Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Evolving Role of Humanitarian Assistance: Case Study of Afghanistan

Featured Speakers: Rick Corsino, United Nations World Food Programme Afghanistan Eric Meissner; Former USAID Advisor to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A); John Patten, International Medical Corps; Kim Maynard, International Rescue Committee

Moderator: Rick Barton, CSIS

The panel, comprised of members with extensive experience in Afghanistan, provided an overview of humanitarian and military operations currently stationed there. The amount of red, or ‘no-go’, areas in the southern reaches of Afghanistan have expanded in recent months, making it difficult for relief agencies to provide services to those in desperate need of food, shelter and health care. Because of these conditions, Provincial Response Teams which are militarily trained stand alone in these areas and are desperate for inter-agency assistance. Because of the instability in Afghanistan these teams have been the most effective; however, stabilization is only the first step. There is a clear need for more development is needed to ensure that secure areas do not relapse once Special Forces depart.

The panelists articulated two areas of future focus: greater interagency cooperation and local-level consultative projects. The current disconnect between military and civilian operations make it difficult to achieve a holistic approach to humanitarian assistance. Greater coordination will allow specialized agencies to focus on needs they address best.

With regard to long-term impact, a consultative approach is essential to ensuring that Afghans can manage their own country once foreign actors hand over control to local authorities. The National Solidarity Program, a country-wide initiative created to increase Afghan involvement in the decision-making process, has found that local efforts are most effective. The International Rescue Committee, for example, has facilitated elections with local Community Development Councils, which give Afghans experience with democratic processes as well as local responsibilities. These interactions have shown that working with communities is the most effective way to assess needs and implement useful projects. Once these systems are operationalized, humanitarian actors should focus their work on transitioning power into local hands.

Sponsor: CSIS Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project
Location: CSIS
Date: June 7, 2007
Time: 10:00-11:30AM
Approximate Number of Attendees: 40
Intern Attending: Alexandra Martins

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