Briefing | Nov. 30, 2017

Extractives Policy Briefing: Avoiding the Resource Curse in Afghanistan

A roadmap of steps the Afghan government and international donors can take to help Afghanistan avoid the resource curse

Much hope has been invested in Afghanistan’s extractive industries as a potential source of development. Sadly, as Global Witness has documented, Afghanistan’s natural resources have often been more of a curse than a blessing, contributing little revenue to the Afghan government while incentivising and funding conflict for over thirty years.

To have any chance of avoiding the risk of the resource curse, the Afghan government and international donors urgently need to put in place a basic set of policy protections and muster the political will to enforce them. In support of this, Global Witness and Integrity Watch Afghanistan have published a policy brief with recommendations that intended to be both realistic and effective. There are no silver bullets, but these measures provide a roadmap which can increase the costs of abuses and help ensure Afghanistan's resources fulfill their promise rather than doing harm..

Our joint Global Witness / Integrity Watch Afghanistan policy briefing is based on extensive research and discussion with policymakers and experts from Afghanistan and internationally. Its key recommendations include: 

  • A legal requirement for publication of project-level extractive sector payment and production figures
  • Requiring publication of natural resource and other contracts as a condition for their validity
  • Establishing a public register of beneficial owners of extractive contracts, to be used as a condition for holding or applying for a contract
  • Establishing of a mandatory single transparent intermediary account, to be used for all natural resource revenues and payments as a condition of their receipt
  • Mechanisms for effective community benefit from legal mining, linked to community monitoring
  • Making protection of mining areas a stronger priority for security policy

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. They should also effectively control the supply chains for 

Afghan President Ghani and CEO Abdullah have made a series of commitments to increase transparency, establish 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. They have also made a number of concrete commitments on action, at the 2016 Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, in the 2017 Afghanistan Anti-Corruption Strategy, and other venues. However, while these commitments are laudable and deserve significant credit, most of them remain to be implemented, and in the end this is the only test that matters. 


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