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Afghanistan: Overseas Aid

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department takes to ensure that aid to Afghanistan (a) is used to strengthen local and national civil society and the Afghan government and (b) reaches those most in need, particularly children; what steps his Department takes to ensure that bodies in Afghanistan receiving aid are held accountable for where the aid goes; and if he will make a statement. (246542)

The Department for International Development is providing £4.5 million over the period 2006-07 to 2008-09 to the Governance and Transparency Fund to strengthen national civil society in Afghanistan. This is providing assistance—delivered through several international NGOs (including Cranfield University, Relief International and Making Integrity Work) working with a wide range of local partners including the Afghan Civil Society Forum, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the Afghan Institute for Management Training and Enhancement of Indigenous Capacities, the Killid Group.

Delivery of aid through Government of Afghanistan (GoA) channels is the most effective way to build state capacity, ensure value for money, and co-ordinate funding with national priorities. At local level, the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) supports the creation of Community Development Councils (CDCs), which decide, on behalf of their village or community, what is most needed in their area. So far over 21,700 Community Development Councils have been established across Afghanistan with over 45,200 projects under way or completed. NSP is being implemented across the country by 28 local and international NGOs and by UN Habitat.

In addition we are providing £1.5 million in core funding for the Afghanistan Evaluation and Research Unit (AREU), an independent policy research organisation which has a programme of work aimed at measuring the effectiveness of international donor assistance (including that provided by the UK).

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to protect (a) Afghani people, (b) vulnerable populations in Afghanistan and (c) children in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. (246543)

Strengthened, transparent and accountable policing and justice systems are critical to protect Afghanistan’s population from insecurity and criminality. The UK is working with the US and EU to reform the Afghan police and funding a bilateral mentoring programme in Helmand province. The UK provides over 50 experts for this purpose. We are working with the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) to strengthen both the formal justice sector (through the GoA’s National Justice Programme) and the informal justice system. Improving people’s access to justice and dispute resolution is a critical aspect of this work, through legal aid and training in legal and rights awareness. The UK’s justice adviser in Helmand has for example established a Women and Children’s Justice Group, helping vulnerable groups to have their rights better protected.

Food insecurity in Afghanistan has been particularly acute in 2008-09 due to drought and to global food price increases. Around 4.5 million people are currently vulnerable to food scarcity with women, children, and the poorest disproportionately affected. In 2008 DFID provided the World Food Programme (WFP) with £11 million to respond to the food crisis. WFP deliver food on the basis of a Food Vulnerability Assessment which ranks districts in terms of food vulnerability and informs delivery priorities accordingly.

Additional suffering is caused by mines and explosive remnants of war: it is estimated that 728 km2 still requires some form of clearance and over 4 million Afghans live in mine-affected areas. DFID funds the HALO trust (an expected £4.6 million in 2008-09) to undertake a demining programme, in order to return hazardous areas to productive use and reduce the threat to the population.

DFID Afghanistan has developed a Gender Equality Action Plan to drive awareness and focus on gender issues within our development programme. The plan covers gender-disaggregated results monitoring, explicitly mapping staff and programme resources against gender objectives, and an internal skills development programme. A significant portion of our effort will be focused on building partnerships within the GoA and with other donors—particularly multilateral institutions—to increase their contribution to addressing gender inequality. DFID will lobby UNDP, the World Bank, and the Ministry of Agriculture to strengthen their approaches to gender issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many non-governmental organisations are contracted by the Government to work in Helmand province; and what projects they are undertaking. (246710)

There are five major non-governmental organisations (NGOs) implementing projects in Helmand with Department for International Development (DFID) funding. Their work in Helmand includes agricultural development with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock; microfinance; community development; and work on procuring goods locally for the international community. In addition, the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team works with several local non-governmental organisations to deliver stabilisation projects across Helmand.