The World on the Move: Current Trends in International Migration
Mark J. Miller
Migration to the West: An Overview
The UNHCR: A Dynamic Agency in a Volatile World
Gerald E. Dirks
Averting Forced Migration
Susan F. Martin
Why Borders Cannot Be Open
David A. Coleman
Land of the ‘Fair Go’? Asylum Policy in Australia
Sangatte: A False Crisis
People-Smuggling in Europe: A Growing Phenomenon
Whither EU Migration Policy?
Afghans in Iran: Asylum Fatigue Overshadows Islamic Brotherhood
Afsaneh Ashrafi and Haideh Moghissi
Refugees and Afghanistan’s Recovery
Arthur C. Helton and Eliana Jacobs
Palestinian Refugees: The Need for a New Approach
Otto Hieronymi and Chiara Jasson
The West and the Rest?
Michael T. Gibbons
The Fleeting Ghost of ‘Serbia’
John B. Allcock
Greece and Turkey: From Enmity to Rapprochement
Volume 4 ● Number 4 ● Autumn 2002—The Era of Mass Migration
Refugees and Afghanistan’s Recovery
The ultimate objective in Afghanistan is seen differently by different actors. Some within the US government, for example, see the primary goal, largely already attained, to be the destruction of the al-Qaeda terrorist network and its Taliban hosts. In so far as there is a more enduring aspect to this objective, it is—through recovery strategies designed to promote stability and the rule of law—to make it impossible for the terrorists to re-establish themselves in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, many officials in relief and development agencies see the overall objective as being to remedy what they call the abandonment of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989. In 1997, Afghanistan ranked 169 out of 174 on the world’s human development index. It has since fallen off the list because of insufficient data. The goal from this perspective is to alleviate the destitution and misery that have afflicted Afghans in the recent past.
These are not, of course, mutually exclusive objectives. But the emphasis given to either orientation has important implications for the duration and depth of commitment by the international community. A focus by the United States on the destruction of the terrorist network could help justify leaving largely to others in the anti-terrorism coalition, notably Japan and various European Union member states, the task of recovery and rehabilitation in Afghanistan. A broader human development approach would clearly necessitate a prolonged and sustained engagement by the United States.
According to a joint assessment by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Asian Development Bank, rebuilding Afghanistan will cost approximately $15 billion over the next ten years, an estimate some analysts consider too low. At the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan convened in Tokyo in January 2002, donors pledged $5.2 billion in aid for the period 2002–6. But only about half of the $1.8 billion pledged in Tokyo for 2002 had materialised by December that year.
Building Local Capacity
According to a February 2002 United Nations appeal, the immediate recovery strategy for Afghanistan is to provide it with a quick injection of money and technical knowledge, and to build the capacity of the interim, and now the transitional, administration to deliver services in ways that inspire the confidence of the Afghan population. Well over three hundred specific projects were initially proposed by a variety of agencies to implement this UN strategy. Not surprisingly, the largest number of proposals relate to the health sector, food security, the repatriation of refugees and the return to their homes of internal exiles (internally displaced persons).
Initially, 352 projects were listed for review by what was essentially a one-man aid co-ordination agency in the Afghan interim administration. The director of that office, Ashraf Ghani, a former anthropology professor and World Bank official who became finance minister after the June 2002 loya jirga (grand assembly), reported at an international meeting in early 2002 in Kabul that he had classified these project submissions into three categories. First were those which should go ahead; second, those for which additional review was necessary; and third, those which would be scrapped outright. Ghani, who has gained a reputation for ruffling feathers, noted at this meeting that the proposals reflected divergent approaches towards capacity-building, and too many co-ordination mechanisms. He accepted a list of 324 projects in need of funding, with such sobering titles as “Making Motherhood Safer in Afghanistan”, “Emergency Preparedness to Mitigate the Impacts of Locust Attacks in Afghanistan”, and “Provision of Clean Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education”.
Ghani’s criticisms have merit: the overall sense gained by reading the project submissions is one of well-intentioned incoherence. Recovery in Afghanistan seems destined to be a story with many characters, and very little by way of a plot.
