• Statement of Afghan civil society at the Brussels Conference

Statement of Afghan civil society at the Brussels Conference

05 October 2016

Statement of Afghan civil society at the Brussels Conference

5 Oct 2016

PALWASHA HASSAN Good Afternoon, Excellencies,

We are deeply honoured to speak today on behalf of the hundreds of people who participated in extensive consultations in preparation for the Brussels conference, the voices of citizens from across Afghanistan.

Civil society recognises the efforts that the Afghan government and the international community have made and their achievements and sacrifices in the face of many challenges. We warmly welcome the commitment to women shown yesterday at the Women’s Economic Empowerment event, and the Afghan Government’s vision of self-reliance.

But we must also be clear that, with reduced economic growth and 40% unemployment, following the withdrawal of the military-based economy, realistic levels of international aid are needed for the longer term. We ask that donors keep development aid at least at the levels of the last decade. We also call on donors to improve aid effectiveness, to fight corruption, and to abide by the Paris Declaration.

Addressing the deteriorating security in Afghanistan is an immediate priority. We call on all parties in the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law, which is ignored far too often, and to fulfil their moral and legal duty to protect civilians, including the media and human rights defenders.  A measure of the security of a country is that women and children feel safe and that freedom of speech is guaranteed and we ask the government to ensure prosecution of the perpetrators of violence against the media and to support the Oversight Commission on access to information.

We have seen humanitarian needs increase for years, you heard the details from ICRC. We are deeply concerned by the crisis facing Afghanistan in responding to the needs of IDPs, returnees from Pakistan and Iran, and now the prospect of deportations from Europe which we believe should be suspended. There are already over 1 million IDPs who receive little or no help, and nearly 100,000 people pushed back from Pakistan this year alone. They will require considerable assistance.  The same donors in the room today have failed to provide even 50% of the funds urgently needed for humanitarian assistance this year.  We urge the international community to provide sufficient multi annual and flexible funding to address these needs. 


We cautiously welcome the Afghan-led peace process, and the acknowledgement by perpetrators of the suffering that they have caused, but the process should also include transitional and restorative justice, ensuring justice to victims and their families, and should end impunity.  The National Action Plan for Peace, UNSCR 1325 must also be implemented and women protected by the retention and implementation of the EVAW law.

We warmly welcome the President’s strong commitment to fighting corruption but the measures outlined in the current SMAF are disappointedly weak and none refer to donors. It is necessary that all constituent parts of the Government are equally committed, and that action is taken to end corruption by them and by the donors. We request that civil society participates in the High Council on Governance and other relevant bodies and is included in the development of more concrete benchmarks and actions to end corruption. The implementation of the Access to Information Law, merit based appointments, making procurement and contracts public, especially in the extractives industry, and ensuring timely free and fair elections, are a few examples of how this can be done.  

We urge the Afghan Government to meet its human rights obligations, these include harmonising the national laws with the Geneva Conventions on Human Rights. A key test will be prosecutions for the perpetrators of torture and other abuses. The appointments to the AIHRC must be merit based and non-political.

The share allotted to education and health in the national budget and from international aid is insufficient. More attention needs to be given to meeting the needs of those with disabilities, not just those with war injuries, and other groups with special needs. Civil society organizations, including NGOs, played a crucial role in service delivery during the years of conflict, and should be resourced to continue doing so until others can satisfactorily take over. They can then revert to a more traditional civil society role, monitoring with an independent voice. Civil society, in collaboration with the government, can continue to play an effective part in the peace and development of Afghanistan but the civic space has been shrinking because of the actions of state and non-state actors and we call on the government and the donors to provide an enabling environment for civil society.

We should all remember that the ultimate accountability is not between government and donors: it is to the Afghan people.

PALWASHA HASSAN At the beginning of the war, when I was at school in Pakistan, Afghanistan was known for its lack of corruption, its rule of law and its good roads. Roads are being improved but we have to revive the other two, the values of Afghanistan