Afghanistan’s foreign donors should press the government to safeguard gains in education and promote civilian protection, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today in a letter to foreign leaders ahead of the key Brussels Summit on Afghanistan which starts on Tuesday.
Participating countries to the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan on October 5, 2016, are expected to reaffirm their financial support to the Afghan government at a time when continuing conflict, widening insecurity, and political infighting threaten the government’s reform agenda, said HRW in a statement.
“The Brussels Conference is a crucial opportunity for donors to commit to a more robust role in insisting the Afghan government make good on its promises to improve human rights,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“While donors are preoccupied with deterring refugee flight, they should focus instead on security force and Taliban abuses and children’s lack of access to education, and address the reasons people are so desperate to leave,” he said.
Although millions of Afghan children have had greater access to education as a result of donor support over the past 15 years, these gains are now at serious risk, HRW said.
Funding, particularly for community-based education, is stagnating, with girls being hit hardest, while corruption – particularly the sale of teaching positions – has undermined the quality of teachers.
Donors should press the Afghan government to address corruption, and provide support for expanding community-based education programs, the statement read.
HRW went on to say that donors should also urge the Afghan government to curtail abuses by its security forces, including the military’s use of schools.
As security throughout Afghanistan has deteriorated, security forces have increasingly put children in harm’s way by occupying schools, often using them as military bases. This turns school buildings into possible targets for attack, and is contrary to the Safe Schools Declaration, which Afghanistan endorsed in May last year.
At the London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014, Afghanistan’s donors “noted the importance of protecting and strengthening free media.” However, violence against journalists has increased, much of it perpetrated by government officials.
While President Ashraf Ghani has pledged his support for the media, powerful officials and strongmen responsible for threats and violence against journalists have not been held accountable, said HRW.
“Donors say they want the Afghan government to commit to curbing refugee flight, so why are they silent on the human rights abuses that fuel refugee flows?” Adams said.
“Protecting schools, providing security, and holding security forces accountable are all crucial to improving human rights in Afghanistan,” he added.