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Let Afghans Drive the Direction of their Country

Afghans must influence local bodies through elections to positions of responsibility rather than appointment, informal consultations with different communities, and the empowerment of lower bodies through greater budget control.

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Afghans continue to be bystanders as their own country is rebuilt. Despite a lack of  capacity and problems with corruption, more international assistance should be channeled through the Afghan government in the form of trust funds monitored by the international community. This international accountability will have to be paired with scrutiny from internal, Afghan sources if it is to be effective.

Afghans must be able to participate in their government at all levels and drive the direction of their country. This should be done through creating more avenues for Afghans to influence local bodies, through elections to positions of responsibility rather than appointment, informal consultations with different communities, and the empowerment of lower bodies through greater budget control. The elected provincial councils, for example, should be given greater authority to provide oversight and determine how money is spent within their provinces. And at the district level and below, until elections occur bodies such as the community development councils should be consulted and empowered, as should other community bodies such as shuras.

Much is made of the corruption in the Afghan political system. But Afghanistan and the Afghan people have no more inherent predilection for corruption or mismanagement of government than any other nation on earth. The corruption should therefore not be seen as an intrinsic feature to the conflict but rather the result of a government structure shaped by international as well as domestic political actors’ behaviors and policies. Numerous anticorruption bodies have been established in Afghanistan, but so far they have been powerless to hold Afghan leaders to account. The international community must pressure the Afghan government to undertake what it has already promised—to vet individuals who are appointed to senior positions and to prosecute those who have stolen.

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