The new Minister of Mines and Petroleum has been welcomed by a coalition of Afghan civil society organisations, but they warned that Nargis Nehan faces a backlog of urgent reforms which would be a key test of the government’s credibility.
“We warmly welcome Ms. Nehan’s appointment” said Naser Timory, head of advocacy of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, speaking on behalf of more than 30 Afghan and international civil society organisations in the Mining Watch Afghanistan (MWA) coalition. “Today marks exactly a year in which the Ministry has been without a fully empowered leader, blocking any significant changes at a time when the reform of the whole extractive sector is extremely urgent. We call on the new Minister to move these reforms forward as their first and highest priority.”
Multiple reports in recent years have exposed the extent to which Afghanistan’s resources are fueling conflict and corruption across the country.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue form mining oil and gas are being stolen from the government and from the Afghan people, while illegal militias, the Taliban and the Islamic State are profiting from the sector to fund violence,” said Zabiullah Wardak of the Afghanistan Anti-Corruption Network, which is part of MWA.
“We ask parliament to examine and vote on this candidate quickly and with an open mind,” said Afzal Shirzad, the head of WADAN, another Afghan NGO in the coalition. “We are pleased the government has removed one important obstacle to reform, but real progress is measured by how much changes on the ground, not by appointments. The government has a duty to act now to prevent our resources doing harm to the Afghan people – their credibility is at stake.”
The coalition called on the new Minister to implement a number of basic reforms. Particularly critical among these are amendments to the Mining Law to increase transparency and ensure communities benefit from mining – but weak management and the lack of oversight capacity at the Ministry of Mines are also serious concerns.
Many of these reforms are included in undertakings already made by the Afghan government and its international partners, notably at the Brussels conference on Afghanistan in October 2016.
“The government and its international allies have made a clear commitment to strengthen the Mining Law with anti-corruption measures, like making the publication of contracts a condition of their validity,” said Stephen Carter, head of the Afghanistan campaign at Global Witness, an international research and advocacy organization. “With the massive loss of revenue from the mining sector being made up by their own taxpayers, Afghanistan’s foreign partners have all the more reason to work with the new Minister to urgently strengthen governance, transparency, and security.”
Notes to editor:
Key reforms being asked for by civil society include:
- Amendments to the Mining Law to include:
- Contract publication as a condition of validity
- A legal requirement for publication of production and payment data
- A requirement for all extractive payments to be made through a single, transparent account, as a condition of their receipt
- A requirement for the publication of beneficial ownership as a condition for holding or bidding for a license.
- Provision to allow community monitoring of mining, and direct community benefit from mining
- Cancellation of illegal or inactive contracts
- A stronger emphasis on security of mining areas
- Controls on the supply chain of extractive resources outside of Afghanistan
- For more information, see our policy brief with Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on Extractives for Sustainable Development
Civil Society organisations have written to President Ghani asking for urgent action on amendments to the Mining Law and on the appointment of a new Minister. Read the letter and its recommendations in full on the IWA website.
Member of the Mining Watch Afghanistan (MWA) civil society coalition include members of local councils, individual activists, and the following organisations:
Abdul Hai Gardezi Council
Frogh e Mili Jawanan
Ghazni Zarkashan Shura
Hajigak People's Shura
Integrity Watch Afghanistan
Logar Civil Society
Pajhwok Afghan News
Rangeen Kaman Network
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