I almost got stroke while reading yesterday a headline “Worse than the Taliban – new law rolls back rights for Afghan women” in the Guardian. Not due the act itself but because it reflects the substance and outcome of EU’s civil crisis management mission. First I thought it was April fools’ joke but it wasn’t and unfortunately the case is not so unique example among EU’s capacity building efforts in different missions.
On 31.3.2009 foreign ministers of 73 states had Afghanistan conference in Hague, Netherlands, to continue support for security and development projects in country.
The new law
So how are human rights and civil society developing in Afghanistan with EU’s help. Summarizing what really happens there the abstract below gives picture of one aspect (Source and full story in the Guardian):
Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan’s presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission. The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month.
The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex. A briefing document prepared by the UNDP Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only. Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban”. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said.
Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their fight in parliament’s lower house succeeded in improving the law, including raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.
EU’s development efforts
EU is doing capacity building activities in Afghanistan through supporting ISAF –operation (military peacekeeping), implementing its own EUPOL Afghanistan mission (building civilian police in accordance with international standards) and giving EU Aid for humanitarian purposes and development projects.
To contribute effectively to the stabilization of Afghanistan as well as responding to the immense development needs and challenges of the Afghan people is a major external priority for the European Union (EU). Since 2002 the European Commission (EC) has contributed more than 1.4 billion EUR to Afghanistan. EC aid has been used for humanitarian purposes as well as to support priority reconstruction and development efforts. (Source EC/EuropeAid)
The aims and targets of EU assistance are defined in Country Strategy Paper/Afghanistan (CSP/AFG). Human rights, gender and the environment are highlighted as key issues that affect a wide range of policy areas. These policy areas will be mainstreamed in all focal and non-focal areas. In public administration, increased female representation in all tiers of the public administration will be an important consideration … programmes will aim to promote the effective participation of women in local decision-making where this is possible…the CSP also aims to focus on human rights at a range of levels in its sector programmes.
Financing backward progress
EU seems to throw billions of its taxpayers money to development in Afghanistan which is going opposite direction than originally intended. Unfortunately this is not exemption. In Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic groups are building their own statehood components against EU’s efforts to strengthen centralized state. Despite high-flown statements about developing “European” standards in Kosovo the province is still a tribe leaded protectorate with poor administrative record, unsustainable economy and captured by crime organized crime groups.
To close the gap between aims and practice the following actions could according my experience be useful:
Implementing the list above could produce positive news – real not only in oriented progress reports to Brussels - in future from Afghanistan as well from other mission regions. The minimum demand anyway should be that EU actions are not worsening the situations on the ground.
More my views one may find from my BalkanBlog!