The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan was held in the capital of Belgium, Brussels, on 4-5 October 2016.
After London Conference in 2014, this conference is the second of the meetings agreed at the Tokyo Conference in 2012 to support progress in Afghanistan. In this conference, international community pledged $15.2bn in aid to help Afghanistan until 2020. Although, before this there were reports that the European Union (EU) would provide help to Afghanistan only if the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) undertake measures to take 80 thousand Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan; but the High Representative of EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mrs. Federica Mogherini labeled these reports inaccurate and said that there is no conditionality link between aid and the migrants.
The background of international conferences on Afghanistan, the significance of Brussels Conference for Afghanistan, the impacts of this conference over political and economic situation of the country and the Afghan government’s achievements in this conference are the issues that are analyzed here.
International conferences on Afghanistan
Numerous conferences on Afghanistan were convened in the past one and half decade and even after the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the foundation of the new Afghan government was also put by an international conference (the Bonn Conference).
At the end of 2001, the first Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was held in the city of Bonn, Germany and the issues of government’s structure and transition of power were discussed.
The Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan was organized in January 2002 where donor countries pledged $5.4bn in aid for Afghanistan’s reconstruction.
The Berlin Conference on Afghanistan was held in March 2004, where the international community promised $8bn for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and also, in this conference, international community announced its support from the Afghan Presidential Elections.
In the London Conference held in February 2006, $10bn in aid was provided to Afghanistan for maintenance of security and good governance. More than 70 countries and international organizations had taken part in this conference and the “Afghanistan Agreement” was the most important document signed between the Afghan government and international community in this conference. Based on the agreement, Afghanistan committed to create accountable and transparent administrations, to respect human rights and to fight against corruption.
In July 2007, “International Conference on Afghanistan” was organized in Rome, the capital of Italy, and the main issue discussed in this conference was the evaluation of “rule of law” in Afghanistan and reforming Afghan Justice and Judicial institutions.
The Paris meeting was held in June 2008 and the Afghan government presented its five-year plan and the representatives of the countries that had participated in this conference promised $10bn in aid for Afghanistan.
In March 2009, another international conference on Afghanistan under “the Afghan crisis; the possible scenarios of development” was held in Moscow and the participants discussed struggle against terrorism, drug smuggling and some other issues in order to find a solution for Afghanistan.
The Hague International Conference on Afghanistan was held on 31 March 2009 in the capital of Netherlands-Hague where 70 countries and international institutions participated and its main objectives were reconstruction and maintenance of security in Afghanistan.
In July 2010, the International Conference of Kabul was held in Kabul where the representatives of more than 70 donor countries, international and regional organizations and global financial institutions had participated and the participants emphasized on good governance, fight against corruption and human rights in Afghanistan.
Another International Conference under “Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia” was held in November 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey and the participants discussed an action plan for post-2014 Afghanistan’s economic and security developments.
The Second International Bonn Conference was held on 5 December 2011 in Bonn, Germany and representatives of more than 85 countries and 15 international organizations had participated and international community committed to provide support for Afghanistan at least for ten years after the foreign troops’ withdrawal from this country.
On 20-21 May 2012, the Chicago International Conference was held in Chicago- Illinoi state of the US where the leaders of more than 50 countries had participated and the leaders of NATO came to an agreement on a $4bn annual financial aid to Afghan security forces and complete security transition to Afghan forces in mid-2013.
The Tokyo Conference was held in July 2012 and the international community promised $16bn financial support in four years for Afghanistan which includes the two years of transition period.
Generally, the above mentioned conferences and almost all other conferences on Afghanistan had economic and security aspects. The Pre-2010 conferences were more focused on cooperation in reconstruction of Afghanistan while the post-2010 conferences mostly concerned on security transition to Afghans and security situation of the country in the aftermath of a foreign troops’ withdrawal. All these conferences were extraordinarily significant for Afghanistan.
The Afghan government and Warsaw and Brussels Conferences
After the formation of the NUG, the London Conference on Afghanistan (2014) was convened where the Afghan government presented its scheme for reforms which was warmly welcomed by donor countries. In London Conference, 59 countries reaffirmed their commitments of supporting Afghanistan and also supported the Afghan-led peace process.
