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Position Paper to the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan

Tuesday Jul 3, 2012

Kabul – July 02, 2012

Preamble

The Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan intends to secure the international community’s long-term political and financial support for the remainder of the Transition period (end 2014) and throughout the Transformation Decade, 2015 – 2025. The outline of this conference is led by yet another strategy paper aimed at achieving Afghanistan self-reliance by the year 2025. The paper is based on a mutual accountability and good governance framework – a vision widely viewed as doubtful at best in the eyes of common Afghans.

While the Afghan public can only hope that the Tokyo Conference can bring a positive change to their lives and to sustain their livelihoods, only time will prove if it is not just another waste of time and resources.

The Afghan Young Leaders Initiative (AYLI) would like to echo the voices of the common men, the poor, who are deprived of many or all social services, and of those entrepreneurs, who assume great-risks in initiating new businesses, that it is time for the Afghan government as well as the international community to put their act together and use this opportunity and pin down some real measures to strengthen the mechanisms, institutions, and infrastructure for the sustainable development of the country during and beyond transition and the transformation period.

Concerns and Recommendations

We believe that the economic well-being of the masses will determine the success of Afghanistan and its partners for the years to come. Since 2002, the Government has prepared six development strategies, but a disconnect between policies, planning, and their translation into actions still persists. Any new plan for the long-term period must be public-oriented, and reflect the true needs and aspirations of the Afghan people, therefore the Tokyo Conference must be able to tell the normal Afghans how this conference is different from its predecessors.

On the other hand, the Government and International Community have not been entirely accountable during the last ten years through a mainstream monitoring mechanism. A number of monitoring boards and organizations have either been government or donor driven, and they have not always taken into account the genuine interests of the people. This has led to fragmented planning and implementation of projects across the country, with no or only minimal means of accountability to the people. In the meantime, these monitoring efforts should also convince both the Afghan government as well as the international community that their long-term engagement and commitment are built upon concrete and tangible deliverables.

The Afghan Young Leaders Initiative presents the following recommendations to the participants of the Tokyo Conference:

  1. With the completion of the 2014 Transition process in sight, the Government’s self-reliance roadmap should focus on the realities of government capacities for spending and proper management of projects and the international community’s disbursement of financial commitments. The government’s economic transition plan cannot be achieved if those realities are not met and mutually agreed upon at the Tokyo Conference.
  2. We believe that the key economic drivers of Afghanistan lay within the country’s abundant agriculture, natural resources, water management, mining, trade and transport opportunities; therefore, there should be a specific focus to revive these sectors economic vitality in order to guarantee the country’s sustainable development.
  3. The Government self-reliance roadmap should provide clear investment opportunities by providing a consistent and adaptive enabling environment for local and foreign investors that should be built on the experience of the past decade.
  4. While a coherent plan for implementation is not visible within the Afghan government’s documents, for effective results, Afghans should not remain the victim of a duplication of efforts; moreover, the government should eliminate parallel structures within the existing government structure as well as aid delivery institutions.
  5. Building upon a cohesive planning process by government, donors should provide long-term funding commitments, soft conditionality, and adhere to strictly a practical aid management policy.
  6. Aid does not cause development; therefore, the government should build the necessary infrastructure and institutions during the Transformation Decade in order to align itself to long-term and concessional loans.
  7. Delivery of services at the sub-national level in a balanced and prioritized way, to boost confidence building and peace-building process, must find itself on top priority of government, with donors directly contributing to it.
  8. To tackle growing corruption, specific measures and benchmarks should be laid out both for government and the international community to undertake; that would not necessarily create additional institutions and mechanisms as has been witnessed, but to make the current institutions and mechanisms work better with the support of a strong political will.
  9. It must be noted that ignoring regional political and security factors would adversely affect our economic relations in the region and lower our potentials of economic benefits. Any disconnect with regional partners has the potential of generating an imbalance in our regional diplomatic relations, with which our nation’s security and stability are so intricately connected. Therefore, attaining a comprehensive approach towards improving the country’s regional economic cooperation is of immense importance.
  10. Afghanistan’s rapid population growth rate of 2.8% and demographic pressures are issues of concern, especially in light of existing security and socio-economic challenges. A national census is non-existent and the population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050. A long-term strategy to balance population vs. sustainable socio-economic growth is required today.
  11. Afghanistan has seen various large-scale international conferences, which produced ambitious visions on paper yet rarely followed-up in practice. We strongly suggest that a proper follow-up mechanism be established to ensure the promises delivered upon from both the Afghan Government and its international development partners.
  12. The Government of Afghanistan should identify a unified and formal process of planning that is visionary, results-oriented, evidence-based, and practical in response to the needs and capacities of the country. We would like to reiterate the establishment of an Economic Planning Commission as a national overarching policy and planning institution that would not be ministry-driven. The Commission should enable the government to provide leadership of the planning process and to take ownership of all planning efforts. The Economic Planning Commission should serve as a policy and strategic think-tank for the President and his or her cabinet.

