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Afghanistan: Politics and Government

Volume 502: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports the Prime Minister has received on levels of corruption in the Afghanistan government. (304147)

Corruption is endemic throughout society and state. Pervasive corruption within government and the security forces undermines the legitimacy of the government and corrodes consent. Nearly one fifth of the Afghan population believe corruption is the country’s biggest problem (after insecurity, unemployment and poor economy) and Afghanistan ranks second to last on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (before Somalia). President Karzai made a commitment to tackling corruption in his inauguration speech. We expect him to demonstrate this commitment by creating independent institutions that can prevent, detect and take action against corrupt practices in government. We will continue to offer a Multi-Agency Task Force of experts from across the Government to support the Afghan Government to tackle corruption.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, what steps have been agreed with the government of Afghanistan to ensure that all provinces and districts in Afghanistan have a governor appointed on merit, free from corruption and with clearly defined roles, skills and resources. (304878)

I have been asked to reply.

President Karzai set out his commitments in his inauguration speech of 19 November 2009. We welcome the emphasis placed on the need for governors to have integrity and professionalism, and look forward to the announcement of appointments over the next nine months.

We also welcome the Afghan Government's intention to reform sub-national governance. The reforms proposed will address various issues, including the definition of roles and responsibilities and the provision of training and resources. Once the reform proposals are agreed, the UK and its international partners will work with the Afghan Government to ensure that there are clear, time-bound targets for delivery.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister’s Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-36W, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, what criteria will be used to determine whether an appointee for provincial or district governorship in Afghanistan is free from corruption; what body will be charged with making that assessment; and what agreement has been made with the government of Afghanistan in respect of consultation on such appointments. (304930)

In his inauguration speech of 19 November 2009, President Karzai made clear his commitment to political reform and tackling corruption, including the appointment of clean and competent Ministers and Governors. The Afghan-led framework which ensures appointments are corruption-free centres on an asset registration process. This process is currently managed by the High Office of Oversight. UK support to the High Office of Oversight has thus far enabled it to register the assets of 50 per cent. of Cabinet Ministers and over 1,200 public officials. We have pressed the Afghan Government to establish strong and independent anti-corruption institutions that can report to the Afghan Parliament and public. The new institutions will have the responsibility to crack down on corruption cases.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6W, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, what benchmarks the Government has set for the government of Afghanistan; what plans he has to review those benchmarks; and by what mechanisms progress against these benchmarks will be measured. (304931)

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister clearly laid out the benchmarks in his statement to the House on 30 November 2009. We regularly discuss progress and challenges with the Afghan Government and international partners and we will continue to do so regarding the benchmarks the Prime Minister has described.

Other benchmarks had been previously agreed between the international community and the Afghan Government in the 2006 London Compact and are kept under review by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), comprising of senior Afghan and international officials.

The London Conference will be a further opportunity to review progress against the Prime Minister’s benchmarks and the areas of work President Karzai highlighted in his inauguration speech, as well as an opportunity to set out international support to help the new Afghan Government deliver.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, what mechanisms will be used to monitor the record of the Afghan government on corruption; how often reports on such monitoring work will be made; and what plans he has to inform Parliament of the outcomes of such monitoring work. (304932)

We have pressed the Afghan Government to establish strong and independent anti-corruption institutions that can report to the Afghan Parliament and public. President Karzai committed to tackle corruption in his inauguration speech. We will follow closely the delivery of this commitment. Priorities should be an anti-corruption commission that reports annually to the Afghan public and Parliament, and an independent accountability board to oversee the commission with both Afghan and international membership.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether he plans to assess the merits of reviewing the mandate of the United Nations in Afghanistan as part of the Government's policy on stronger civilian leadership in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. (304934)

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) plays an essential and central role in coordinating civilian efforts in Afghanistan. We would like to see this role further reinforced and developed. Last week, the US and UK, together with many of our international security assistance force (ISAF) partners, announced a substantial uplift in the number of troops to be deployed in Afghanistan. It is important that the increasing growth, pace and effectiveness of ISAF’s military efforts in Afghanistan are matched by similar improvements in the civil effort. We are working with the Government of Afghanistan, key international institutions such as the UN and NATO, and our international partners to ensure that this becomes a reality.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether the benchmarks for Afghanistan to meet have been agreed with the (a) US administration and (b) government of Afghanistan. (304935)

We are in close and regular contact with the Government of Afghanistan, US and our other international security assistance force allies about progress in Afghanistan, including how we best measure that progress and prioritise our collective effort. The London Conference on Afghanistan, set for 28 January 2010, offers a further opportunity to discuss progress and will be part of a sequence of events to help to reinvigorate delivery in the priority areas of security, development and governance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what objectives he has set for the 2010 London Conference on Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. (304936)

On 28 November 2009, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that we would host an international conference on Afghanistan in London. The one-day event, to be held on 28 January 2010, will be opened by the Prime Minister and President Karzai and chaired by the Foreign Secretary.

The main focus of the conference will be to deliver and coordinate support for the ambitious agenda set out in President Karzai’s inauguration speech: increasing Afghan leadership on security issues; improving governance and reducing corruption; reintegration and reconciliation; improving economic and social development; and building closer regional relationships.