After the London Conference, Warsaw and Brussels are the most important conferences on Afghanistan. In Warsaw Conference on Afghanistan, the Afghan government succeeded to get the commitment of international community for $5bn financial aid a year until 2020. The difference between the two conferences is that the Warsaw Conference was mostly focused on security sector and Afghan security forces but in the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, issues like, Afghanistan’s reconstruction, economic growth, struggle against corruption, human rights and Afghanistan’s economic integration and cooperation was discussed.
The Afghan government looked forward to these conferences because it needed to gain the support of international community and aids of donor countries in order to fund its economic programs and security forces until 2020.
The Afghan government’s achievements in Brussels Conference
Around 70 countries and 30 international institutions had participated in Brussels Conference-held to help Afghanistan in the upcoming four years.
In this conference the leaders of the NUG, announced the new “Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF)” instead of the former “Afghanistan National Development Strategy” which continued from 2004 to 2008 and 2009 to 2013. According to the ANDPF, having budget is the main principle in order to execute major government policies and also the international community has agreed to adjust their financial aids in accordance to ANDPF in four upcoming years and in the meanwhile in a way that would avoid budgetary vacuum in these four years.
Besides that, the NUG also presented the report regarding the accomplishment of promises made in the London Conference. In the London Conference, the Afghan government had made commitments regarding good governance, struggle against corruption and some other issues and in Brussels Conference the Afghan government presented its achievements regarding rise in the country’s revenues, fight against corruption, economic integration and peace- the most important of which being the NUG-HI peace deal.
It changed 600 judges including every single provincial judge, released 20% prosecutors from posts, and fired 25% of custom officials., seizing over 100 Kabul city officials Passports on charges of corruption, , 95% of government officials have declared their assets, registration of 6000 properties, approval of 1250 contracts and saving $220m by the National Procurement Commission were the achievements of the NUG regarding struggle against corruption that was presented in Brussels Conference.
Regarding economic integration, the beginning of construction on TAPI, signing the MoU of TAP-500 between Turkmenistan-Afghanistan and Pakistan, inauguration of CASA-1000, inking the Chabahar port deal and the commencement of trade by the transit railway between China and Afghanistan were the NUG’s achievement regarding regional economic integration.
Compared to the past several years, the Afghan government’s revenue in 2015 was increased for the first time and even more than the target of International Monetary Fund (IMF) had specified. IMF had specified $2bn of revenue as target for Afghanistan and the Afghan government’s revenue in this year was $2.155bn; thus the government’s revenue has increased 22.4% compared to that of 2014. The Afghan government’s revenue in 2014 was $1.79bn.
Regarding women, there are now three women ministers, 9 women deputy ministers, a governor, deputy attorney general, deputy and two members of High Peace Council and four women Ambassadors in the NUG.
Regarding the economic situation and infrastructures, inauguration of the Salma Dam in Herat province with a capacity of producing 42 megawatts of electricity and irrigating 200 thousand hectares of land, rise of foreign investment from $51m in 2014 to $170m in 2015 and efforts to promote private sector and including them in the country’s economy were the achievements of the NUG.
Due to the preparation of the government and particularly Ministry of Finance for Brussels Conference, the NUG succeeded to attract $15.2bn in aid from international community until 2020. The United Kingdom and India pledged $1bn in aid for Afghanistan, Germany $1.7bn, Japan $0.9bn, Turkey $0.6bn, Pakistan $0.5bn, Saudi Arabia $0.1bn and Norway $0.078bn.
The impacts of the Brussels Conference on the situation of the country
The Afghan government is reliant on international donors for its expenditures; therefore, this conference is very significant for Afghanistan in the areas of economy and security.
The commitments, which donor countries had made in Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in 2012, ended in 2016 and, therefore, the Afghan government needed international community’s renewed support until 2020. Therefore, the Brussels Conference was vital for the Afghan National Unity Government and hence it was preparing for it since a long time.
In Warsaw and Brussels Conferences, the international community supported Afghanistan in the areas of politics, security and economy and this support would be a source of income for the Afghan government until 2020. After receiving these aids, the NUG would certainly have some significant economic developments.