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Afghanistan: Government

Volume 685: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the proposal by the Government of Afghanistan to set up, or reinstate, a Department for the Promulgation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice, and of the remit and powers to be vested in such a department.[HL7335]

The Afghan Parliament has not yet debated the proposal to establish a Department for the Promulgation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice nor have terms of reference been agreed.

We and our international partners are following developments closely and continue to encourage the Afghan Government to observe international human rights obligations.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What part, if any, of the cost to the Government of Afghanistan of setting up, or reinstating, and funding a Department for the Promulgation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice could be met out of funds provided by the Government of the United Kingdom.[HL7336]

The Government have proposed that a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice be set up under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Hajj, which has an operating budget of $6 million this year. However, the proposal has yet to be debated by the Afghan National Assembly, and no terms of reference have been agreed.

DfID provides around half of its programme (£50 million in 2006-07) in a contribution to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). These resources allow the Afghan Government to establish their own priorities for reconstruction activities and build capacity by ensuring that the Government take the lead in implementation. Around 80 per cent of these resources are used for wages and salaries of government officials. In principle the Government could use DfID’s resources to fund any expenditure that meets the eligibility criteria of the ARTF. These criteria ensure that all expenditures are contained in the government budget and consistent with Afghan law, do not include military spending, and follow financial management standards set by the World Bank. Aid has proven to be more effective where the Government have control of their own budget and resources, and given Afghanistan’s dependence on foreign donors, this can only be done through instruments such as the ARTF.

However, DfID’s overall support to Afghanistan is governed by the 10-year development partnership arrangement signed by Tony Blair and President Karzai in January 2006, which commits Afghanistan to upholding human rights. Were we to believe that the Afghan Government were breaching this agreement through any of their actions, we would raise this politically at the highest level in Afghanistan. We also participate on the monitoring and review board for the Afghanistan Compact, which provides opportunities to address issues such as these.