Afghanistan risks slipping back into civil war unless concrete steps toward long term development are taken at the Bonn Conference, Christian Aid is warning.
The UK-based global development charity believes that it is vital to address the root causes of the conflict, poverty and the inequality that drives them to ensure an accountable, inclusive and successful peace settlement.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague will be joining leaders from Afghanistan, NATO and foreign ministers from over 90 countries at the Bonn conference on Monday 5 December 2011 to decide the future of foreign engagement in Afghanistan.
The conference is focusing on the international communities’ role in Afghanistan up to 2014, when ISAF troops will withdraw, and beyond.
"A lasting peace that allows Afghans respectable standards of living, human dignity, free from conflict and grinding poverty can only be guaranteed if the Afghan people trust the process," said Serena Di Matteo, Christian Aid’s Afghanistan Country Director.
She continued: "We are calling on the UK Government, international and Afghan leaders at the Bonn Conference to commit to concrete steps towards a long term commitment, a poverty focus in aid and an inclusive and transparent peace process that sets out the path to lasting peace. A quick fix political deal will risk another civil war."
The concrete steps towards a lasting peace and sustainable development must include increasing access to basic services, good quality healthcare, education and justice including an adequate reconciliation process to adjudicate past human rights sufferings and abuses suffered by ordinary Afghans. Transitional justice mechanisms need to be in place on a local level to assist the broader re-integration of Taliban fighters.
International governments must intensify efforts to alleviate poverty, such as creating jobs, both in rural as well as urban settings. This is a critical factor in building economic security and people’s confidence for a better future for their community.
"Security across the country will not be achieved unless there is successful reconciliation between all parties to the conflict and political groups as well as meaningful participation by all social and ethnic groups including women - not only talks with the Taliban insurgency," added Ms Di Matteo.
Concerns about deteriorated security scenarios were echoed recently by the head of the Royal Air Force who admitted that Afghanistan could descend into civil war when NATO forces leave in 2014.
Without concrete steps and a solid commitment in place, there is little chance of improving conditions for the Afghan population or protecting them from further violence and suffering.
Despite progress in some sectors Afghanistan remains one of the poorest nations on earth. Afghanistan is still suffering from grinding poverty, humanitarian emergencies, violent insurgency, with civilian deaths on the increase and widespread human rights abuses.
Standards of living for Afghans are some of the world’s lowest, including average income, life expectancy and maternal and child mortality. Afghanistan is widely known as the worst place to live as a woman, one of the main reasons being a near total lack of economic rights.
"If women’s rights are not enshrined in the peace process then the whole ten years of the international community’s engagement will be in vain," Ms Di Matteo said.