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Development, aid, conditionality and accountability…

February 19, 2013

By Tim Foxley

Summary:  Promising aid to Afghanistan will again become a fashion – for a short while.  But promising is one thing, handing it over is another and ensuring it is used effectively something different again.

Posted on 18 February 2013.

Afghan map outlineThe Norwegian government has pledged to send more economic assistance to Afghanistan. The commitment was announced by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday 6 February during a meeting with Afghani President Hamid Karzai in Oslo. The move will see a further NOK 750 million (EUR 101 million) sent to the strife-torn country each year.

Stoltenberg said in a statement, however, that the package would be awarded conditionally depending on the Afghani government’s performance in terms of ensuring human rights, good governance and transparency.

He said, “I made it clear to President Karzai that if Afghanistan fulfils its obligations, Norway will continue its support for the country,” The Local reports. He added, “We have zero tolerance for corruption.”

President Karzai said that he would work to ensure that Afghani authorities put the funds to good use through the remainder of his current term, which will end in 2014.

Meanwhile, some Norwegian officials have expressed concern over whether or not the funds will get past steadfast corruption in Afghanistan and go toward protecting the rights of people in need.

Norwegian Conservative Party MP Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide told the media, “There’s all reason to be extra alert. The challenge is that the country’s constitution provides rights, for example to women, and limits presidential terms, but reality can be something else entirely,”

I am assuming that this sort of approach will become standard for European nations now – announcing financial aid to Afghanistan.  Perhaps it is still too cynical and too early to call it “guilt money”, but, given the massive flaws in the processes of delivering and using financial assistance while the international community were very closely monitoring the funds, I am wondering how it will practically work on a number of levels in the future, as international interest levels (and physical presence) decline:

  • How to monitor effective use of the funds if is no significant international presence
  • How to monitor Afghan government capacity to spend and account for the money
  • How to reconcile the bold use of the cliché “zero tolerance for corruption” with actually getting anything done with the money
  • How to avoid “conditionality” to the point of inactivity – are European nations really going to wait until all human rights abuses are resolved before handing over money?
  • Alternately, how will European governments explain how taxpayer’s money has been handed over while human rights abuses and corruption issues are still very much in evidence?
  • How to reconcile differences between the “money promised” and the “money actually used”
  • How to reconcile international government’s desire to control the money with the complaints of the Afghan government that the international community is creating “parallel structures” that undermines the work of the Afghans

Just wondering…

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