Memorandum submitted by Jaya Graves
The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is enormous
and well recorded. Many organisations have given evidence of its
scope and urgency and many more are going to continue to do so.
What we are concerned with in this short testament
is the effect of policy and politics on many international situations
and, in this case, in Afghanistan.
Many people have argued that humanitarian aid
is too politicised to be effective where it is most needed. There
is a persuasive article on this subject in the current edition
of the newsletter of BOND (Networker).
It is not our aim to present further evidence
of this obvious need. The politicisation of debt and aid is self
evident in Pakistan in the current conflict.
Our analysis of the situation, as well as our
reading, has made it clear that,while some humanitarian crises
may appear entirely free of any political influences; this is
not generally the case. Most `humanitarian' crises have political
causes or are exacerbated by politics. Many of these have an international
dimension. This has been the case in Afghanistan for the last
several hundred years. In the current situation we need to look
back just 20 years to see how the `humanitarian' crisis has been
created by a range of external countries using the region to play
out cold war politics in the 60s and 70s. After an initial withdrawal,
a subtle power struggle for control has resumed, mainly due to
the need to transport oil through the country. The Taliban, though
publicly excluded, have had talks at high level with the US in
relation to building pipelines through its territory. Meanwhile
the region was awash with a new generation of high-tech weapons
through which the casualty level of internecine conflict rose
enormously. (The range and damage that can be inflicted by a jezail,
the traditional Afghani rifle is limited compared to the damage
a Kalasnikov and other beasts can do). The meddling by the one
time super rivals left a legacy of bitter hatreds where there
once there were rival skirmishes. This has been the legacy of
many proxy wars and they have created, not only a breakdown of
state structures but also massive humanitarian crises. (A similar
argument can be made for Angola and Mozambique, identified as
`failed states' by the Foreign Secretary.) It has also meant that
no Western country has diplomatic relations with Afghanistan.
There is little FDI and little `aid'.(Having fought a proxy war
in the country, one could make a sound case for reparation rather
What we are arguing is that `humanitarian crises'
have political and historical causes. This being the case, it
is essential that organisations that are active in a region
and in this case, Afghanistan, are permitted and encouraged to
present a historical and political analysis of the situation.
To do these NGOs, who have been the main operational organisations
within Afghanistan, must feel free from the threat of having their
funds curtailed and their status withdrawn. (In tandem Development
agencies must be willing to take some risks with these.) For this
they need some assurances from the Departments concerned. Is this
something that the IDC could recommend and encourage? It is also
important to maintain and exchange information with regional countries
rather than depending entirely on Western alliances, none of who
have any links with Afghanistan. It is necessary to take a real
interest in a country rather than one determined by realpolitiks.
And it is necessary to recognise and admit the failure on the
part of the international community, because we have used and
failed the Afghani people, rather than merely blaming.
While some of these may become redundant in
the aftermath of the current withdrawal of the Taleban, these
are lessons here for engagements in other parts of the world.
Enclosed is a letter we received recently from
the US (not printed). For what is troubling for many of us is
that this use and destruction of Southern countries are not stray
examples but a matter of policy by Government of the North.
Jaya Graves, Southern Voices
(Written in a personal capacity)
14 November 2001