For for 20 years, the Afghan economy has relied almost exclusively on financial support from the international donor community, provided to the Afghan government to cover public sector operating costs such as salaries for doctors, nurses, teachers, judges, police officers and officials. This international development aid accounted for 43% of Afghanistan’s GDP and 75% of its public spending at the time of Kabul’s collapse, so it is no wonder that the Afghan economy is now on the brink of total collapse, according to the international community’s understandable refusal to channel funding through the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the entire Afghan banking system has been shut down, leaving Afghans with little access to money in addition to importing suitcases full of cash.
Britain has a moral duty to support vulnerable Afghans and it is also in the national interest. British soldiers and women should be proud of how their dedicated work helped give women and girls in Afghanistan freedom and opportunities that had previously proved out of reach, while preventing terrorist attacks against the West. But political failures mean that Afghans are now facing Taliban repression and hunger, while Europe is facing another refugee crisis. We need a solution.
As winter sets in, Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster. The UN’s World Food Program Executive Director, David Beasley, warned earlier this month that “23 million people are marching against hunger … The next six months will be catastrophic. It’s going to be hell on Earth.” Heartbreaking reports of parents selling their children are starting to pop up. The UN has confirmed that 55% of the population is facing acute food insecurity.
Labor supports the international community’s reluctance to channel economic support through the Taliban. It would be wrong and naive to reward or legitimize the Taliban’s brutal 20-year campaign of terror, death and destruction.
But fortunately, there are alternative means of providing humanitarian and financial support to the Afghan people. Today, Labor is urging the UK Government to deliver resolute leadership and proactive diplomacy by taking the following three steps.
First, the Foreign Minister must convene partner countries that are willing and able to mobilize Afghanistan’s large Western donors to provide off-budget assistance. The two multi-donor trust funds are the World Bank’s now suspended Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and the UN Development Programme’s Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan (STFA). Both can operate independently of the Taliban by channeling funds and paying salaries directly to the Afghan public sector and NGOs through a model that is both controlled and auditable. Such operations have been conducted in other countries.
Yet World Bank and UNDP officials can only act if they are instructed by their political masters – the governments of donor countries. The UK government must therefore immediately organize a meeting with other donors.
Secondly, our government must take the lead in reactivating some form of cash flow in Afghanistan. The banking sector is on the verge of collapse, but international banks fear US sanctions for being seen to support the Taliban. The result is that there is virtually no domestic currency in circulation in Afghanistan. The UK Government must therefore urge partner countries to change their respective sanctions regimes – to which the US has already taken some initial steps – to facilitate the re-establishment of focused banking services that can help provide humanitarian aid.
Third, in the long run, it will be essential for aid organizations and NGOs to have some clarity on what donor governments will or will not accept in terms of Taliban behavior and modus operandi. However, if each government develops its own guidelines and conditions, this will make it impossible for the aid community to operate effectively on the ground. The UK Government should therefore convene key donors to agree on a set of basic principles that will both enable aid workers to work more effectively and send a clear and consistent message to the Taliban (instead of continuing to work for every Western government). on slightly different standards).
Consecutive conservative governments since 2010 have inflicted terrible damage on our country’s position in the world, but the Johnson administration seems determined to ruin our reputation completely. The decision to abandon Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our GDP on development has fundamentally undermined our credibility and international influence.
But despite Johnson’s weaknesses, Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy – and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, we still have the convincing power and diplomatic influence required to resolve the Afghan crisis.
The question is whether the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister care enough to take action. Labor is not betting on it, and that is why we are donating to the government by presenting our urgent three-point plan today. The consequences of additional passivity are simply too devastating to consider.