Aid Agencies Sound the Alarm on the Militarization of Aid in Afghanistan

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

In the UK:

* Zahra Akkerhuys, Oxfam Press Office, +44 (0)1865 472498 or +44 (0) 7525 901932, zakkerhuys@oxfam.org.uk

In Kabul:

* Ashley Jackson, Oxfam International, +93 (0)700 278 657, ajackson@oxfam.org.uk
* Farhana Faruqi Stocker, AfghanAid, +93 (0) 799 310 498, ffstocker@afghanaid.org.uk

Aid Agencies Sound the Alarm on the Militarization of Aid in Afghanistan

Afghans say that the military places them at greater risk

WASHINGTON - As Foreign Ministers
gather in London for a major conference on Afghanistan, leading aid
agencies warn that the international militaries' use of aid as a
"non-lethal" weapon of war may even be putting Afghans at greater risk.

A US army manual for commanders in Afghanistan and in Iraq defines
aid as a non-lethal weapon designed "to win the hearts and minds of the
indigenous population to facilitate defeating the insurgents". The
Afghan government estimates international forces have already spent
$1.7 billion on "aid" in Afghanistan. The US military alone has
budgeted an additional $1 billion for the coming year - more than
Afghanistan's state budget for agriculture, health and education
combined.

In their new report, "Quick Impact, Quick Collapse",
the eight international agencies show their concern that the
militarization of aid is putting ordinary people on the frontlines of
the conflict. Afghans say that the military places them at greater risk
when they build schools and clinics which then become targets of armed
opposition groups.

The agencies say that "quick impact" projects provide a quick fix
rather than sustainable development. Military-led humanitarian and
development activities are driven by donors' political interests and
short-term security objectives and are often ineffective, wasteful and
potentially harmful to Afghans.

"There are no 'quick fixes' in Afghanistan"

International guidelines agreed by ISAF and the UN state that "the military is primarily responsible for providing security,
and if necessary, basic infrastructure and urgent reconstruction
assistance limited to gap-filling measures until civilian organizations
are able to take over."

The agencies say that the international forces are going way beyond their remit.
Ashley Jackson, head of policy for Oxfam International in Afghanistan,
says: "There are no 'quick fixes' in Afghanistan and nobody should be
cutting corners - the people here deserve better. Afghan people have
coped with decades of grinding poverty, conflict and disorder and need
real, long-term solutions."

The agencies call on the 70 countries participating in tomorrow's
London Conference to rethink the militarized approach to aid and shift
their focus towards a long-term aid strategy based on meeting the real
needs of Afghans. The agencies say that the distribution of
aid is heavily biased in favor of areas where the troop presence is
strongest rather than distributed according to need
. The needs
of people in more secure areas and vulnerable populations, particularly
Afghans displaced by the conflict and other factors as well as
returnees are being overlooked.

Excessive influence of short-term military goals

"Development is incredibly complex here. You don't achieve
development, let alone security, by simply digging a well or building a
school. You can't fix the country in 18 months just by injecting it
with more money," says G.B. Adhikari, country director of ActionAid.

The agencies say that over the last eight years there have been many places where significant progress has been made in health, education and rural infrastructure,
but these have been driven by Afghans' needs, carefully planned by
development experts and implemented in partnership with communities and
local government.

The excessive influence of short-term military goals over aid policy
is part of a larger flaw in the US-led strategy. "Troop-contributing
countries overemphasize military issues and sideline the critical
challenge of promoting genuine development and good governance," says
Farhana Faruqi-Stocker, managing director of Afghanaid. "This imbalance
matters, not only because of the resulting human cost, but also because
poverty and weak, corrupt government are key drivers of conflict, and
must be effectively addressed if there is to be sustainable peace and
development."

Read more

Download the report: Quick Impact, Quick Collapse: The dangers of militarized aid in Afghanistan

Oxfam's emergency work in Afghanistan

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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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