At the international level, the lack of structure is also evident. The international tactic is to promote control of the recovery process by the indigenous authorities and seek to fortify a new national government. But there is an emperor’s-new-clothes aspect to this endeavour. Afghanistan’s history is largely one of fragmented governance, with the Taliban’s rule constituting a recent exception. The transitional government as currently constituted resembles an implementing agency of the United Nations headquartered in Kabul. The assistance projects listed on-line reflect an extreme degree of incapacity in sectors crucial to recovery, such as education. Ministries have to be organised from scratch and salaries have to be paid, an early preoccupation of the UNDP. Indeed, the UNDP proposed a project specifically to establish a functional unit in the ministry of finance to pay civil servants. A $10 million “immediate results initiative” was proposed to rehabilitate public buildings and facilities, mainly in Kabul, to help Afghan people gain confidence in the transitional government.
A philosophy of local control may nevertheless be a brilliant gambit by the United Nations, which has been criticised in the past for mistakes in nation-building in places such as Somalia. In Afghanistan, such failures are likely to be attributed to the budding national government instead of the United Nations. However, the establishment in March 2002 of a United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), headed by Lakhdar Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria and author of an earlier report on the problems of UN peacekeeping, will make it harder for the United Nations to escape a measure of accountability for the outcome of relief and recovery efforts. Unama is charged with integrating humanitarian relief and recovery and reconstruction activities in order to co-ordinate these efforts more effectively with the Afghan government and so promote sustainable development. It is also charged with ensuring that the tasks and responsibilities entrusted to the United Nations in the 2001 Bonn agreement, which initiated the transition to a new Afghan government, are fully implemented.
Repatriation and Return
Population movement will be a critical determinant of Afghanistan’s future. Given the size of Afghanistan’s exile population by the end of 2002 (4 million refugees and internally displaced persons out of a population of 26 million), repatriation could either exacerbate chaos or create an important opportunity for rehabilitation. As individuals return to war-torn communities, how their needs are addressed and how they integrate will greatly influence the quality of recovery.
In 2002, more than 1.8 million refugees returned to Afghanistan, the largest movement of people since the formation of Bangladesh (when 10 million fled East Pakistan in the early 1970s and then returned to the newly formed Bangladesh). Returnees have come predominantly from Pakistan (1.5 million), Iran (300,000), and various Central Asian states. In addition, more than 250,000 internal exiles returned home with assistance and another 200,000 Afghans returned unaided. However, it is estimated that 4 million Afghans remain outside the country, including close to 2 million refugees in Iran and around 1.5 million in Pakistan. There are still 700,000 uprooted persons throughout the country, particularly in the southern provinces.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a budget of $127 million for Afghanistan in 2003, which is intended to cover the cost of repatriating 1.2 million refugees and returning 300,000 internal exiles to their homes. An additional $35 million is earmarked for Afghan refugee programmes in Pakistan, $26.8 million for such programmes in Iran, and $6 million for programmes in the Central Asian states.
The sustainability of return remains an important issue. Uncertain security conditions, unemployment, lack of infrastructure and a lack of health and education services are major impediments to the successful repatriation of Afghan refugees. The UNHCR reports that security and living conditions in Afghanistan are not sufficient to encourage all refugees to return home. Many returnees have reported regretting their decision to return, citing poor living conditions and an inability to make ends meet in Afghanistan. A frequent complaint is that returnees are not given more assistance after the initial aid packages and shelter kits. Unable to acquire a livelihood, and thus adequate shelter and a source of food, many remain extremely vulnerable after their return.
Refugee women, who represent a significant proportion of the refugee population, are among the most vulnerable. Traditionally denied employment and education, and subject to a variety of gender-based protection problems, these Afghan women have been given access in many refugee camps to training programmes and other vocational courses which have prepared them to function as, for instance, female health workers. As such, returning refugee women could be a resource in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. But it is far from certain whether they will be utilised in this way.
