Afghanistan and its donors have taken an important step in making sure the country’s vast potential mineral wealth translates into development by recognising the importance of transparency and accountability in the sector.
Representatives from 85 countries met in Bonn on Monday 5th December 2011 to discuss support for Afghanistan post 2014, once most coalition forces have withdrawn. In the midst of a gloomy economic climate, how to make sure Afghanistan can become economically independent was high on the agenda – with the emerging minerals industry seen as a key area for development.
In the closing statement, the Afghan government and its international partners took the important step of recognising principles of transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s minerals sector.
The international community also pledged to support the Afghan government in developing the laws and codes of conduct it needs to bring it into line with international best practice for managing natural resources well.
This kind of early intervention could help Afghanistan avoid the resource curse which has beset other resource-rich countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Nigeria.
Recognising the vital importance of the country’s mining sector to future peace, stability and wealth is a positive first step towards Afghan economic sovereignty, but the closing statement lacked detail on how these pledges will work in practice. The key now is to turn rhetoric into reality, and make sure these commitments actual translate into action on the ground.
Another overlooked part of the puzzle was the role that NGOs, media and parliament can play in supporting good governance in the extractive industries. To fulfill transparency and accountability commitments, independent oversight needs to be built into the system from the outset. Civil society is a crucial part of this. Their role in monitoring companies and ensuring the government and its people are getting a good deal is critical in a country where ongoing conflict and weak government capacity makes it difficult to oversee.