Conclusion

The Tokyo Conference provides yet another vital opportunity for the Afghan government to present itself responsibly and strategically prepared for the Transformation Decade. It also gives the international community another significant opportunity to prove that they are here to help the Afghan people through a long-term commitment. Therefore the mutual commitments forged in Tokyo and their subsequent delivery will provide the Afghan public with the basis to maintain faith in the current Kabul Process; otherwise, it will serve as another failed attempt and will prove that conferences and strategies equates automatically with no real action on the ground.


Afghanistan Young Leaders Initiative Position Paper on NATO Summit in Chicago

Tuesday Jul 3, 2012

May 07, 2012

 Preamble

The 25th NATO Summit in Chicago this month is unusual compared to previous summits as it will not reaffirm the allocation of more resources to its mission in Afghanistan, but the alliance will seek how to withdraw from a leading combat role in an increasingly unpopular decade-long war. It is for the Afghans to take the necessary precautions and ownership to fill the void as NATO draws down from Afghanistan.

The Afghan Young Leaders Initiative understands that Chicago will introduce a different narrative as no world leader is expected to announce an increase in its military and economic footprint in Afghanistan.

Political and economic circumstances in the West, the US in particular, do not provide winning cards to NATO leaders to maintain the costly war for an unsustainable period. However, an accelerated drawdown will not only guarantee the failure of the mission for “winning hearts and minds”, but it could leave behind a country at risk of descending into another civil war as a possible post-2014 scenario. This, in turn, could translate into an increased regional rivalry for domination of Afghan politics by neighbours near and far.

 Concerns and Recommendations

There is an increasing perception that the Chicago Summit will determine the endgame for Afghanistan, which paves the way for internal and external actors to chart their short to long-term strategic interests in this country. It is for the Afghan government and the international community to provide a clear vision for both the Afghan people and their domestic constituencies for the post-2014 period in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Young Leaders Initiative believes that success in Afghanistan could be ensured primarily through safeguarding our common achievements made in the past ten years, which has come through tremendous sacrifices of blood and treasure. In order to prevent Afghanistan from becoming once against a hub for international terrorism and regional rivalry, we recommend the Chicago Summit address the following:

