Press Release / April 4, 2014

Afghan election must respect and strengthen the rule of law

Global Witness called on the candidates to Afghan presidency to ensure a clean vote in tomorrow’s election – and to use the result to strengthen governance of Afghanistan’s natural resources so they can benefit all of the Afghan people.

“This election will be critical in deciding whether Afghanistan can find a path towards stability and prosperity,” said Dominic Smith, the head of the Afghanistan team at Global Witness. “Rule of law is essential – first to create a legitimate and representative government, but then to prevent Afghanistan’s minerals, oil and gemstones being used to fuel conflict and corruption.”

Afghanistan’s mining sector is facing a number of challenges, with uncertainty about the future of major contracts at Mes Aynak and Hajigak copper and iron mines, and at least 1,400 sites being operated illegally.

“Whoever wins will face huge challenges,” Smith said. “Afghan mining needs investment, but governance is a much bigger problem. Transparent management of the sector will make the difference between extraction that helps the country and funds development, and extraction that strengthens armed groups and drives conflict.”

One of the first tasks of the new Afghan government will be to review a draft mining law, currently stalled in parliament. A detailed analysis of the law published by Global Witness in November 2013 highlighted serious areas of concern, including a lack of safeguards for transparent and fair bidding, very limited provision for the publication of contracts, and weaknesses in conflict-resolution and anti-corruption measures.

“Afghans everywhere are hoping that natural resources will provide a foundation to drive development and build the Afghan economy – just as they hope that the elections will lay the groundwork for peace and political progress,” Smith added. “There are immediate opportunities to start building that foundation, to the benefit of the whole country.” 

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Notes to editors:

  1. The Global Witness analysis of the Afghan mining law (“A Shaky Foundation?”) can be accessed at
  1. The Afghan government is also due to produce an Extractive Industries Development Framework, setting out governance measures for the sector. Global Witness’ report with recommendations for strengthening mining governance can be accessed at:
  1. The Global Witness report on the Aynak copper contract can be accessed at:
  1. On the scale of illegal mining in Afghanistan, and the problems with the Hajigak and Mes Aynak contracts, see for example: