Saturday, June 14, 2008

Western Countries Committed to Succeed in Afghan Development


"Donors Pledge $20bn for Afghanistan" "A War that Needs a Definition of Victory" "Helping Afghans Help Themselves" "Afghanistan's Forgotten Fields"

This past week in Paris 68 governments and 12 international organizations met to discuss financing further development in Afghanistan. Led by the US, the group of donors pledged $20 billion over the next five years. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had asked for $50 billion to implement his national development plan, but the donor countries were concerned that this level of aid was beyond the capacity of the Afghan government to spend given corruption and investment schemes that did not prioritize rural development. The recent pledge of $20 billion raises the total amount of aid to $45 billion since 2001.

It is clear that the continued development of Afghanistan is a top priority of Western countries since the internationally supported invasion of 2001. However, some critics say that there is no agreement as to what the underlying goal of Afghan development is. Are Western countries only trying to rid the area of the Taliban? Are they trying to establish a strong democracy in a Muslim country? Are they trying to stop farmers from growing poppy plants that account for 90 percent of the world’s heroin supply? Though there is no consensus of what the underlying goal is, development is a Western priority.

Many obstacles still stand in the way of successful development. First, the security of the country is perhaps the biggest concern. President Hamid Karzai said that bad governance and corruption are symptoms of security problems the country is dealing with. Next, there is no clear development strategy in place as many projects overlap and some parts of the country are neglected. For instance, the Daikundi province in central Afghanistan still has no paved roads and sorely needs funds for its fledgling agricultural base.

Some critics suggest directing funds locally for small community projects while others, such as President Hamid Karzai, call for broad funding on a national level. Whatever method is settled upon, it is clear that development is and will be a goal for the years to come. Many hope that one day Afghanistan will be a secure land bridge that connects central and east Asia. Only time will tell whether the latest investment spur will help achieve this goal.


Is a policy of broad national investment or a local investment scheme better? Is it possible to combine both approaches?

Do concerns about poppy plant production inhibit investments in the agricultural sector?

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