Afghanistan’s international partners must commit their support to transparent and accountable management of Afghanistan’s vast mineral and petroleum reserves, said Global Witness as the International Afghanistan Conference began in Bonn today. Taking action now is a critical step in ensuring that Afghanistan escapes the resource-fuelled conflict and corruption that has blighted other countries, and that its minerals contribute to sustainable development.
With extractives wealth estimated at up to $3 trillion, including deposits of copper, iron, gold, chromite, lithium and oil, hopes are high that Afghanistan’s mining sector could transform its economy and wean the country off aid dependency. Mining sector development is progressing fast with access to many of the country’s mines set to be auctioned by 2014.
The Government of Afghanistan has already taken positive steps to guard against these risks, not least through its candidacy for the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani’s support for transparency in the sector. The Bonn conference provides a venue to reconfirm this commitment and for the international community to pledge assistance to ensure that good governance of the country’s mining sector is embedded from the outset.
“It’s hard to overstate what’s at stake here”, said Eleanor Nichol, Global Witness analyst. “Whether the country’s massive resource potential is a blessing or a curse depends on the decisions made now. Mineral wealth could bring a generation of Afghans out of poverty, but it could also very easily become a new conflict frontier, undermining prospects for a successful transition and lasting peace. The commitments made at Bonn will send an important signal and help shape the industry’s development.”
To achieve this, the closing statement at the Bonn conference should:
- Acknowledge Afghanistan’s mineral and petroleum reserves as key to the country’s future economic independence.
- Reconfirm the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to transparency and accountability in the sector.
- Commit Afghanistan’s international partners to provide funding and technical assistance to help the Government of Afghanistan implement this.
- Recognize that good natural resource governance includes transparency, local participation and open and independent oversight at all stages of the natural resource chain, from the decision to exploit through to the management of revenue and expenditure.
“Afghanistan’s resource wealth can provide for a peaceful, prosperous and stable future,” continued Nichol. “The country’s international partners must seize this opportunity by putting in place the systems that will be essential to bringing this about.”
Notes to editors:
- The Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative is a scheme which brings together government, civil society and companies in building a transparent and accountable extractives sector. Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, publicly announced his support for transparency in the sector at the Fifth International Conference on the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative.
- Global Witness will be participating in a Twitter debate on the Bonn conference from 9am to 11am CET on 5 December 2011. Follow at #CommitAtBonn.