Iran has asked the UNHCR to increase repatriations of Afghan refugees on its soil to 600,000 per annum. Similarly, Islamabad is pressing for a long-term solution to the presence of the remaining 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. A tripartite agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UNHCR is expected to be signed regarding a framework for the voluntary repatriation of these refugees over a three-year period. Other countries, including France, the United Kingdom and Iran, have signed agreements with the Afghan government in an effort to organise the repatriation process.
However, there are fears that the mass repatriation policy of 2002, if continued in 2003, could destabilise Afghanistan and jeopardise reconstruction efforts. An alternative course would be for donor states to boost funding for refugee programmes in Pakistan and Iran, thus encouraging those countries not to send refugees home.
With the onset of a harsh winter, however, repatriation levels have dropped considerably. The Afghan government and the UNHCR estimate that around 550,000 people (290,000 recent returnees and 260,000 internally displaced Afghans) could face severe hardship this winter. Another estimate, by Unama and the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, states that 1.9 million Afghans are vulnerable because of inadequate shelter and deficits in food.
Despite dramatically low numbers of returning Afghans during the winter, returns are expected to increase again when spring arrives. This has caused concern that the inability to meet the needs of returning Afghans will result in a movement of refugees back to Iran and Pakistan. Some have already returned, discouraged by the harsh conditions in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have stated that insecurity in Afghanistan has prompted the return of about 300,000 Afghans. At the time of writing, several hundred families were said to be returning weekly to Pakistan and Iran.
The UNHCR and other agencies have tried to address the difficult winter conditions. Much aid has been focused on rural communities, in part as a strategy to prevent secondary migration to the cities. In addition, during 2003 the UNHCR plans to expand small income-generation projects such as canal-building and road-repairing in order to benefit remote villages.
Returnees in the cities are also in dire need. One non-governmental organisation (NGO) has reported that many returned refugees in Kabul have needs which are unaddressed. It recommended (1) an immediate acceleration by donors of projects to provide shelter, and cash and food in return for work, (2) full financing of the national winter preparedness plans, and (3) continued high levels of humanitarian assistance for at least one more year. But the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office are both reportedly planning reductions in humanitarian assistance.
As the drought in Afghanistan approaches its fifth anniversary, humanitarian aid, particularly food aid, continues to be essential. This is not a new challenge. Social agencies have previously had to devise tactics for delivering relief amid chaos in places like Somalia and Chechnya. Occasionally, they have had to deal with physical threats and have even used armed guards to protect aid. These hard-learned lessons will undoubtedly inform future operations in Afghanistan as well.
But there is a basic threshold problem that will profoundly affect refugee repatriation and recovery in Afghanistan. Aid workers and experts stress that establishing public security is a prerequisite for return and rehabilitation. Quarrelling warlords and bandits are seeking to exploit the post-Taliban security vacuum. But if insecurity remains rampant, should we cease our efforts at relief and rehabilitation? Surely not, for this would be the height of irresponsibility and another form of international abandonment.
To address the security deficit, some have called for the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan sanctioned by the UN Security Council on 20 December 2001. Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, has suggested that a force of 20,000 would be required to guarantee security throughout the country. As of 4 December 2002, twenty-two nations had contributed a total of 4,829 Isaf troops, all stationed in and around Kabul. Germany and Turkey had contributed the most troops; the United States contributed none at all.
Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, Isaf works with the Afghan interim government and the United Nations in pursuing three principal goals: (1) to assist in creating national security allowing the development of an interim government; (2) to assist in Afghanistan’s reconstruction; (3) to assist in developing and training a future Afghan army.
Isaf’s mandate in Afghanistan, scheduled to expire on 20 December 2002, was extended for an additional year when the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1444. This resolution also transferred command of the force from Turkey to Germany and the Netherlands. As the two countries prepare for their new joint leadership role, they have been helped by NATO with military planning. NATO also expects to assist with communications, logistics and intelligence gathering during the six-month mandate of the German and Dutch commands, expected to begin in February 2003.
