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AFGHANISTAN: Rebuilding ‘not on track’

Kabul, 1 February 2007 (IRIN) - The international community pledged billions of dollars for the recovery of Afghanistan in 2006, and in return, the Afghan government promised to introduce policy reforms to improve its people’s lives. Out of this was born the Afghanistan Compact, which established targets and benchmarks to be met by the Afghan authorities over five years.

In February 2006, 64 countries and 11 international organisations meeting in London agreed to contribute US$10.5 billion towards the reconstruction of Afghanistan until the end of 2010. They identified security, governance and economic development as the three key areas that the government needed to focus on to ensure stability and progress.

One year on, analysts say the Afghan government is behind in meeting even the most basic targets. In a report released in New York on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Afghan government is failing to meet the basic security and human rights needs of its citizens.  

"Afghanistan hasn’t really met any of the benchmarks, particularly those addressing the wellbeing of the Afghan people," said Sam Zarifi, Asia research director at HRW.  "Kabul and its international backers have made little progress in providing basic needs like security, food, electricity, water and healthcare."

For example, one of the benchmarks was to cut the proportion of Afghans living on less than $1 a day by 3 percent annually and reduce the number of people suffering from hunger by 5 percent.

However, an estimated 6.5 million people perennially face hunger while more than half the country’s 30 million inhabitants live below the poverty line, says the United Nations.

Another target was to disband all illegal armed groups in the country by the end of 2007. HRW has voiced concern over the slow progress of the UN-backed disarmament programme, which has fuelled doubts over the government's ability to dismantle the many armed groups operating in the country.   

The HRW report says hundreds of illegally armed groups, many ostensibly allied with the government, continue to exercise power throughout Afghanistan. "In many parts of the country, warlords and their militias have perpetrated serious human rights abuses such as illegal land grabs, intimidation of journalists and factional and ethnic violence," the watchdog said.

"Security is the first pillar of the compact, but tens of thousands of Afghans don’t feel safe enough to lead normal lives," Zarifi said. "Life is so dangerous that many Afghans are unable to go to school, get healthcare, or take goods to market." 

Nassrullah Stanikzai, a lecturer at the political science faculty of Kabul University, echoed that view. "Unfortunately, we had a very harsh year. Our people do not feel any improvements in their lives. We saw more suicide bombing … more civilian deaths and more human rights violations in 2006," he said.

More than 1,000 civilians were killed in 2006 in attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces, most in southern Afghanistan. In all, more than 4,400 Afghans died in conflict-related violence, twice as many as in 2005 and more than in any other year since the Taliban fell in 2001, according to HRW.

The Afghan government has conceded that it has encountered unexpected problems but remains confident it will meet the compact's requirements. "The government has tried its best during the past year to implement all the benchmarks of the compact properly, but certainly there were problems such as insecurity," said Siamak Herawi, President Hamid Karzai's deputy spokesman. He added that "the compact has a five-year lifespan [and] if there are no security constraints, I am sure we can implement all the compact benchmarks successfully".

Adrian Edwards, UN spokesman in Afghanistan, said the world body was committed to the successful fulfilment of the benchmarks of the Afghanistan Compact. But "realistically some of the benchmarks of the compact may have to be adjusted to reflect the changing realities in Afghanistan over the five years", he said.

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Theme (s): Conflict, Economy,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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