Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

International Funds Ineffectiveness Towards Peace building in Afghanistan


International Funds Ineffectiveness  Towards Peace building in Afghanistan

As we discussed previously, Afghanistan falls in ill-state condition and there is a preventive method for ending conflict and violence toward achieving a relative peace. During prognosis we were to identify if a country is capable of adequate self-restoration to the well-state or whether some Other-intervention is needed.
Not Afghanistan is a well-state nor have the capability of adequate self-restoration, so is that we had almost 20 years of international presence assistance to promoting democracy as well as peacebuilding and development agendas. 26.7 billion dollars of international aids have been disbursed to Afghanistan from 2002-2009 and another 48.2 billion from 2010-2019 with a total of 74.9 billion dollars of developmental funds from 2002 – 2019.
We may accuse fraud for ineffectiveness and low impact level of these funds to bring desirable changes and achieving the mandates, but there is a barely addressed challenge democracy promotion and peacebuilding efforts faced in the country; the dilemma of context incompatibility and liberal agendas.
There have been plenty of high budget projects being implemented during two decades nation-wide and in various fields e.g. workshops, seminars, awareness campaigns, capacity building initiatives and …, but yet here we are; In the middle of a complex situation in hope of a peace negotiation. The Question which is raised is that why international fund has been rarely effective (if not ineffective)?
Definitely there are many reasons, yet I will suggest two assumptions to answer the above question: International monitoring and evaluation inconsistency to Afghanistan context and marginalizing traditional civil society actors from receiving funds.
International agendas inconsistency to Afghanistan context
Monitoring and Evaluation tools were a key method for donors to evaluate effectiveness of aids to recipient fragile states. There is a wide consensus over incompatibility of these norms with actual contexts in fragile states, since they are well-elaborated with liberal values based on a western notion of nation-state.
Thus, here comes detached projects and initiatives to meet the standards which are far from inconsistency in Afghan context. Many projects about women’s right, human rights, inclusive society and… but none of them even had real recipients among citizens; there were cases even the implementers didn’t believe on the results and the objectives of the projects they were implementing.
Critics generally contend that liberal peace and development processes tend to downgrade local-autonomy, self-organization and self-government. Specifically, the processes of self-determination are frequently criticized for being externally imposed on the less empowered, such as minorities and indigenous peoples. For instance, the international community‘s engagement in former Yugoslavia is commonly used as a prime example for having violated the principle of self-determination, from the perspective that existing internal borders were changed despite ethnic conflicts inside those territories. History has repeatedly shown that the maxim of self-determination can interfere with several principles required to obtain legitimacy in state building processes. On paper, the principle of self-determination of peoples remains one of the fundamental rights that are firmly established in international law.
Since the early 1990s, the international community has been repeatedly under attack for undermining individual and communal skills, as well as locally rooted and more culturally sensitive approaches, which would actually better correspond with a society ‘s own functions and objectives.
An up-down approach to development fund allocation made a democracy bubble surrounding a very traditional society with untouched problems which constantly led them into crises. No actual questionnaire had been prepared nor did the donors and their consulting partner NGOs interviewed the citizens of various backgrounds about their demands. Every objective was just being proposed based on texts inside books and policies made in very expensive and comfortable meeting rooms and halls (often based in western countries).
Marginalizing traditional civil society actors from receiving funds
International frameworks targeting civil societies in fragile states are generally occupied with three main aspects: inclusiveness, capacity building and effectiveness. In short, external peacebuilding and development assistance inadvertently converted local civil society actors into objects of measurement based on pre-determined indicators, outputs, outcomes and long-term impacts. Over time, strengthening civil society became an outwardly legitimizing strategy for a liberal peacebuilding and development agenda and course. However, most donors and their respective frameworks are not anticipating that funding allocations, as well as implementation and M&E mechanisms, promote a rather restrictive landscape of and for a war-torn and non-Occidental civil sphere to flourish in its own manner and pace.
In the case of Afghanistan, the majority of local civil society actors are repeatedly challenged by externally imposed bureaucratic structures, log-frames and administrative procedures. Then again, donors are struggling with the lack of urgently needed resources and capacities on the ground. As a result, there seems to be little leeway for a more organic and culturally embedded progression of a war-torn civil sphere.
Less formal actors such as home-grown associations, non-registered civil based organizations, sodalities or youth groups are to a much greater degree approached as beneficiaries - on rare occasions as implementing partners, but generally not as actors that take charge of their own interests and agendas.
Mostly international funds paid to those NGOs which met the required standards determined by international donors. As a result, many traditionally formed organizations and entities were excused to receive funds and to participate in development projects.
On One hand, Afghanistan doesn’t have the capacity of adequate self-restoration and other-intervention is necessary to facilitate and assist in building a long-lasting democracy and means of peace in the war-torn fragile state. In other hand, we cannot ignore and exclude context-based values and socio-cultural aspects in the intervention agendas.
Solely liberal agendas are not very compatible with local context in fragile states including Afghanistan. Even this dilemma is contradictory to self-determination and local ownership which was supposed to be a key concept emerged out of the sentiment that “the local population must participate in, and indeed own, the reconstruction process from the start”.
As a suggestion, a combination of Top-down & bottom-up approach to policy making and monitoring and evaluation tools would provide the donors as well as civil society actors more realistic and actual desirable results, and of course more effective money for value projects and initiatives. This measures will contribute to a more inclusive list of civil society actor’s participation in democracy promotion and peacebuilding process.

Asadullah Fahimi is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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