Monday, September 18, 2006

ANSO Afghanistan Update

Christian Willach, the ANSO Operations Coordinator, writes in with the following:

I would like to take this opportunity to address some issues that have arisen over the last weeks.

In the last weeks and months, we have been asked frequently, whether NGOs are being specifically targeted in Afghanistan. So far, I would have to say that we cannot see any indication of a specific targeting of NGOs as part of a concentrated campaign throughout the country. It has to be stated though, that we are not operating alone and that the mood in some parts of the country has swung against the International Community as a whole and in that context, the NGOs can easily be “caught up” in dissatisfaction of the local population in their perceived lack of development. The NGO Community is not a primary target of the ongoing insurgency but we all have to accept that we are no longer seem to be viewed as neutral and impartial by parts of the population and most AGEs.

In the cases, where NGOs implement programs in which funding is being released too slowly, the beneficiaries will mostly not look at the organization or ministry that delayed the funding release but will turn to the NGO with accusations of misappropriation. This dissatisfaction can easily be used by AGEs to convince the local population of the bad influence of the International community. This dissatisfaction (possibly heated up by AGE agitators) can result in NGOs being targeted.

Other incidents directly involving NGOs have no political background but are motivated by personal, criminal or “business related” matters. Because of an underdeveloped safety and security umbrella by National and International security forces and a judicial system that is not fully functional yet, many incidences occur in a culture of impunity.

In general; ANSO does not see a concise campaign against NGOs but we are long past the stage, where we have been excluded from the targeting because of our values (impartiality and neutrality) and the nature of our work (humanitarian and development).

After a big and serious incident (e.g. Abduction of female NGO staff member in 2005, various riots, significant suicide attacks, etc.), the NGO Community is very concerned and many organizations are implementing mitigation measures in order to protect staff as much as possible. But this awareness seems to quickly dissipate after a couple of weeks. ANSO strongly advises all NGOs to be aware of the context we are all working and living in. By no means do we suggest a “bunker mentality” but we recommend a sensible and constant reevaluation of the situation with an implementation of mitigating measures and the use of “common sense”. Please consider that safety and security standards not only help keeping your staff safe but also help with a continued implementation of your projects as well as projects by other NGOs working beside you.


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