The United States and other potential troop contributors have expressed little enthusiasm for expanding Isaf’s mission beyond Kabul. US military planners are worried that an expansion of this peacekeeping force could interfere with war-fighting, diminish long-term combat-readiness, and tie down troops that could be used elsewhere in the war on terrorism. In lieu of expanding Isaf’s troop strength, the Pentagon has discussed expanding the “Isaf effect” by deploying trained Afghan soldiers with Western observers, using coalition military from “Operation Enduring Freedom”, and/or assigning peacekeeping regions to willing nations. More broadly, Western governments have supported the notion of building an indigenous army and police force. But this task would surely take many months if not years to accomplish, and security is an urgent concern.
Efforts to build an indigenous Afghan army have been sluggish. It is intended to consist of a projected body of 70,000 men, representing all of the country’s main ethnic groups. However, as of 24 November 2002, only about 1,400 of the 2,000–3,000 original recruits trained for the Afghan national army remained in service, the rest having deserted. It is estimated that it would cost $700 million to train, equip and sustain the army for two years, but no money has yet been committed by international donors. Retaining soldiers and substantially accelerating training will be crucial if the Afghan army is to become an effective security force. The absence of international forces to fill the interim gap remains a grave problem.
A Triple Threat
The security vacuum places in doubt the future stability of Afghanistan. Three sets of actors threaten security in Afghanistan: (1) those militarily dedicated to overthrowing the current regime, (2) leaders of the many armed militias still operating throughout the country, and (3) criminal opportunists profiting from the prevailing lack of security.
Armed militias have filled the security vacuum that exists outside of Kabul. Over 200,000 armed men currently fight for different militia commanders vying for greater influence and power. Their geographic reach covers about one-third of Afghanistan. According to recent reports, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia all provide support to military entities outside the control of the central government. These countries are apparently positioning themselves for what some see as the inevitable departure of most US forces from Afghanistan in the event of a US military engagement in Iraq. Should such a departure occur, some analysts predict an eventual split in Afghanistan along ethnic lines and an ensuing power struggle. Russia, for example, has strong ties with the Tajik–Uzbek Northern Alliance. Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly continue to provide cash and military support to Ismail Khan, governor of the western province of Herat. The growing strength and influence of these militias, which have little allegiance to the central government, pose a serious threat to stability in Afghanistan. Without some measure of stability, recovery and sustainable refugee return are impossible.
It thus seems likely that insecurity will remain a feature of Afghanistan for the indefinite future. Major-General Hilmi Akin Zorlu, the Turkish former commander of Isaf, has stated that “the main threat is from remnants of Taliban and al-Qaeda as well as some groups who are opposed to the existence of the Afghan transitional government”. He added that the country’s warlords must be incorporated into the national forces to ensure lasting peace.1 He also projected that Isaf would have to remain in Afghanistan for up to three more years to enable the country’s own fledgling forces to complete their training and deployment.
Security could be improved by the establishment of a functioning legal system. But a clear strategy to reform Afghanistan’s legal system is lacking. There are few trained lawyers and no library of the country’s laws. In addition, under successive regimes, laws have generally served political ends, with few protections for the rights of individuals. Related obstacles include the absence of adequate court or ministry facilities and of basic supplies, without which progress cannot be made. In addition, Afghanistan’s current judicial system suffers from the lack of a real partnership between different core institutions. Serious conflicts exist between the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court, and the attorney-general’s office. Yet establishing the rule of law is vital to Afghanistan’s recovery.
There has been a cacophony of different initiatives to fill the legal vacuum. Unfortunately, given the incapacity of the Afghan transitional government, and the piecemeal character of the international effort, there is no way to co-ordinate these efforts effectively. As a result, they have had minimal impact. Although well intentioned, fragmented efforts such as these will not consolidate the rule of law in Afghanistan.
A donor conference on judicial reform in Afghanistan has raised pledges of $30 million to begin the reconstruction of the legal system. This two-year project will include training for judges and the rebuilding of courthouses. But it will address only a small part of the problem.
