“We must ensure that development does not falter in Afghanistan,” Mercy Corps UK director Mervlyn Lee said in his opening remarks to more than one hundred leading development experts, community leaders, civil society activists and government officials at a civil society conference in London Tuesday. Organized by the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG), the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) and the High Commission of Canada in London, the conference kicked off four days of events around a UK Government hosted summit on the way forward in Afghanistan.

Mr. Lee acknowledged progress in areas such as education and agriculture, but quickly moved to describing serious concerns Afghan and international aid agencies believe have not yet been confronted.

Repeating a common refrain of aid agencies and dominant theme of the Tuesday conference, Mr. Lee criticized the proportion of international assistance funds being channeled through militaries of the NATO-led UN-mandated International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF). Too much of this money is spent by ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) on “quick impact” projects that are unsustainable and often mismatched to the needs of Afghan communities, he said. Mr. Lee said aid must now be “principled, results-focused, and delivered through civilian channels.”

The official, written statements of the sponsoring organizations echoed Mr. Lee’s remarks. “Over the past eight years, too much aid has bypassed Afghan institutions and been channeled through military-led teams into areas of conflict,” said ACBAR chair Sayed Jawad Jawad. “Real development builds the capacity of Afghans to run their own livelihoods. It is not about quick fixes.”

Mr. Jawad added, “We would like to see the London conference mark a new beginning for the people of Afghanistan. The international community must not scramble for the exit door and betray its promise to help the Afghan people fight poverty and build a decent future.”

Image: Flickr (ISAFMedia)

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