On 2 October 2016 International Development Secretary Priti Patel ( pictured) announced new UK assistance to Afghanistan. It will provide the long term development support needed to build a more prosperous, safe and stable country by 2020 as well as emergency aid to help tackle a growing internal displacement crisis.
The package of long-term support worth £750 million over the next four years will be dependent on the security situation as well as achievements of specific development results and reform progress by the Afghan Government. It was announced ahead of a major international conference on Afghanistan taking place in Brussels on 4 and 5 October. The UK is calling on other donors to follow its lead and commit new, ongoing support for Afghanistan.
The renewal of the UK’s commitment for ongoing development support to Afghanistan will capitalise on recent progress and help stabilise the country. UK assistance over the next four years will strengthen infrastructure and government systems, improve health and education services, support mine clearance within the country and create the jobs and investment needed for the country to turn the corner in realising greater economic independence.
This will create an Afghanistan that is less dependent on aid and is a safer and more secure country that offers increasing opportunities for the Afghan people. Additionally, this work will protect UK national interests by reducing threats from terrorism, narcotics and illegal migration, and improving prospects for investment.
Between 2017 and 2020, it is expected that UK support will deliver:
- improved health systems – including increasing the number of births attended by skilled attendants to more than 50%, better access to health clinics in rural areas, and a significant increase in health facilities staffed with at least one female health worker to more than 80%;
- private sector-led growth, focusing on better regulation and reduced corruption. This is expected to create more than 20,000 jobs by 2023 in the formal economy and generate $600 million of new investment;
- agriculture prosperity while reducing rural poverty by increasing rural incomes by £34 million and creating 15,000 new jobs (including 1,500 for women) by 2018;
- boosting education opportunities – including better access to schools for rural communities, as well as new support aimed at getting more girls into school by building and renovating classrooms and training teachers for girls schools as well as providing textbooks and other vital school equipment;
- further UK support to ensure that Afghanistan can be declared a mine free country by 2023, including clearance of contaminated land, support programmes to help families make productive use of cleared land and providing mine risk education to affected communities, to help prevent death and injuries from unexploded mines;
- steps to tackle corruption, including improving regulation in the private sector and support to Afghanistan’s new Anti-Corruption Justice Centre, which represents a turning point in the battle against high level corruption in Afghanistan;
- longer-term support to help reintegrate long-term displaced people, including returnees and refugees, by making it easier for them to access land, permanent shelter and jobs. Improving opportunities for people to remain in Afghanistan will also help to reduce the pressure for mass migration to Europe; and
- helping the government of Afghanistan improve budget management and better negotiate and manage contracts with international firms to strengthen the investment environment, as well as supporting projects to provide tens of thousands of jobs.
The UK will work with international partners to continue to hold the Afghan government to account for delivery of further reforms.
Additionally, emergency aid will help meet the most immediate needs of around a million displaced Afghans before winter hits. It will be delivered through the United Nations Flash Appeal for Afghanistan and will provide shelter, food and medicine to vulnerable Afghan families, including returnees from Pakistan and women and children driven out of their homes by continuing fighting inside the country.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel said: “This new support from the UK will help to save lives and prevent an immediate humanitarian crisis. In the long-term it will help build a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan. Britain has a proven track record of supporting Afghanistan on its path to becoming a peaceful and stable nation. We are building on the work of the brave men and women of our armed forces and making sure that we deliver for the hopes and aspirations of the Afghan people.
“The UK’s commitment comes at a critical moment – Afghanistan has seen real progress recently but the international community must show it is willing to stay the course. We cannot allow Afghanistan’s development to be undone and the country to roll back into conflict. That is why the UK is reaffirming our ongoing commitment and that is why we are pushing other donors to do the same.”
The Brussels Conference comes nearly two years after the UK and Afghanistan co-hosted the London Conference on Afghanistan (LCA), in December 2014. The LCA brought together 59 countries to reaffirm their support for Afghanistan and the Brussels Conference will provide an opportunity to review progress over the last two years, against the commitments made both by donors and by the government of Afghanistan.
Since the London Conference in 2014 the Afghan government has delivered a number of key reforms including: successfully increasing tax revenue, leading to less dependence on aid in the long term; joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to improve trade with its neighbours; and President Ghani has – with UK support – led a major anti-corruption drive.