Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. That sentence has become cliché, but it is no less true for being so.

Eight years after the overthrow of the Taliban Government, measurable and meaningful progress has been achieved in a broad range of areas. Access to basic medical care has been expanded. Women and ethnic and religious minorities serve at all levels of government. The number of children in school has shot up from less than a million in 2001 to six million today. Local NGOs, once operated clandestinely, are registered with the government and receive assistance from international donors. An overwhelmingly amateur class of journalists has revived Afghanistan’s press.

Yet, despite undeniable gains, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most combustible crisis zones, and the gravest challenges on all fronts still lie ahead. Violence against civilians is increasing, corruption is deepening, and humanitarian space is shrinking. The future teeters precariously on decisions that will be made in Kabul, Washington, European capitals and far flung cities and villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border regions this year.

Thanks to the generosity of Oxfam, I will be among a small pool of bloggers covering the UK Government’s big Afghanistan conference and related non-governmental events in London next week.  Civil society events will begin on Tuesday and the security-focused intergovernmental conference will take place two days later.

As much as possible, I will live blog events on aid and development, security, civil-military relations, protecting women’s human rights, and promoting the rule of law. With some luck, I may get to interview a few top diplomats and policy-makers, but I also intend to interview some of Afghanistan’s less internationally-known stakeholders –Afghan human rights activists, aid workers, lawmakers, and civil servants.

So, check back regularly as the London conference gets underway and I bring you updates from the people and events discussing, debating and shaping the way forward in Afghanistan.

Image: Flickr (wallyg)

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