Foreign Aid efforts in AfghanistanAfghanistan’s evolution after two gruesome decades of immense adversity has caught the attention of countries all over the world. The South Asian nation has made breakthroughs in infrastructure, getting millions of girls in school and improving community development. Nonetheless, foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan are still crucial for the further development of the country.

Foreign Aid Skepticism and COVID-19

The world wants to see Afghanistan succeed, but despite willing donors, definitive complications hinder the level of aid that Afghanistan is severely reliant on. The imminent withdrawal of U.S. troops has caused violence from the Taliban to spike while pressures of long-awaited peace talks between the two powers unfold, making donors wary of sending money that could be wasted due to corruption based on past events.

On top of that, COVID-19 is running rampant and bruising economies all over the world, cutting aid efforts in half compared to previous years.

Afghanistan’s rooted systematic issues will continue to undermine any reconstruction and development efforts unless a clear and mindful plan is made that addresses the topical concerns affecting the nation and motions toward this kind of growth are beginning to come to fruition. There are several important facts to note about foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan.

Cuts to US Forces Links to Cuts Toward Aid

To end the United States’ longest war, the Pentagon announced that a cut to U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 will be underway by mid-January 2021. This decision has already sparked vigilance and tensions between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, as there is a great concern that the Taliban will feel invited to expand its influence and interfere with hopes of peace and progress. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, urges that Afghans are in “acute need” of humanitarian support, stating that nearly 300,000 Afghans have been displaced by conflict in 2020.

Deadly attacks on Afghan forces show the Taliban’s intentions during a time where peace talks are being strained after months of stagnance and it has made donors feel uneasy about whether the Taliban could abuse any funding meant for aid. Even amongst suspicions, foreign donors like Germany are still showing support, urging the international community “not to turn their backs on Afghanistan.”

Ensuring Prosperity is an International Effort

After 19 years of promised reforms and attempts to grow the economy after the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan will still be reliant on international support for the foreseeable future. Ministers from about 70 countries and officials from humanitarian organizations have pledged a total of $12 billion to the war-torn country over the next four years, at Afghanistan’s international donor conference held on Nov. 23 and 24 of 2020.

Germany has pledged $510 million in civilian assistance, the United Kingdom pledged $227 million in civilian and food aid, Norway pledged $72 million in development assistance and humanitarian aid and the United States pledged $600 million in civilian aid but made half of it conditional on the progress of Taliban peace talks. The U.S. was not alone in donating with specific conditions. All donors stressed that aid would only come as long as Afghanistan shows that it is committed to the peace process and that all parties to the Afghan conflict must respect human rights.

COVID-19 Causes Donation Restraints

Afghanistan is one of many countries taking an economic plunge due to COVID-19. The poverty level jumped from 54% last year to 70% during the pandemic, with more than half the population living on $1.14 a day, despite the billions of dollars devoted to the country over the last two decades.

A global pandemic combined with fragile circumstances emphasizes the need for foreign aid in Afghanistan, but with the heavy burden of COVID-19, most international donors have made significant restrictions on how much they can give. At the last donor conference in 2016, countries pledged a total of $15.2 billion for the years 2017-2020 compared to the $12 billion for 2021-2024.

Past Corruption is Obstructing Development

The U.S. government’s independent oversight authority on Afghan reconstruction, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), reported on October 20, 2021, that $19 billion of the total $63 billion that the U.S. has spent on Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2002 was lost to waste, fraud and abuse.

With corruption forming such a stain on Afghanistan’s reputation and leaving remnants of distrust amongst potential donors, it is apparent why obtaining the necessary aid for growth and development has been such a hindrance for the war-torn country. That is why it is vital to ensure that future investments being made toward reconstruction are not lost and exploited.

Prospects for Peace

The Afghan government and the Taliban have endured a three-month impasse regarding peace talks that were finally brought to a close on November 2, 2020. The Afghan government and the Taliban are now expected to implement an agenda on how they can be partners in developmental changes and advancing realistic and sustainable peace plans.

As the world carefully watches the peace talks unfold, there is hope for a new start. Afghanistan is ready to transform into what it has envisioned for decades, and with realistic compromises set in place, there is an assurance that donors and the international community will feel less wary about foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

In war-stricken places, we often see a desensitization and even normalization of violence among the people, particularly in younger generations. The results of a survey conducted at Afghanistan’s Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education further supports this idea: the survey found that when confronted with violent actions or words, 58 percent of the targeted students would “take revenge.” With that said, 91 percent of students surveyed believed that their country will be peaceful in the future, a vision that could become more likely as the Gawharshad Institute rolls out a mandatory class encouraging peaceful resolutions.

