Afghanistan Diary
Thursday, March 31, 2005
 

Piracy: things are so bad here that both the Dell representative and a Microsoft Certified Solution Provider recommended to DACAAR to buy one copy of the software and to install it on all machines.


Nothing much to report. The week was uneventful. Several important news in Afghanistan however (and I don’t mean Laura Bush’s visit). Firstly, a dam burst in Ghazni, two hours south of Kabul. Many houses have been destroyed by the flood that ensued, and important agricultural areas are now under water. DACAAR has many projects in the area. I think they took part in the repairs of the dam as well, but not to the part that collapsed. Secondly, another bomb attack, the third in the last ten days. Each attack was aimed at a military target and we are not in immediate danger. Perhaps the season has started again. Last but not least, there is a new legislation that was just passed that might make life very difficult for NGOs.


About a year ago, there was a change in the funding mechanism for humanitarian aid. Instead of giving the money to NGOs directly, major donors (like USAID, the European Union, etc.) provide the money to the Afghan government, which then invite NGOs to bid on specific projects. This mechanism was designed to strengthen the Afghan government, and although it does cause significant problems in the meantime (NGO complaints funds take much longer to get to them, some people in the field get accused of stealing funds and are threatened, etc.), Afghanistan is a sovereign state and it makes good sense that they should decide which projects get funded and who is in charge of their implementation.


A few days ago, a new legislation was passed. Most people have not actually seen the legislation so what I am describing is from people from have heard it from others people. Initially, it seems that the law was aimed at preventing NGOs to contract in building jobs. It would appear that in its final form, the law prevents the government to do any new contract with NGOs. This is not good news for anybody. You have to understand that without NGOs, there would be little or no drinking water, little or no healthcare, no equitable credit to poor farmers (except if they grow opium), etc. You might be thinking, “this might be true, but shouldn’t the Afghan government be leveraged to the point where they can take these functions over?” It should. Unfortunately, the current state is in no shape to fill most of these functions. The sadest part (beside the fact program recipients will be the one to suffer) is that this will not in any way strengthen the Afghan state. What will happen instead, is that contract that currently go to non-profit NGOs will go to for-profit private contractors, and that, I don’t see how it serve any purpose whatsoever.


Note 4/4/2005: It seems that the legislation will be amended. The aim of the legislation was to enable the private sector to contribute to building contracts

 
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This is my diary. My name is Lev and I work in Kabul for a non-governmental organization (dacaar.org).

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Location: Kabul, Afghanistan
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