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Afghanistan - What Will the Future Bring?

What will happen to Afghanistan after 2014 and the transition? The question was discussed at Kepa on December 14 with Mr. Peter Brune, Secretary General of ENNA, the European Network for NGOs in Afghanistan.
Anna-Sofia Joro
8.1.2013

Finnish civil society organisations present or interested in Afghanistan gathered to discuss the role of the civil society in contributing to a sustainable political agenda in Afghanistan - and how Finnish NGOs could contribute to this work. Peter Brune pointed out that ENNA has over 30 member organisations but none of them is Finnish.

ENNA is administrated from Brussels, where the office is composed of 2,5 persons. Deliberately ENNA does not have an office in Kabul, but the activities are coordinated between the two cities.

The organisation does advocacy work with EU, NATO and national governments on various areas including civil-military relations as the military influence on NGOs' work is still quite big; accountability of Afghan National Security Forces which is not functioning very well; impunity; gender equality; extractive industries; good governance and fight against corruption which has gone much worse in the last three decades.

Advocacy tools include four annual seminars and a conference. Next one will be held on 28-29 January 2013 in European Parliament. ENNA also carries out research and studies and facilitates visits from Afghan civil society coming to talk with decision-makers.

A central task is the implementation of Tokyo Framework. Last July more than 70 countries met in Tokyo to discuss the transformation. The key concept was mutual accountability, and the Framework includes steps on five thematic areas which the Afghan government and international community should follow. The goal is to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic development - for all Afghans.

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Afghanistan has entered very critical years as there are several transitions going on at the same time: security transition to Afghan National Forces, political transition as there will be presidential elections in 2014 and parliamentary elections in 2015.

Economic transition will happen when the international troops leaving the country also leave a huge gap in the budget - about 95 percent of it is funded from abroad. Then there's the regional transition. For example cooperation with Pakistan and Iran helps the whole region and needs to be increased.

In brief, there are different scenarios on the future of Afghanistan but the expectations have come down. In 2002 even the most pessimistic ones wouldn't have guessed we are still here. There might or not be a peace treatment, talebans might gain influence, there might be a civil war...

Brune pointed out that Afghanistan is an extremely stressed society. Probably the biggest group under constant threat is the female population. However, many people also have strong ambitions for the country and want to build a better future.

"We shall not give up but work even more. In development aid there are no mistakes, only lessons to learn", Brune reminded.

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The Afghan civil society is very traditional. Soviet Union tried to change the society, which caused a "don't tell us what to do" reaction in Afghans.

Many CSOs are involved in service delivery and the divide between countryside and urban stays strong. The NGOs moving to rights-based approach and advocacy end up being very urban, while community-based NGOs have difficulty to reach out to donors.

There are many thousand NGOs working in Afghanistan, of which many will have severe dificulties and disappear as funding dries up.

Will Afghanistan be forgotten by international community when the military presence is gone? According to Brune, Afghanistan will remain in the map and we should stick to our commitments, even if fatigue prevails among many.

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Finland and Sweden are showing good example. Ms. Sanna Selin, First secreatary responsible for Afghanistan at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs told that Afghanistan will be one of the biggest recipients of Finnish development aid at least till 2017. Current funding, 24 million euros per year, will increase to 30 million euros by 2014.

Support goes to three sectors: good governance, democracy and rule of law, secondly to human rights and gender and thirdly to promotion of the economy. Main part of aid is channeled through World Bank and UN; direct support goes mostly to Northern parts. The NGO funding is 1,5 million euros yearly and the humanitarian aid, 1-2 million euros yearly, is channeled through UN and Red Cross.

Currently ten Finnish NGOs have MFA funded projects in Afghanistan. Many of them focus on the health and rural sectors and/or promote especially the rights of women and disabled people. Also the Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights KIOS supports Afghan civil society partners.

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