The Gawharshad Institute, in response to the confirmation of this theory, has developed a curriculum to change this thought process and to encourage more positive, beneficial ways of coping. Students are now required to take a “Peace-Building and Conflict Resolution” class. Similar programs have been put into place in smaller elementary and high schools, but the Gawharshad Institute is the first to gain approval from the Ministry of Higher Education. The program focuses on major pathways for violence, such as land disputes. By catering the program specifically to the types of problems students currently see and will most likely see after graduation, students gain realistic and implementable tools that in the long run, and with more widespread popularity of the program, could help alleviate some of the problems the country faces with violence.

Of course, violence is generally both an outcome and a cause for developmental challenges, and so to completely lift the country out of the violent cycle it has been stuck in for decades, more systematic change is needed. However, education is one of the leading solutions for improving the conditions of developing countries. In the widespread chaos that followed the U.S. invasion of 2001, Afghanistan’s education system has faced complete turmoil as staff fled and few children attended school. Since then, education in Afghanistan has been one of the major standout points for the country. Attendance and acquisition rates are some of the highest in Afghanistan’s history. As students learn peaceful negotiation and de-escalation tactics and put these new skills to use in their future careers, Afghanistan will see a change in its general way of thinking in relation to violence. Though the high incidence of conflict is directly related to governmental problems, such as a lack of power and control, as these students graduate and develop their careers, some likely in government, the country as a whole will likely become less violent.

Though it may take a while for the results and implications of the program to become obvious, the course, if proven effective, may serve as a model for schools around the world. The idea of teaching real-life skills to prepare students to excel in the real world is the focus of such higher education institutions, so it would make sense that in places where violence is such a huge part of life, emphasis is put on keeping it abnormal and providing alternative tools for coping.

Emma Dowd

Sources: Foreign Policy, USAID
Photo: Our Journey to Smile

Alliance for Peacebuilding
The Alliance for Peacebuilding, or AfP, seeks to find innovative approaches to Peacebuilding through a number of related fields, including development, relief, human rights, democracy and security sector reform.

Launched in 1999 as the Applied Conflict Resolution Organization Network, the organization obtained a $1 million dollar funding grant from the Hewlett Foundation in 2003. Following the grant, ACORN became the Alliance for International Conflict Prevention and Resolution. In 2006, AICPR became AfP with a focus on collaboration among organizations and different peacebuilding parties.

Today, AfP aims to innovate, influence and connect Congress as well as the general public to strengthen peacebuilding activities. Consisting of more than 70 peacebuilding organizations from across the world, AfP has over 15,000 volunteers and employees throughout the globe and employs 1,000 professionals.

With its headquarters in Washington, D.C., AfP focuses it energy on eight different programs as it advocates for peacebuilding. These include policymaker engagement, human security, strategic communication and genocide prevention. The organization also hosts an annual conference where AfP members can reach out to other members of the broader peacebuilding community to share ideas and insights within the field.

The keynote address at this year’s AfP conference, hosted in May, focused on developing games as a tool for peace. Asi Burak, the president of Games for Change, noted how the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that draws gamers throughout the world of different races, genders and nationalities. “Peacemaker,” a game based on the events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, allows players to become their own leader and to try to bring peace to the region.

May’s conference also featured discussions on the challenges facing African countries, including Nigeria and Kenya, the need for peacebuilders to collect relevant data in their fields and a discussion on providing peacebuilders with the necessary communication tools for storytelling purposes.

AfP maintains partnerships with a number of organizations, coalitions and platforms. These include the United States Institute of Peace, the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum and the Peace Portal, among others.

AfP also publishes an online magazine titled “Building Peace: A Forum for Peace and Security in the 21st Century.” With its most recent publication being March of this year, each issue features a variety of stories following a particular theme. The most recent theme, detailing men, women and peace, featured stories exploring the role of gender in peacebuilding activities.

Along with other human rights organizations, AfP recently announced its support for the Syrian Humanitarian Resolution of 2014. The resolution, introduced by 19 senators in March, expressed concern for the crisis in the country and “the urgent need for a political solution to the crisis.”

AfP and the organizations in support of the resolution stated in a joint statement their commitment to ensuring the Syrian nation does not “lose another year to bloodshed and suffering…We stand with the people of Syria…in calling our leaders to make the same commitment and engage the public. We urge strong support for and swift passage of this critical resolution.”

At last year’s U.N. General Assembly, AfP asked members of the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding and people on the street what they believed the post-Millennium goals should be. Numerous interviewees said they intended to see advances in human rights and gender equality as well as an increased awareness in climate change.

Additionally, those interviewed stated such goals could help to promote global peace.

