Afghanistan's international partners are banking on a new “development conference” to address the country's remaining challenges as foreign troops begin to leave this year.
At the moment, however, details about what the meeting will specifically address are scant, as partners prefer to wait for the results of the presidential elections and what the new government's views will be before announcing anything in public, Jawed Nader, director of the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group, told Devex.
The conference is expected to take place later this year — once the new government has been formed — and will be co-hosted by the United Kingdom, British Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening announced during a recent parliamentary session. Well-placed sources explained the event will be a follow up to the 2012 conference in Tokyo, when donors pledged $16 billion until 2015 in development aid for Afghanistan.
Aid groups and international investors are looking forward to the meeting, hoping it will encourage donors to commit continued support for reforms in Afghanistan, as well as other pressing issues like disaster risk reduction, which seemed to have been pushed to the back burner. Many businesses see huge opportunities in Afghanistan, but insecurity has turned most of them off, as well as bureaucracy and laws that limit private sector activities in the country. The two Afghan presidential candidates seem open to international investment as a way to spur economic growth, but Nader said the new government needs to prioritize cutting the red tape to boost private sector confidence in the country.
"More investments would mean Afghan people, especially the youth, will get job opportunities, and that will contribute to peace and security. But then investors won’t come until the country is secure," Nejabat Safi, CWS' associate director for disaster management program in the country, told Devex.
Despite what many aid groups describe as government overregulation on their activities, most organizations want to remain in the country. But staff security and aid cuts are expected to have a big influence on agencies' decisions to stay, leave or cut down operations, especially after so many aid workers and NGO offices have been attacked in the past year.
In any case, Nader said, the first round of presidential elections — especially the high voter turnout — has so far been seen as credible and is therefore expected to boost international confidence in Afghanistan.
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