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Afghanistan has been devastated by decades of conflict and rampant corruption. Poverty is severe with many Afghans living on less than US $1 per day and high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. The country is heavily dependent on aid, but as international forces withdraw and attention turns to other crisis countries, international support is expected to fall sharply - further worsening the economic situation.

Announcements of mineral and petroleum reserves worth up to $3 trillion have raised hopes that these resources could transform Afghanistan’s future. Managed well, they could bring essential revenue and employment into the country ensuring a better quality of life for the Afghan people and a move away from aid dependency. Managed badly, such resources could exacerbate corruption and give rise to further conflict, undermining prospects for future peace, stability and development.

It is crucial that lessons are made from the mistakes made in managing international funding – the biggest source of revenue to Afghanistan over the past ten years. The international community has contributed billions of dollars to the country but insufficient transparency and accountability has given rise to massive waste, fraud and abuse, and the diversion of funds to insurgents and warlords.  As Afghanistan develops its mineral and petroleum sector, it is crucial that it guards against these risks from the outset. Clear and transparent management of this sector is vital to ensure the Afghan people benefit from the resource wealth that is rightfully theirs.

Over the last 17 years, Global Witness has seen first-hand the ramifications of resource mismanagement in countries such as Angola, Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Building on these experiences, Global Witness’ work on Afghanistan focuses on two key areas:

  • Campaigning for good management of the mineral and petroleum sector at all stages from allocation processes and contract negotiation to monitoring the implementation of contracts. Increasing civil society engagement in tracking resource revenues is crucial to success in this area.
  • Identifying steps which the international community can take to avoid facilitating and enabling corruption in Afghanistan. Increased transparency and accountability of international aid, for example, will help to guard against the diversion of the main source of governmental income and provide an important precedent for the management of revenue from Afghanistan’s mining sector.

Through this twin-track approach, Global Witness is working to ensure that Afghanistan’s resource wealth is managed fairly and used to bring about the development, peace and prosperity that the Afghan people deserve.

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