As death tolls in Iraq soar into the hundreds following jihadist violence in the past several weeks, calls for nonviolent resolutions to issues separating different cultures and countries remains at the forefront of the world’s collective consciousness.

— Ethan Safran

Sources: Alliance for Peacebuilding, Building Peace
Photo: CNN

Band Of Brothers Steven Spielberg Conflict Resolution Easy Company
From sci-fi and action thrillers, like E.T. and Jaws, to historical dramas such as AmistadSchindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan, director and producer Steven Spielberg has done it all – and he’s done it well. Spielberg has produced and directed everything from amateur releases to box office masterpieces and has won multiple Academy Awards in the process.

A common thread in all his works seems to be his detail and interest in conflict resolution. Time and time again, his characters are faced with impossible circumstances; yet through perseverance and determination, a favorable outcome is usually reached on their behalf. Perhaps this is a means of teaching the audience life lessons.

Spielberg movies teach us about conflict resolution. First and foremost, they teach us that giving up is never an option – Spielberg characters never take an easy out.

Take Saving Private Ryan, for example, when Miller and his troop go searching for the paratrooper, Ryan, they easily could have left after the first bump in the road. However, they didn’t. They kept on searching until they found him, thus making the story the epic tale that it is.

Spielberg audiences are also taught that helping others ultimately helps oneself. This is portrayed in several Spielberg movies. In Amistad, freeing the illegally enslaved Africans gives Americans a sense of morale and gives the country a backbone to rely upon. Again, in Saving Private Ryan, helping Army authorities by retrieving Ryan also helps the fellow soldiers get back home faster. In Schindler’s List, Schindler employs numerous Jews, and in return, is able to gain their love and trust.

Audiences are also taught to fight until the finish. Honorable characters in Spielberg movies stay until the conflict at hand is over, thus exemplifying reliability and loyalty. Take any of the Transformers movies for example – Sam always waits to see what happens and shows courage in the face of peril.

Another component of conflict resolution in Spielberg movies is the fact that characters never leave their men behind. They are loyal until their last breaths.

Last but certainly not least, Spielberg movies teach audiences to be kindhearted—to show mercy and humility to those deserving of it. Spielberg movies show that conflict resolution can be obtained by respecting others, by not boasting in times of advantage, and by only using violence when necessary. “I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel,” Miller said in Saving Private Ryan.

Steven Spielberg has made a name for himself by which movies he chooses to direct and produce. Nearly all movies associated with Spielberg teach some form of conflict resolution to its viewers. The reason for this is not really known, but audiences hear his messages loud and clear. Spielberg’s thoughts and theories on conflict resolution seem to be both rational and reasonable, leaving plenty of food for thought. What if more people adapted to these methods of conflict resolution?

– Meagan Hurley

Sources: IMDb Steven Spielberg, IMDb Saving Private Ryan Quotes, Kottke, Tactical Operations Center
Photo: The Guardian

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in Ambassador's Circle
“We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes—and we must.” These words of our remarkable former President Jimmy Carter form the foundation of a center striving for a better world. In 1982, former President Carter and wife, Rosalynn founded a non-profit organization “committed to advancing human rights” named, “The Carter Center.” In partnership with Emory University, the Atlanta-based organization has made great strides in improving the human condition worldwide. Here are three noteworthy initiatives of the Carter Center:

  1. In promoting global health, the Carter Center led a coalition poised to bring an end to Guinea Worm Disease. Also known as dracunculiasis, this disease was found in 3.5 million people in 1986. In that year, the Carter Center came to the fore and led a campaign to prevent this preventable infection in countries throughout Africa. In the years that followed, the Carter Center has been able to drastically reduce the prevalence of the disease through water filtration programs, water treatment programs, and programs educating the public about dracunculiasis. Today, Guinea Worm Disease is on the brink of eradication, with only 542 reported cases in 2012.
  2. In promoting democracy, the Carter Center has played an extensive role in overseeing elections in countries globally. Since its founding, the center has monitored over 90 elections in some 37 countries. In each election, the center plays a role in evaluating a given country’s electoral laws, overseeing voter registration, and assessing the fairness of campaigns. In 2005, the center became involved in drafting a document outlining the standards for election observers in countries around the world. Known as the Declaration of Principles for International Observation, this document has been embraced by organizations internationally
  3. Among the Carter Center’s most innovative programs is its Conflict Resolution Program. The center aims to improve dialogue and negotiations as a means of producing real solutions tailored to each given nation. In Liberia, for example, a country that endured lawlessness for years, the center is working to “reestablish the rule of law.” The center spearheaded a campaign promoting and strengthening legal institutions in the country, as well as creating constructive partnerships between citizens and their government.

Learn more at

– Lina Saud

Sources: Carter Center, CDC