U.S. NGOs urge Bonn conference to focus on long-term Afghan needs

WASHINGTON (Dec 5, 2011)— International leaders meeting in Bonn on Monday to discuss the future of Afghanistan should expand their focus from short-term stabilization efforts  to longer term development work that will have a lasting impact on the country.

To date, not enough emphasis has been placed on meeting basic Afghan needs and building a solid foundation for sustainable peace, recovery and inclusive long-term development, said leading U.S.-based international NGOs on Monday.

“It is the 10th anniversary of the first Bonn conference. We hope that governments attending this meeting fully seize the opportunity to do better than they have to date. Much more needs to be done to put Afghanistan on the road to recovery, stability and sustainable development,” said Samuel A. Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction, the biggest alliance of U.S.-based international NGOs.

“Civil society organizations and ordinary Afghans should be placed at the center of these renewed efforts. Their contributions will be critical to a successful transition from war to peace, where the needs of all Afghans, including women, are taken into consideration,” added Worthington.

Bonn should be an important step in solidifying new commitments. The conference must also focus on creating the social and economic structures and institutions needed to sustain investments that build on areas where there have already been some success.

More successful programs such as the National Solidarity Program, which is aimed at reaching people in rural areas, and the Basic Package of Health Services, were delivered in partnership with the donor community, Afghanistan’s government and international and local civil society groups. Such an approach should be replicated in other areas.

Immediate efforts should focus on small-scale, high-impact investments in areas such as health, education and water. Rule of law, governance and community-led projects that help build Afghan capacity are also critical to securing Afghanistan’s future and guarding against potential disasters and crises.

Building public-private partnerships to deliver basic services and establishing mechanisms so that local communities can keep track of assistance provided by NGOs and the government would instill greater confidence going forward.

As transition processes get underway, the international community must align its programs with Afghanistan’s own development priorities which should be agreed on in consultation with civil society groups. With more limited resources flowing to Afghanistan, donors must strengthen coordination to ensure that programs target the right areas and new gaps do not emerge.

“The legitimacy of the Afghan government and its efforts to rebuild Afghan society will depend on the support, skills and commitment of its entire population,” said Worthington. “We hope that world leaders attending the Bonn conference will keep this in mind as they help the next generation in Afghanistan to reach their full potential,” he added.

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Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a member of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based nongovernmental international organizations, with more than 190 members. Our members operate in every developing country, working with local communities to overcome poverty and suffering by helping to improve their quality of life. Visit www.interaction.org

 

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