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Kamran Mir Hazar        Letter to Editor

Human security key to Afghan future,

aid agencies advise UN Security Council

On the anniversary of the fall of the Taliban exactly five years ago today, member agencies of the peak aid agency coordinating body here (ACBAR) met with the President of the United Nations Security Council and UN Member State ambassadors currently in country investigating the situation in Afghanistan. Aid agencies expressed their collective concerns over a spiraling cycle of violence; insufficient peace and reconstruction strategies; and ongoing human rights violations and abuses. They shared their concerns that the international community has had five years to bring sustainable peace dividends but has over-relied on military and related solutions. Ever increasing instability and poor development gains suggest that investments in human security* should now trump Global War on Terror (GWOT) national security agendas in the interests of maintaining international peace and security.

 Aid agencies advised the UN Security Council that the international communitys assumption that Afghanistan can be made peaceful through a combination of military assistance, donor-driven aid, and Western-style democracy fails to attend to the history, society and culture of Afghanistan, a country which has witnessed failed foreign intervention time and again. There is an urgent need at this time to rethink current strategies in the interests of preventing the death of even more Afghans, avoiding large-scale destruction of infrastructure and livelihoods, and increasing chances that what goes on inside and around Afghanistans borders does not destabilize regional and global peace efforts.

 At what is increasing a turning point in the already tumultuous history of Afghanistan, aid agencies called upon the UN Security Council to play a lead role in pushing a human security agenda in Afghanistan. Its time to revisit what we feel is a flawed strategy in Afghanistan. Unless the root causes of conflict are better addressed, and unless the Afghan people themselves are encouraged to participate in their own futures, aid will continue to be compromised and durable solutions will remain illusive. We warmly welcome the UN dialoguing directly with us at the highest levels and look forward to witnessing a real change for the better, said Kirsten Zaat, spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Afghanistan and one of three lead advocates representing aid agencies at the meeting.

 Aid agencies thanked the UN Security Council for listening to the difficulties faced by Afghan civilians and civil society alike. Insecurity, despair, and under-employment have led to perceptions that the government and the international community are not doing enough, the corollary is increased sympathy for opposition forces. We trust the UN Security Council will use our concerns and ideas shared on behalf of we the peoples to promote human security rather than continue to act on behalf of many UN Member State governments who unfortunately but increasingly have a tendency in the current GWOT climate to promote national security agendas at all costs, said Zaat.

 Aid agencies advised the United Nations Security Council that while transforming war-torn Afghanistan into a prosperous democracy is sound in principle, pushing agendas at speed shuts out the Afghan people and is therefore undemocratic. Noble enterprises such as participatory democracy take at least a generation to develop and necessarily must be led by the people themselves. Such approaches are having a highly destructive effect on already overstretched national authorities. The Afghan people have their own superior coping mechanisms and indigenous structures which have enabled them to help themselves since time immemorial. We would like to see a situation where Afghan communities themselves are consistently consulted in good faith. We would like to see the contribution of civil society better valued, said Zaat. 

During the meeting the UN Security Council was advised that many aid agencies operating across the country have had to scale down their work due to insecurity. If this situation persists, communities living in rural and remote areas will continue to suffer. Instability has also increased the cost, timeliness and quality of aid delivery. Aid workers are increasingly losing their lives in Afghanistan and those working in the south and east report that fighting and instability is shrinking operations aimed at saving lives and helping the poorest of the poor. The situation is not getting better its getting worse and we reminded the UN Security Council that despite increasing risks, many of us continue to stay on. We do this only because as global citizens committed to humanity we feel a sense of obligation to help Afghans in need. Despite the risks, the aid community is still well represented throughout Afghanistan but we really need the UN to recognize what is fast becoming an untenable situation, said Zaat.

 While reconstruction and development projects are being delivered in the north with some very positive effects, at least half the country is caught in humanitarian limbo. Armed conflict has escalated over past months. An estimated 80,000 90,000 Afghans (UNHCR) have been displaced since July 2006, including into makeshift camps. However, recent displacement comes on top of ongoing forced relocation resulting from past conflicts and the current drought, and the number of Afghans seeking shelter with host families and friends is still unknown. The communities we work with - the mums, dads and kids of Afghanistan - are telling us that ongoing fighting between insurgents and NATO is making life unbearable. At the same time, we suffer increasingly limited humanitarian access across broad swaths of the south and east. Aid agencies have been raising issues around humanitarian space for more than three years now but to no avail, said Zaat.

 Conditions on the ground in the south and east are not conducive for refugees and IDPs to return home and the death of civilians due to insurgent homicide (suicide) bombings and NATO bombardments is of grave concern. We cant reach the most vulnerable and we remain fearful that both crimes against humanity and war crimes are taking place but our capacity to independently verify such weighty allegations is seriously compromised by access restrictions. In the interests of maintaining international peace and security, we have asked the UN Security Council to ensure all allegations of human rights violations and abuses are transparently investigated and accounted for. Impunity is never an option. It breeds the kind of anger and hatred which compromises an already fragile peace. International humanitarian law must be respected by all parties at all times, including during GWOT-related fighting, said Zaat.

 Aid agencies advised the UN Security Council that the expectations of Afghans following the fall of the Taliban five years ago were rightly optimistic but in fact unrealistic. Unfortunately, the international community built expectations even further by committing billions of dollars and setting up complex, large-scale institutional programmes which have not benefited enough Afghans to date. Its time to get back to basics. Afghans are very frustrated with never-ending war, lawlessness and poverty. While most Afghans remain prepared to work in partnership with the international community, faith is fading fast.

 We feel that the UN Security Council has genuinely listened to and deeply felt our concerns. Its now time for all of us to better attend to the human security of Afghans. Five years after the fall of the Taliban, that would really give the people something to celebrate, said Zaat.

 

* The concept of human security focuses on protecting individuals and communities from threats and risks associated with violence, poverty, unequal wealth distribution and human rights violations and abuses more generally. Aid agencies believe that the key to ensuring a prosperous future for Afghanistan lies in eschewing traditional national security policy agendas which over-emphasise military intervention in order to reduce risks including where deterrence fails in post-conflict scenarios. Rather than focusing on the use of force aids agencies would like to see the UN Security Council and other relevant stakeholders place more effort into utilizing both traditional and innovative non-coercive methods which attend to the protection and assistance concerns of Afghans. Human security requires the Afghan people to be at the centre of their own futures.

 

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