  • Sustainability of a properly equipped Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is a crucial element for lasting security, which is also an essential precondition for economic development. Given that we live in unstable region, Afghanistan requires a military of an appropriate size, throughout the “transformation decade” (2015-2024). It should also be noted that a remarkable and sudden reduction in ANSF would leave a huge number of trained soldiers unemployed, which adds to our vulnerability to further ethnic and political tensions.
  • The growth of ANSF should be balanced between army and law enforcement agencies. Fighting an insurgency requires a stronger capability in the police and intelligence services; therefore, a greater emphasis is needed on police, as they would ultimately take on the role of ensuring the rule of law rather than fighting terrorists.
  • The NATO forces should continue their counter-terrorism mission in parallel to counter-insurgency efforts throughout the transformation decade. The counter-terrorism operations should not be limited to Afghan boundaries alone. The mandate of post-ISAF engagement should state that its counter-terrorism aspect is not limited to the Afghan boundaries. However, the issue of sanctuaries has to be handled before the US combat role is ended in Afghanistan in 2014. Targeting the leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their safe havens regardless of its geographical location through intelligence-driven operations has to be maintained with high momentum.
  • The upcoming 2014 Presidential election requires security arrangements, which in the immediate term seems beyond the capabilities of the ANSF unless the insurgency is quelled through a political settlement. Therefore, to ensure a free, fair and transparent election and also as a test case for the ANSF’s capabilities, the presence of international forces is essential to safeguard the election process. The impartiality and professionalism of the Afghan security forces should be ensured to avoid politicisation in the ranks of ANSF for the upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
  • The transition to a new Afghan administration after the 2014 Presidential elections should be considered as a key milestone to measure the success towards stability and political maturity beyond 2014.

 Conclusion

The Afghan war is a war of perceptions for the most part. It is a multi-dimensional, complex, and regional conflict that requires a comprehensive, multi-pronged, and long-term commitment. It is of utmost urgency for both the Afghan government and the international community to ensure a successful outcome in Afghanistan, or we will continue to face the threat of terrorism and regional instability with grave consequences for world security and peace.


International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn

Tuesday Jul 3, 2012

International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, Afghan Youth Vision 2014 and Beyond

December 01, 2011

Preamble

Afghanistan has had a unique relation with nations across the world over the last ten years.  Despite the reviving political and economic ties with a lot of countries, we are yet to be embraced a reliable partner by many. Security, peaceful transition to self-reliance, basic service delivery to all, and economic growth and development have significant presence in any national or international agenda related to the future of Afghanistan.  Afghanistan’s engagement with the regional and international actors is critical at this juncture for ensuring its stability, bolstering its economy and promoting national solidarity.

This paper aims to bring to the attention of the participants of the Bonn Conference expressions of the hopes and aspirations of young Afghans and their vision for the future of the nation.

We, the young Afghans, across the nation join hands in unison and send our appeal to the Afghan government, the international community and the Afghan and international civil society members. The Afghanistan Young Leaders Initiative (AYLI) pursues these issues in shaping its vision, and presents the following recommendations to the participants at the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn.

Socio-Economic Development

We believe that Afghanistan’s economic development lies on cultivating the wealth of the nation, educating its people; protecting the rights of the vulnerable, nurturing a sense of national solidarity, and Afghanistan’s active presence in the regional and international arena.

International assistance in Afghanistan can only be effective when it backs up Afghanistan’s own development efforts through building of state institutions. It is critical that the legitimacy of the state and government is firmly established and the government’s authority is spread across the length and breadth of the country.

Poverty in Afghanistan affects an estimated 36% of the population, and a large percentage is highly vulnerable to falling into the poverty trap. Afghanistan’s long-term partnership strategies with the international community can be of immense assistance if the international partners avoid quick-impact and visible short-term solutions; and focus instead on improving the quality of life of the people, thereby earning their trust and confidence. With such anticipation, we put forth the following propositions:

