A human rights report on Afghanistan describes a situation where an overwhelming majority of people are living in poverty: a situation which has reinforced a strong sense of disillusionment and growing scepticism about the future of the democratization process in the country.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries on earth with two out of every three of its citizens struggling to provide naan-o-chai (bread and tea) for their families. The maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world, it ranks at three for child mortality, only a quarter of the population have access to supplies of drinking water and less than 15 per cent of women are literate.
Notwithstanding those grim statistics, the report, Human Rights Dimensions of Poverty in Afghanistan, argues that “poverty is neither accidental, nor inevitable in Afghanistan”. Rather, it is caused by and is a consequence of a “massive human rights deficit”.
The report calls for a human rights based approach to overcoming poverty: a perspective and analysis that would ensure causes and not just consequences, inform the design and implementation of programs for the alleviation and elimination of poverty.
The report identifies abuse of power as a key driver of poverty in Afghanistan.
It describes corrupted power structures at all levels of Afghan society and a lack of will on the part of the country’s leaders and international partners to address the long history of abuse.
There are few public institutions to protect those who want to achieve reform, freedom of expression is curtailed and so for the few who hold power, there are very few incentives to share power, to be guided by the public interest or to keep promises, the report says.
Experts say vested interests frequently shape the public agenda in Afghanistan, whether in relation to the law, policy, or the allocation of resources.
The on-going conflict in the country also plays a major role in ensuring that most of the population is prevented from enjoying the most basic human rights.
The majority of Afghans have at some point, been directly affected by the conflict through deaths, injuries, disability, and destruction of homes, assets and livelihoods essential for survival. But the conflict has had other less obvious effects.
The report says the Afghan Government and its international partners give priority to the military effort with a much smaller proportion of funds being directed to development and poverty reduction efforts.
Can we thus:
- Enable Afghans to be the architects of their own future through participation in the design and implementation of poverty reduction strategies;
- Address impunity and corruption through fair and transparent processes; &
- Give priority to development objectives rather than short-term military and political agendas.