To meet the basic need of access to legal texts, a team of experts affiliated with the American Bar Association (ABA) compiled major Afghan laws for distribution across the nation by Afghan justice officials and the international peacekeeping force. Another ABA project proposes to undertake the drafting of a transitional code of commerce for Afghanistan. Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross have provided courses on the law of armed conflict for forty Afghan army officers. In addition, many Western experts are keen to offer technical assistance as Afghanistan rewrites its constitution. These efforts are laudable but inadequate.
Recovery strategies that take into account the climate of pervasive insecurity are desperately needed. The experience of the UNDP with small projects during the reign of the Taliban may be instructive here. The UNDP spent approximately $20 million a year working with local community structures on a variety of projects. These projects should be continued for the foreseeable future. A longer-term approach is being pursued by the World Bank, which will administer a multi-donor trust fund in Afghanistan.
But thinking small would be a better way forward over the short term. For example, micro-financing, a well-established approach to helping poor people in developing countries, should be an important component of the recovery strategy. In the midst of insecurity, such projects operate directly with people on the ground, creating a small bubble of stability which can spread. As local people repair a house, plant crops, or obtain and use tools, they acquire interests in a greater degree of stability. The projects are too small to be targeted for looting. Initiatives can be taken quickly since elaborate assessments of needs are unnecessary given the general level of impoverishment in the country. Both men and women can benefit, although given the exclusion of women from public life under the Taliban, they are likely to benefit more. A fully developed financial sector, something Afghanistan will not have for a long time, would not be needed to support such an approach.
Smallness is a proven course of action in post-conflict recovery operations. There is considerable international experience in places such as Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique and Nicaragua in using discrete, quick-impact projects to ease the integration of returning refugees and internally displaced persons.
For example, a grassroots approach in Bosnia helped to encourage the repatriation of refugees to places where the returnees were in the ethnic minority. The interests of local people often coincide with more general policy objectives. In Bosnia, this framework was provided by property laws that promote minority return. In Afghanistan, small projects could help create a climate of security. Of course, such an approach might do little to help build a national government, particularly outside of Kabul, which is an operational goal of external donors. But it may be necessary in order to secure a realistic measure of recovery.
Quick-impact projects represent an interface between relief and development perspectives, which are highly divergent. Relief workers generally aim to provide immediate succour to victims of conflict or natural disaster. By contrast, development experts typically think about long-term national plans and macro-economic strategies that require many months if not years to implement. Small projects can bridge these two approaches. They are designed to build confidence among returnees and receiving communities in the first instance, and could contribute to economic development in the places where people are re-establishing themselves.
A Controversial Shift
Recently, the US government announced a significant reorientation of its policy regarding military involvement in Afghan reconstruction. From 1 January 2003, the United States plans to reduce the combat role of troops in the country and shift their focus towards rehabilitation projects. The idea is to promote peace and stability through reconstruction.
There is much controversy over whether new infrastructure and reconstruction will lead to greater security, or whether more protection is needed to create the necessary environment in which to rebuild. Lieutenant-General Dan K. McNeill, commander of the US-led coalition forces, believes reconstruction will enhance security. He has set up a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), composed of seventy soldiers, civil affairs officers, engineers, medics and State Department officials, in Gardez, eastern Afghanistan. There are plans to establish eight to ten more forty-person teams, with yet others to follow if this initiative proves successful. These teams will be protected by US and British troops. President Karzai, endorsing the initiative, has promised to send local officials to work with the PRTs. Many observers remain sceptical, however, about using PRTs as a substitute for an adequate security arrangement.
Among the doubters are Care, an international NGO that has been providing humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for thirty years, Mercy Corps International, and several other large relief agencies. They have criticised the US decision to shift the coalition’s focus to reconstruction, claiming it will have a negative impact on security. Care has stated that the US-led coalition should leave reconstruction to the transitional government and NGOs, in order to avoid confusion between civilian and military providers of assistance, which could endanger the safety of civilian relief workers. The Agency Co-ordinating Body for Afghan Relief (Acbar), a leading aid organiser in Afghanistan, has also criticised the US decision for the same reason.
