Afghanistan's future security lies in securing development | Ajay Chhibber

11 Jul 2013

 Constructed with the support of UNDP Afghanistan, 1,400 kilometres of road connect 4,600 villages to help 4 million people access markets. (Photo: UNDP Afghanistan)

Recently announced negotiations with the Taliban and President Karzai’s reaction have put Afghanistan in the spotlight. There is intense interest in security.

Equally important are issues of livelihoods and providing basic services such as water, roads, electricity, justice and the rule of law. These issues will determine how Afghan people react to the changing political and security landscape.

Despite the gloomy news from Afghanistan, there are many positives. Over 2 million children, including girls, regularly attend school. Connectivity has improved with more than 14 million cell phone users. Budgetary systems are improving at national and municipal levels, to ensure better accountability and delivery of public services. Yet challenges remain.

The likelihood of a sharp drop in aid post 2014 occupies attention. A pact made in Tokyo pledged around $4 billion per year in assistance to Afghanistan, but less than 50 percent has been delivered.  

Part of the problem is lack of expertise at the local level to efficiently use this assistance, which will require a buildup of local government.

Also, refugees returning from abroad and migrants from the countryside make Kabul the world’s fastest growing city. But this vulnerable population also creates insecurity. Without jobs no security is possible.

There has been emphasis on building and strengthening the Afghan security forces, but not on justice and the rule of law. This is critical especially in remote areas, as it allows the Taliban to mete a sort of rough and ready justice in parts of the country.

So the UNDP-managed Law and Order Trust Fund must be used, not just for order, but also to build infrastructure for the provision of law.

A vital symbol of a credible transition will be the conduct of the 2014 presidential elections, and parliamentary and local elections. People need to see an electoral system that can deliver a reasonably clean election and that can withstand the tests it will face.  

If these challenges are overcome, we can see more progress on economic and social development, and a better security framework too.

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