USIP expert says international aid to Afghanistan ‘slipping,’ changes needed

KABUL (TOLOnews): William Byrd, a United States Institute of Peace (USIP) expert writing for the LAWFARE blog, said that international aid to Afghanistan is decreasing, and he proposed a number of changes to the world’s approach to helping Afghanistan—including coordinating aid efforts and utilizing the Afghan Trust Fund in Switzerland—to improve the situation.

Byrd wrote: “International humanitarian aid is critical in responding to natural disasters and other short-term emergencies. But as the UN itself recognizes, such aid is not well positioned to respond to—let alone resolve—a prolonged economic crisis such as the one currently occurring in Afghanistan.”

He continued: “This is particularly true when humanitarian aid is a primary source of external financial support propping up the economy and when the national government—the Taliban regime—is at odds with donors and harms the welfare of its own population, especially women and girls, as evidenced by the Taliban’s bans on female education and women working in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Given these challenges and the myriad humanitarian needs elsewhere in the world, support for continuing massive aid to Afghanistan is slipping.”

Along with proposing ways to empower the Afghan private sector, Byrd spotlighted a failing of the international community: “there has been too much focus on Taliban behavior and the international community’s unsuccessful efforts to influence the Taliban. Too little attention, meanwhile, has been devoted to aid agencies’ and donor countries’ own aid practices and performance and delivery modalities, which lie within their control.”

Byrd lays out a plan for how humanitarian aid should be gradually lessened on the one hand, but how on the other hand long-term stability for the Afghan economy should be increased. He writes:

“The international community should make much greater use of the Afghan private sector in the delivery of aid, which will reduce associated costs while providing a modest economic boost. There is a widespread consensus that humanitarian aid alone is not the solution to Afghanistan’s economic crisis, but unfortunately there is little prospect for traditional development aid to ramp up.”

In response to Byrd’s comments that the ban on women working in NGOs and the ban on women and girls’ education are contributing to the precarity of continued international aid, the Ministry of Economy said that it has not placed any restrictions on the activities of humanitarian organizations.

According to the ministry’s figures, there are now 360 NGOs operating in the nation, with the majority of them engaged in providing humanitarian help.

“There are 360 NGOs operating in the country right now, most of their activities are in the relief and humanitarian section,” said Abdul Latif Nazari, deputy of the Ministry of Economy.

Some economists said that banning women from working at NGOs will reduce humanitarian aid.

“Banning women’s work in NGOs, especially organizations that provide health care, might have a negative impact on the continuance of these institutions’ activities and the supply of services,” said Shakir Yaqobi, an economist.

“The international community has given its help, including its humanitarian aid, which relies on employment policies of women in Afghanistan,” said Sayed Masoud, an economist.

Byrd in the blog post also said: “The international community should explore ways to use the $3.5 billion of Afghan central bank reserves in the Afghan Fund in Switzerland to strengthen the country’s balance of payments and support the private sector, without directing these funds to the Taliban regime.”