health and education. Key social indicators, including life expectancy and maternal mortality, have improved markedly, and women are participating more in the economy. Yet in other respects, particularly governance and institution building, the country has fared less well, and many indicators have worsened in recent years.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s least developed countries, with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of only $528 in 2010-11. More than a third of the population live below the poverty line, more than half are vulnerable and at serious risk of falling into poverty, and three-quarters are illiterate. Additionally, political uncertainty and insecurity could undermine Afghanistan’s transition and development prospects.

The large aid inflows that have benefited Afghanistan have also brought problems. Aid has underpinned much of the progress since 2001—including that in key services, infrastructure, and government administration—but it has also been linked to corruption, poor aid effectiveness, and weakened governance. Aid is estimated to be $15.7 billion—about the same as the size of the GDP in fiscal year 2011.

Despite the large volume of aid, most international spending “on” Afghanistan is not spent “in” Afghanistan, as it leaves the economy through imports, expatriated profits of contractors, and outward remittances. Other countries’ experience shows that the impact of large aid reductions on economic growth may be less than expected. The main issue is how to manage this change, mitigate impacts, and put aid and spending on a more sustainable path.

This first report is intended to be comprehensive, so it also discusses the broader historical and political economy context of development in the country, and how Afghanistan compares with other countries that have undergone their own transitions over the past 30 years. While many features of the Afghan story and the current challenges that Afghanistan faces are unique, other countries share different elements of that story—and may offer lessons on how to move away from violence and establish an enduring and stable transition to a better future.  Download Reports

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“Security…is also about…investment in human development”

UN Humanitarian chief calls for continued investment to save lives

10 May 2012,

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, ended her visit to Afghanistan with a call for continued investment in human development and livelihoods.

Speaking today at a news conference in Kabul, Ms. Amos said investment in human development and prevention measures was needed to reduce vulnerability to the impact of conflict and natural disasters.

10 May 2012, Northern Afghanistan: ERC Valerie Amos meets the women of Buzareg village. Credit: UNAMA “During my time here, much has been said about the transition and the departure of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] forces. The needs of the people in Afghanistan remain vast,” said Ms. Amos.
“Security is indeed a priority. But for the Afghans I met, security is not just about physical security. It is also about the importance of investment in the human development and the delivery of critical functions such as livelihoods, primary education, health care and the functioning rule of law.”
“We … will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance where it is needed, but clearly this alone is not enough,” Ms. Amos said. “In parallel to our humanitarian efforts, longer-term investment in human development and prevention measures is urgently needed to reduce vulnerability in the face of recurrent challenges. We must also invest in efforts to strengthen the resiliency of communities themselves and the capacity of service-delivery institutions.”
Ms. Amos said she had been shocked by conditions at an informal settlement she visited in Kabul.
“These are the poorest of the poor and deserve our collective support. I also support longer-term support efforts to come up with durable solutions that address underlying issues such as land tenure, basic service provision and economic opportunity,” she said.
Ms. Amos noted that more than one third of Afghanistan’s population has personal experience of displacement, including 5.6 million returned refugees, 5 million people who are still in neighbouring countries and 500,000 internally displaced people. She called for timely relief and assistance, delivered impartially to those in acute need.
Ms. Amos spoke of the heart-wrenching stories about the impact of conflict that she heard from internally displaced families during a visit to Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
“After decades of war, people want peace, stability, and an environment free from fear and torment. I again call on all parties to the ongoing conflict to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and for more to be done to ensure civilians are kept free from harm,” she said.
During a visit on Thursday to the banks of the Amu Darya river in Buzareg village, Balkh Province, Ms. Amos saw the destruction caused by riverbank erosion. This consumes more than 500 metres of land each year, destroying homes, agricultural land and livelihoods, schools, roads and clinics.
“Natural disasters occur in Afghanistan on a regular basis. Annual flooding is the norm and there have been eight droughts in 11 years. More must be done to help local authorities prepare better, and we must make a greater effort to build the resilience of communities,” Ms. Amos said.
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Support an end to war that secures peace for Afghans

May 8, 2012

Afghan civilians are asking for a responsible and sustained engagement by the international community that will secure their peace and not only the end of the international community’s war.  Every week I hear from Afghan friends and colleagues about their fear that the international community is abandoning them to another civil war and humanitarian crisis.

What Afghans see everyday on their news, is a situation that looks more and more like a return to the 80s and 90s when their plight was ignored, 32+% were displaced as refugees and 10s of thousands of civilians were killed. Afghans hope we will not promote outcomes that lead them to look back 10 years from now at an Afghanistan once again left to civil war and humanitarian disaster.

As Zahra Sadat, Afghan NGO leader and maker of the film Hands of Health, stated during on congressional briefing, “American troops … are fighting a war rather than creating stability and peace. [The US] should focus their attention more on diplomatic approaches and dialogue rather than fighting a war.”

We should help Afghans achieve the following:

1. NATO shifts its combat mission to a population protection strategy until a long-term international and culturally sensitive stabilization force is mounted and deployed;
2. The UN leads all-party regional peace talks to extricate Afghanistan from its geopolitical conflict;
3. The international community transfers a fraction of the billions spent on a failed military strategy to fund cost-effective and locally implemented economic and social development projects that have proven their value and efficacy and are essential for long-term peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.

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Flash floods kill 26 at Afghan wedding

May 7, 2012

Agence France-Presse, 05/07/2012 13:07 GMT

Kabul, May 7, 2012 (AFP) – At least 26 people were killed and more than 100 missing after flash floods hit a wedding party and three villages in northern Afghanistan, an official said Monday.

Most of the victims were women and children as the floods, caused by heavy rains, swept through areas of Deh Mardan district in Sari Pul province, said Fazlullah Sadat, head of the provincial disaster management authority.

“We have found 26 bodies mostly women and children — and more than 100 others are still missing,” he told AFP.

Wedding parties are traditionally large and joyous occasions in rural Afghanistan, but 21 people from one gathering were among the victims, he said.

“This is a human tragedy. We have a lot of human losses,” said Sadat.

Rescue teams had been dispatched to search for the missing, he added, and the floods also swept away livestock and swamped agricultural lands.

The defence ministry had dispatched two helicopters to flood-hit areas, he said, and disaster management teams assisted by the UN’s World Food Programme were at the scene, distributing food, blankets and tents.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls, and experts predicted melting snow was likely to cause floods in the mountainous north in the spring.

In March, the UN humanitarian office for Afghanistan said at least 145 people were missing and “presumed dead” after an avalanche hit a remote village in northeastern Badakhshan province.

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