Much hope has been invested in Afghanistan’s extractive industries as a potential source of development. Sadly, as Global Witness has documented in its recent report War in the Treasury of the People, Afghanistan’s natural resources have often been more of a curse than a blessing by contributing little revenue to the Afghan government while incentivising and funding conflict for over thirty years.
As the world meets at a major donor conference in Brussels in October to advance the path for Afghan economic development through 2021, we call on the Afghan government and international donors to develop objectives and benchmarks for the extractives sector that are practical, specific, time-bound, and measurable.
In order to facilitate this, Global Witness and Integrity Watch Afghanistan have published a policy brief on the Afghan extractives sector with recommendations that, if implemented, can help to wrest the sector away from contributing to conflict and instead become one that brings revenues into the Afghan government while fostering additional employment and a future for its people.
Global Witness applauds the central role that the extractives sector plays in the draft Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANDPF) development guidelines and the draft conference communique due to be unveiled in their final form at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan being held October 4-5.
The Afghan government’s commitment to establishing full control over mining areas and reforming contracting, girded by a stronger legislative and regulatory framework and a commitment to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) for the extractives sector are laudable.
What is missing, however, are concrete commitments so that Afghan citizens and international donors can assess Afghanistan’s progress in the coming years. This joint Global Witness / Integrity Watch Afghanistan policy briefing provides a series of benchmarks to do just that. The benchmarks include Afghan government implementation of the following:
- Publication of project-level
extractive sector payment and production figures
- Requiring publication of natural
resource and other contracts as a condition for their validity
- Establishment of a public
register of beneficial owners of extractives contracts
- Establishment of a single,
transparent account to be used for all natural resource revenues and payments
as a condition of their receipt
In return, Afghanistan’s international partners should commit to providing technical and material support for these reforms, with a particular focus on increasing oversight and management capabilities in the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MOMP) while also providing substantive support to Afghan actions to increasing security and strengthen rule of law in natural resource areas.
While Afghan President Ghani and CEO Abdullah have made reform of the extractives an important priority, the promised comprehensive framework and many basic oversight and transparency reforms have not yet been implemented. Indeed, the bar for the Afghan government to achieve reforms and international standards in the extractives sector has been consistently lowered since a similar donor conference held in Tokyo in 2012.
Endorsement of these benchmarks by the Afghan government, with support from international donors, would reverse that trend, and provide a means to assess the Afghan government’s implementation of reforms through 2021. This would give Afghan citizens a means to assess their government, thereby helping build its legitimacy as one with an eye towards improving the lot of the Afghan people, rather than as largely a collection of criminal patronage networks. Likewise, international donors can see that their hard earned money and political capital is helping make tangible improvements in an important economic sector.
While current communiques and development plans provide important broad commitments to reform, the time is now to follow this up with concrete commitments and action.