Corruption has been a major driver of both conflict and poverty in Afghanistan. It has boosted the power of illegal armed groups, deeply undermined the effectiveness of international aid, and weakened both the legitimacy of the government and its capacity to act. Countering this threat is critical not just for development and economic growth, but for the future of the whole country.
That is especially true for Afghanistan’s wealth of natural resources, which include around a trillion dollars of untapped minerals and substantial reserves of oil and gas. Enormous hopes and expectations are being placed on these resources to drive development and to fund Afghanistan’s government and security forces. But there is a great risk that they will instead fuel conflict and corruption – while generating little or no revenue for a country that badly needs it.
Our new report 'War in the Treasury of the People: Afghanistan, Lapis Lazuli and the battle for mineral weath' is the result of a two year investigation into how Afghanistan's famous lapis mines are driving corruption, conflict and extremism in the country. Global Witness has found that the Taliban and other armed groups are earning up to 20 million dollars per year from Afghanistan’s lapis mines, the world’s main source of the brilliant blue lapis lazuli stone, which is used in jewellery around the world. As a result, the Afghan lapis lazuli stone should now be classified as a conflict mineral.
Global Witness is campaigning to break the link between Afghanistan’s natural resources and the conflict. We are also fighting to end the broader stain of corruption in Afghanistan. We do this in three ways: by investigating and exposing the scale and nature of the problem, by researching possible policy solutions, and by working with the Afghan government and donors to put them into practice.
We are pressing the Afghan government and its foreign partners to prioritise putting in place the strongest possible foundations of transparency, oversight, and effective regulation in Afghanistan. But promises are not enough. We also want them to back their words with political will and international support.
Click here to read the LA Times op-ed on Afghanistan's mining economy.