Lessons For International Aid Agencies On State-Building In Afghanistan

Posted by Anant Mishra in GlobeScope, Politics
July 2, 2017

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Historically, Afghanistan stands out as an idle nation, if compared on the basis of its relations with most of its neighbours. Furthermore, Afghanistan has never witnessed a sudden separatist uprising with any chances of success. Nonetheless, the central government’s policy planning outreach has been rather limited during the years as an empire or a democratic state. Operating under a unitary government, the centralisation of the state has always been a concern to various security experts, especially due to its repeated ignorance towards local self-government, failure to utilise traditional communities, kin, or resolve inter-tribal disagreements. During its long years into conflict, the entire tribal governance machinery not only broke down, but also literally vanished, which then opened doors to the rise of militancy and war-lordship, and ruling the masses through the barrel of the gun.

Topography challenged relations

Afghanistan shared boundaries with some powerful empires, which carried numerous military expeditions in an effort to conquer the then kingdom. Surrounded by powerful empires, along with some regional and global superpowers, topography posed a grave challenge that forced many to retreat. However, it did have its advantages too.

Rigged terrains and dust storms followed by rising surface temperature posed serious challenges not only to the invaders but also to its neighbours. Economically, being landlocked traditionally handicapped Afghanistan from its neighbours which further complicated relations.

Essence of external assistance in state-building

Policy makers must understand that state-building is a time taking process. In some developed and developing economies, state-building took no less than decades to mature. Countries such as Afghanistan, do not have that luxury; the window of opportunity for a conflict to re-appear shadows the decision-making process.

On the contrary, domestic governance and institutional building requires operational expertise followed by the government’s legitimacy to work, legitimacy not only in the eyes of international communities but also in the eyes of Afghan nationals. So now, the challenge lies on the working parameters of international communities that have been operating in Afghanistan since 2001. Their ability, cooperation, coordination and co-relation with local and national government institutions is important to further strengthen the government’s stability in taking domestic decisions. There is also a need to maintain a balance between forced guidance and assistance while moving forward in a positive direction. The question of  support rises particularly in the time of national elections, but does not remain the only challenge for international aid development agencies.

Role of international aid agencies in state building

International aid agencies while operating in a host country with larger domains, often forget the “stay out of local politics” principle. This happens particularly when they are operating in fragile states or those with a recent history of “ethnic-violence” or civil war. Policy makers need to make sure that such a thing does not happen in conflict stricken nations such as Afghanistan.

Sometimes international assistance forces operating in aid and medical supplies, further complicate the problem rather than providing a solution. In cases of delivering foreign aid, not understanding the root cause of the region’s instability puts unnecessary pressures on local actors and government agencies in bringing back stability.

Directly providing funds into government’s expenditure for projects aimed at the development of the masses, or the programs initiated by the government dedicated to development of a region, will severely compromise these initiatives because the schemes tasked by the government is not effectively monitored, financially, by the required agency. This leads to massive leakage of funds or an unnecessary over use of finances. Hence policy makers needs to be extremely careful in an effort to undermine the governance of the state.

The major issue for a post-conflict host state is not the amount of assistance required to bring back its stability, but the sheer number of international aid development agencies willing to volunteer in state building initiatives.The large number of international aid agencies and pouring assistance would make it impossible for policy makers of the state to keep close vigil, thus, opening doors for further corruption.

International aid agencies could begin to lend their support by giving resources to the state, for instance, in the form of experts and technical professionals that may take care of the developmental initiatives in the area. Another effective way is to adequately channelize the finances pouring in from these international aid agencies by assigning them as auditors, so that they can look into the amount of money required to complete a project but also prevent in an over use of it.

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