  • The government must develop an economic model as a part of the country’s economic transition plan. The model could be based on its comparative advantages such as the country’s endowments in natural resources, potentials of cultivation of varied agricultural products for domestic consumption and export, and its critical geographical location at the center of trade and transit routes in south and central Asia.
  • Afghanistan’s rapid population growth rate of 2.8% is an issue of concern especially under the existing security and socio-economic challenges. A national census is non-existent and the population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050. A long-term strategy to balance population vs. socio-economic growth is required today.
  • Investments in long term economic development areas such as agriculture, mining, energy and infrastructure that would generate both short and longer-term employment opportunities for Afghans are absolutely essential. Such investments would enable the Afghans to increase income and mitigate the potentials of slipping into the poverty trap.
  • It must be noted that ignoring regional political and security factors would adversely affect our economic relations in the region and lower our potentials of economic benefits. Any disconnect with the regional partners have the potentials of generating an imbalance in our regional diplomatic relations, with which our nation’s security and stability are so intricately connected. Therefore attaining a comprehensive approach towards improving country’s regional economic cooperation is of immense importance.
  • An Economic Planning Commission to act as a center of gravity for overall economic planning and coordination in the country should be established.   The Commission should enable the government in providing leadership at the planning process and take ownership for all planning efforts. Since 2002, Government of Afghanistan has prepared six development frameworks but a disconnect between planning and their translation into action still persists. The Economic Planning Commission should serve as a policy and strategic think-tank to the President and his cabinet.
  • Development of the private sector as an engine of growth and sustainable economic development is also very critical. The private sector development strategy must be focused on nurturing small and medium enterprises mainly at the sub-national levels.

Security and Political Transition

The planned military transition is at the forefront of international engagement in Afghanistan. The backbone of any such transition is building of sustainable Afghan economy and political institutions legitimate in the eyes of Afghan population. We believe that:

  • Withdrawal of international forces is likely to have an immense impact on Afghanistan’s stabilization process. Troop’s withdrawal is being planned in the absence of any visible sign of improvement in the quality of defense and security forces. Both Afghan government and International Community should adopt practical and effective measures to avoid retracting the current levels of assistance or generate shortfalls that might lead to the breakdown of institutions built over the last 10 years;
  • The Afghan government, with support of the people, must adopt clear-cut and transparent national security policies by strengthening and defining the mandates of its security institutions, determine the red-lines, and avoid duplication of efforts.
  • Because of a disconnect between the law enforcement agencies and the unavailability of per-capita police, attorneys, and judges, there is a need that these institutions should be equally developed, their coordination strengthened, with a holistic approach to the rule of law.
  • The sustainability of legitimate political institutions, as envisioned in the constitution of Afghanistan, is key to its long-term stability. This can be done, for instance, through promoting formation of national and regional political parties and a positive change to the electoral law, and fostering a strong non-interference pact with Afghanistan neighbors offering them incentives and countermeasures.
  • International experience shows that peace and reconciliation will come from a position of strength – economically, politically and militarily. To achieve peace in Afghanistan, we need to identify which group of Taliban is willing to sit with the government through appropriate trust and confidence building measures to facilitate the negotiation and peace pact.
  • Afghanistan must prioritize implementation of its sub-national governance policy, particularly the reform of provincial planning and budgeting, with increased resources transferred to sub national levels and de-concentration of authority to these levels in order to bring decision making on development spending closer to the beneficiaries.

 Service Delivery

The Government and International Community have not been entirely accountable during the last ten years through a mainstream monitoring mechanism. A number of monitoring boards and organizations have either been government or donor driven who have not taken into account the genuine interests of the people. This has led to fragmented planning and implementation of projects across the country, with no or minimum means of accountability to the people. Since Service delivery and clear accountability can be used as a means for trust building between the government and the people, we propose that:

  • A Monitoring Board to be established with members drawn from civil society at the national and sub-national levels, with members from the Afghan National Assembly, international community and the government. This Board, neither government nor donor driven, will monitor and evaluate the country’s planning and service delivery on the ground and to measure its impact on the people.
  • Reaching out to the people in remotest villages and districts should become the core priority of the government in order to draw support for the peace-building process. The Afghanistan government should focus on streamlining and coordinating service delivery at the sub-national levels to cover for the donor countries’ fragmented attention to these areas in the past years.
  • With 2014 transition process in sight, the government’s ability in reforming bureaucracies and strengthening procurement policies are considered critical for improved service delivery for the public at sub-national levels.

Designed by BPL & PRT. Translated to Persian & RTL by P30design.