OIC summit on Afghanistan is a great achievement as it brings not only many key stakeholders on the same platform but also instills international credibility into the Afghanistan humanitarian initiative. It is also good to see the appointment of a Special Envoy of OIC Secretary-General on Afghanistan to coordinate the implementation of commitments made at the summit.
However, the real litmus test begins now as the verbal commitments go into action. OIC member countries have varied geostrategic interests, political affiliations and sectarian outlook which often prevent them from eliciting a unified response to the challenges faced within their ranks. Syria, Yemen and Libya are case studies from recent history. To make Afghanistan an exception and ensure real delivery on in-principle commitments, the following needs to be done.
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Afghanistan is not an impending crisis. It’s a nation already in the midst of a grave crisis that is worsening every day. Hence the process of humanitarian aid especially food must begin immediately without the delay of a single day. It might otherwise be too late for thousands of innocent Afghans who could perish by the time aid arrives in months to come.
It is always challenging to implement multilateral initiatives, yet in this case, a few countries will most likely take the lead in terms of financial commitments and delivery infrastructure. Hence the process can be significantly expedited. However, it would require cutting the bureaucratic red tape at both international and local levels which in most cases is the single biggest obstacle in such projects.
International Command and Control Center
While OIC is taking the lead in managing the whole process, it can leverage Pakistan’s expertise in managing the Covid 19 crisis through a very scientific and data-driven approach taken by its National Command and Control Center.
OIC should consider setting up an International Command and Control Center in partnership with the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments which can conduct a data-based need analysis of all the affected areas of Afghanistan for food and health purposes in the first phase and for education and other infrastructure in the next phases. This will significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of international delivery as well as bring sustainability and credibility to the whole operation.
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Transparency and Audit
Many international missions have previously been accused of corruption and mismanagement in places like Iraq and some African countries. In order to make Afghanistan’s humanitarian operation more inclusive and long-lasting, an international audit and supervisory board can be put in place with high levels of corporate governance including financial reporting and audit from the very beginning.
With the resources available at OIC’s disposal, it is not a difficult task to achieve especially keeping in view the potential impact it will create among international donor agencies. In this regard, it is highly commendable that the recently concluded OIC summit on Afghanistan held in Islamabad had a representation of international institutions as well. This will also allow the Taliban government to do their own capacity building by learning from international best practices in terms of aid and disaster management.
What Taliban need to do?
Afghanistan aid operation will be the first exposure of the Taliban government with international institutions in terms of governance and large-scale social welfare initiatives. Dealing with international agencies requires a certain flexible mindset which they need to inculcate in their civil servants and erstwhile warriors who are now part of the governance process.
This would require some crash courses in language, disaster management, interpersonal skills and social welfare models which have evolved over a period of time in different conflict zones. Pakistan can take the lead in this regard as it has a large network of international and local NGOs which operate across the country and which specialize in operating in harsh terrains and remote territories. Afghan bureaucracy and volunteers can learn greatly from Pakistani institutions.
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Leveraging Pakistan’s NGO network
Pakistan has a very large network of domestic NGOs which operate in critical areas of food security, education, healthcare and microfinance with very successful and internationally recognized business models. These NGOs which operate country-wide in Pakistan can easily extend their operations beyond the border by setting up their food delivery channels, eye camps and home schools.
In order to make it successful there needs to be a supervisory and coordination mechanism jointly managed by both Pakistan and Afghanistan governments to facilitate their smooth operations as well as prevent any nefarious elements from operating under the garb of NGOs. While a lot of NGOs are already working or planning to commence their operations in Afghanistan, the government of Pakistan has not yet formulated or at least publicly announced any official institutional mechanism to carry out these activities in a systematic manner. It needs to be done immediately.
Impact on Pakistan Economy
Pakistan’s economy is already struggling due to various reasons. With long porous borders and ethnic affinity, humanitarian aid will in any case flow to Afghanistan from Pakistan sooner or later. It is in Pakistan’s own interest to create a local and international institutional mechanism at the earliest to create further strains on its economy due to the Afghanistan aid process. It would otherwise cause drainage of dollars at whatever rate available from the market as well as channelization of already scarce exportable commodities to Afghanistan. Although it may be too much of an expectation from an inefficient and lethargic administrative system of Pakistan to manage these tasks, these needs are done at any cost as it’s a matter of survival not only for Afghanistan but also Pakistan.
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To conclude, Afghanistan needs immediate humanitarian deliveries as well as institutional mechanisms to avoid the complete collapse of state infrastructure. This requires a global effort with more responsibilities to be borne by OIC and eventually Pakistan. In order to achieve that everyone needs to put their house in order and think first as a human being and then as a politician. Otherwise, everyone should be ready for grave consequences because poverty and illiteracy combined together create the most fertile ground for terrorism.
Noaman Abdul Majid is an Economist, Geopolitical Analyst and Social Development Expert. He is the CEO of WIXEMAN GLOBAL, a strategy consulting firm practicing in GCC and Pakistan. He has worked with and advised development finance institutions, public sector entities and non-government organizations in many countries on financial services, international joint ventures, economic and social development-related projects.
He is a Fellow Chartered Management Accountant from the UK, Fellow Chartered Accountant from Pakistan, a Chartered Islamic Finance Professional from Malaysia and Masters’s in Economics from Karachi University. He tweets at @NoamanAmajid. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.