No more empty promises: Afghans want to see real action now

Media Releases, News article written on the 19 Jul 2010

The Kabul Conference to be held this week must be a turning point not another wasted opportunity, international aid agency Oxfam said.

Tomorrow marks the ninth international conference on Afghanistan in nearly as many years. In a new paper, published today, Oxfam says previous high-profile conferences promised much but achieved little.  

Oxfam today calls on the world leaders attending the Kabul Conference to tackle the underlying causes of the development and humanitarian crises unfolding in Afghanistan – and help ordinary people lift themselves out of poverty.

More than US $40 billion has been spent on aid to Afghanistan over the past nine years, yet millions of Afghans still live in poverty. The security situation is worse than at any point since the fall of the Taliban, and donors are increasing focused on short cuts and military-led approaches. The United States, for example, has significantly decreased their funding for humanitarian activities, while US funding for “hearts and minds” activities has increased over 2500 percent.

Oxfam’s Head of Advocacy in Afghanistan Ashley Jackson said: “Many Afghans are tired of conferences where ministers from all over the world talk about the future of their country with nothing changing on the ground.  

“Afghans want jobs. They want to feel safe when they walk down the street. They want doctors in their hospitals and decent teachers in their schools. Now is the time for action – not more empty pledges and rhetoric. The needs of ordinary Afghans must be put first.”

The paper, called Promises Promises, says Afghans are increasingly on the front lines of the conflict. According to the UN, assassinations of community leaders, government workers, and other civilians now average one per day.

While many Afghans are desperate for peace, current reintegration plans threaten to be the latest in a long line of quick fixes. The program, due to be endorsed at the Kabul Conference, barely mentions how genuine grievances will be addressed, and many fear these plans will grant impunity without addressing the crimes of the past.

The international community hopes for “a new social contract” between the Afghan Government and its people. But Oxfam fears that ordinary people could end up on the sidelines, rather than at the heart of this new contract.

“Holding yet another one-day conference is not the way to solve the long-term problems facing Afghanistan. It creates the illusion of action but it is actually what happens after the conference that matters most.

“We’re deeply concerned that far too many troop contributing countries are looking for ways to get their troops out rather than looking at the root causes of the conflict and poverty,” Jackson said.

Many Afghans say they want corruption to be tackled as an urgent priority, yet not a single high-level official has been investigated and successfully tried for corruption. 

As one Afghan civil servant said: “Donors should monitor each penny so the government can’t get away with corruption.

For more information or to arrange interviews with Ashley Jackson, the author of the briefing note, please call:

 In Kabul, contact Louise Hancock on +93 (0) 700 294 364 or write to; or Kobra Ahmadi on +93 (0) 700 400 948 or write to

In Australia, Kate Thwaites on +61 407 515 559,

A copy of the briefing paper can be found here: