Launch of Research Paper on Prospects and Economic Priorities for a Durable Peace in Afghanistan

Posted on: 01-10-2020

On Thursday, October 1, 2020, the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS), launched its recent research paper titled “Prospects and Economic Priorities for a Durable Peace in Afghanistan” Distinguished politicians, academics, civil society members and media representatives attended the event. This paper aims to examine economic prospects and challenges for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. In doing so, it explores the state of the economy and conflict, prospects for a political settlement, priorities and the political economy.

The launching ceremony was accompanied by a roundtable discussion with Dr. Nematullah Bizhan, lecturer at the Australian National University and AISS research fellow; Zabihullah Ziarmal, first vice chairman at International Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan; Zia Danesh, director of public awareness in State Ministry for Peace; and Mohammad Nabi Sroosh, Deputy Minister of Economy. The event was moderated by Mitra Mehran, researcher/civil activist.

Dr. Nematullah Bizhan was the first speaker of the program. He first addressed the overall purpose of the study that looks at the prospects of economic challenges of negotiating an agreement to resolve the conflict. He said there are three priorities to maintain order after the agreement: maintaining past achievements, reviving Afghanistan's national economy, and integrating former fighters. Bizhan referred to the four scenarios envisaged for the post-agreement order: best case scenario, current situation scenario, intermediate case scenario, and worst-case scenario, and discussed economic growth in all four scenarios. He also addressed the cost of war in his speech.

Mohammad Nabi Soroush spoke next. Peace has serious implications for Afghanistan's economic growth and prosperity; it is important that its definition not only puts an end to violence, but also ensures political stability, inclusive governance, preservation of past achievements, and peace with oneself and one's neighbors, he said. These points should be taken into consideration when defining peace. Over the past two decades the war economy in Afghanistan has been costly for both the government and the international community; with 50 percent of the national budget spent on the security sector. Soroush added that despite the many challenges, Afghanistan has also made some progress in the economy, with an average GDP growth of about 9% by 2014 and domestic revenues increased from $130 million in 2002 to $9.7 billion in 2019.

Zabiullah Ziarmal referred to the content of the study, and said that Afghanistan's heavy dependence on the international community is one of the main points of this study. Unfortunately, about 50% of international aid has been spent on the security sector. Ziarmal stated that the private sector has priorities that should be considered by the Government of Afghanistan. He said the government should prioritize reforming the legal framework (laws and policies) in any situation; as well as try to increase trade and attract more foreign investment. He also pointed to independent economic groups as another priority of the private sector; he believes these groups act as safe economic islands and contribute to economic growth in the country. Privatization of service delivery, access to credit, and the creation of investment markets were other issues that Ziarmal emphasized.

Zia Danesh was the final speaker of the program. He believes that criminal economy and poverty are two key issues in Afghanistan, both in terms of continuing war, and recruiting opposition forces. He referred to the Geneva Conference as a platform to focus on the post-war economy and how to help in peacetime. According to him, lack of fair distribution of opportunities is another factor that has prolonged the war. Danesh stated that the Senior Government and Semi-Government Coordination Committee, which consists of 14 government agencies, has been set up to address urgent needs and combat economic poverty, to coordinate with the State Ministry for Peace during the ceasefire, and to provide assistance to affected areas.

You can find the full research paper below: