• In the turmoil of elections, international community must commit to Afghanistan

In the turmoil of elections, international community must commit to Afghanistan

02 April 2014

by Sayre Nyce and Chelsea Purvis International Rescue Committee

Launching a report on the future of Afghanistan, IRC call for continued support to the country

The world is waiting to see how Afghanistan weathers an uncertain 2014. The stage is set for Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power, but violence threatens to derail this Saturday’s election.

International military forces plan to withdraw completely from the country by the end of this year—but wrangling over a security agreement with the United States makes exact drawdown plans unclear. As international troops leave the country, international funding is leaving with them, and Afghanistan’s economic growth is shrinking. It’s hard to predict just how significant the economic impacts will be.

As we explain in our report released today, Afghans are uncertain about their country’s future. Afghans who can afford to leave the country are moving elsewhere. And Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran who have waited anxiously for years to be able to go home have decided to hold off, saying they don’t yet know what situation they’d be returning to.

An IRC Afghan colleague explained, “If the situation gets worse and if you cannot move anywhere—that is a concern for every person in Afghanistan. The future is uncertain.”

The international community is taking a wait-and-see approach to Afghanistan, too. Reluctant to commit to the country in a time of transition, donors are cutting aid budgets.

The United States, by far Afghanistan’s biggest donor, reduced its assistance budget from $4 billion to $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year. Congress cut the budget nearly in half again this year, to $1.1 billion. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development committed only one year of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan recently rather than a multi-year stream.

Humanitarian organisations in Afghanistan, though, can’t afford to wait-and-see: humanitarian needs are too urgent and too great. Nine million Afghans—a third of the country—are now in need of humanitarian assistance. They need the very basics: health care, shelter, food, water and sanitation. Many millions more need ongoing support to maintain fragile gains made in services such as education, livelihood generation and basic infrastructure.

An Afghan colleague told us that communities need “stability, peace and basic public services, such as health and education,” and added, “Many people in Afghanistan live in rural areas. They would like to have some stability so they can continue their work in agriculture, business or livestock.”

Despite political, security and economic uncertainty, aid agencies like the International Rescue Committee will continue to work in Afghanistan. As long as there are humanitarian needs, our dedicated staff—99% of whom are Afghan nationals—will be there with Afghan communities, their communities, partnering with Afghans to meet their needs.

Our work is the kind that can continue even during periods of turmoil. After more than three decades working alongside Afghan communities, our colleagues tell us that the trust and relationships they have built over the years is key to their work. They are confident that they will be able to continue to do their work, just like they have done during past transitions.

This year is a critical time for Afghanistan. That doesn’t mean that the international community should sit back and wait for what happens next. No matter what happens after Saturday’s election, the international community needs to commit, now, to supporting Afghans to build for a better future.


This post originally appeared on the International Rescue Committee’s humanitarian action and development blog, Acting, Fast & Slow