By February 2003, most American military efforts will focus on the reconstruction of security services and on supporting civil reconstruction. The Pentagon asserts that the war in Afghanistan has entered a “post-combat” phase, during which the number of US troops deployed will be reduced and replaced by reservists who are professionals in civilian life in fields such as water supply, agriculture and engineering. Some 150 additional US Army civil affairs reservists have been sent to Afghanistan in recent months, bringing their total in the country to 350. Defence Department officials have not stated how many of the 8,000 combat troops will be cut. The number of special forces units present is already decreasing. Combat troops will remain along the eastern border of Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda members are reportedly still active.
The projected budget for PRTs is $10 million–$12 million, which will allow them to engage only in small, quick-impact projects at a local level, rather than undertake large-scale projects such as road-building. To date, US Army civil affairs specialists have built 127 schools, dug 400 wells, and built 26 medical clinics. While small-scale projects such as these are likely to increase the physical and economic security necessary for recovery, even a handful of high-profile early development projects could have helped legitimise the new order. Karzai began requesting funding for just such a project—road-building—in January 2002. It took all year before the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia promised $180 million to rebuild the devastated Kabul–Kandahar–Herat road. Even military necessity can rejuvenate infrastructure: US forces have rebuilt many hundreds of miles of road in Afghanistan over the last year.
As the early efforts to organise transitional assistance in Afghanistan demonstrate, a better planning structure and implementation process for designing recovery strategies are necessary at both international level and that of individual governments. For example, the US government has no mechanism below the National Security Council to design a framework for implementing quick recovery projects and assign roles to the various actors, including NGOs. As has been the case in prior settings, after suppressing armed conflict, the military feels compelled to launch community projects before civilian recovery workers arrive and begin operating such programmes themselves. Meanwhile, NGOs contend that security remains fundamental to effective reconstruction, arguing that the international forces should not be so quick to shift resources away from maintaining security.
Humanitarian workers in Afghanistan are complaining bitterly about the recent military initiatives, which they fear may ultimately jeopardise their safety by causing some Afghans to confuse them with US military personnel. In April 2002, a group of NGO heads wrote to President George W. Bush’s national security adviser to protest at community development work being done by US soldiers out of uniform carrying concealed weapons.
The Importance of Co-ordination
Co-ordination will be the leitmotif of aid efforts in Afghanistan. There are at least nine international forums in which donors and agencies seek to pursue transitional assistance programmes for the country. There are also four different NGO umbrella co-ordination frameworks, including Acbar. In large measure, the task is one of co-ordinating the co-ordinators.
And in fact several projects have been listed by the United Nations to enhance the effectiveness of international assistance, provide common services for humanitarian agencies and facilitate Acbar’s activities. $1.8 million has been pledged for aid co-ordination and management. Also proposed is a $1 million strategic monitoring unit for location in Afghanistan. This will conduct research and analysis to help the aid community gain a better understanding of the broad impact of programmes there. This last proposal reflects a real concern about how to channel humanitarian action intelligently, but the mechanism proposed comes too late in the planning process to be very effective.
The recent history of UN activities in Afghanistan begins in 1988, and includes a 1997 effort to promote strategic planning and common programming. But co-ordination has largely meant information-sharing and persuasion, without integrated budgetary or programme authority. As such, activities have remained far less effective than they might otherwise have been. Impaired sustainability of refugee return is the flesh-and-blood consequence of this well-intentioned incoherence.
The issue, of course, is much broader than Afghanistan. Our humanitarian system is excessively reactive and built largely on the hope that after a particular crisis it will not be needed again. But decision makers have been surprised time after time by the need to mount humanitarian operations in conjunction with audacious political and military initiatives. New thinking is needed to fashion proactive approaches to meet the new realities that now confront humanitarian action.
The daunting tasks, swarms of agencies and international scrutiny evident in Afghanistan are likely to produce an unprecedented degree of co-ordination. But the capacity of the international humanitarian system for effective action is weak. New structures will be needed to institutionalise the new lessons from Afghanistan, not only to guarantee better efforts there, but to ensure more effective action in future international humanitarian and post-crisis recovery operations.