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London Afghanistan conference: massive deterioration in safety for aid workers and rights campaigners - new survey finds

2 December 2014

• 60% felt less safe over past year
• 50% had received death threats or intimidation
• 73% had experienced a reduction in funding for their work

Ahead of the London Conference on Afghanistan, which will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, a coalition of charities and aid organisations has today released survey results which show aid workers and rights campaigners in the country feel dramatically less safe than a year ago.

In the survey of Afghans coming to London this week, 60% reported that they felt less safe in their work during the past year, with half of survey respondents stating that either they or their colleagues have suffered intimidation or death threats.

The London conference is co-hosted by the governments of the UK and Afghanistan and will be the first time new President Ashraf Ghani has attended a high-profile conference in Europe on the future of Afghanistan since he was declared the winner of the contested elections in September.

The London Afghanistan Conference has been billed as a platform for the international community to demonstrate enduring solidarity and support for Afghanistan.  However, the delegates also reported that as the international community draws down its military support to Afghanistan, development funding is also reducing. 73% of those surveyed reported having seen their funding drop in the past year, and 90% fear this prospect is imminent.

BAAG Director Jawed Nader said: “There is a clear picture of people feeling abandoned, vulnerable and underfunded. We risk leaving our colleagues in Afghanistan with a feeling of betrayal, that we are turning our back on them and leaving them exposed, both in terms of security and financially.

“This week’s conference is an opportunity to remember that the problems facing Afghans working to improve their country do not go away just because the foreign troops and camera crews have.

“The world has a duty to invest in Afghanistan and that means honouring financial commitments as well as continued protection mechanisms.”

Maria Raheen, of the Viyar Organisation in Balkh province, said: “If Afghanistan continues to fall due to insecurity then we will have a repeat of the years before and this will not only be bad for Afghanistan, but for the whole world.”

One respondent, the chairman of a cultural organisation in the southern province of Paktya, Naaem Ahmadzai, had to relocate his family to Kabul after a direct attack on his vehicle using a magnetic improvised explosive device.  Another commented that working with international partners can increase the risks to local staff, supporting earlier reports that some insurgent attacks have been based on allegations that local charities had spied for their Western partner organisations.

Some organisations reported that certain districts have become off-limits to them in the past year due to increased insurgent activity in a number of provinces, and respondents reported concern that vulnerable communities or groups are no longer able to receive their support.
There was some positive news, 73% of those surveyed stated their confidence in the new President and his administration to tackle Afghanistan’s problems. Meanwhile, 93% felt that there have been, on aggregate, improvements in the lives of Afghans over the past ten years.

Frozan Mashal, of the Public Awareness Time Hour Organisation, said: “To say that I have confidence in the President is not 100% right. However after the oath taking ceremony the President and the first lady have shown that they are committed to women’s rights through many programmes for women.”

BAAG is a network organisation of 30 British/Irish charities including Amnesty International, Action Aid, Christian Aid, Afghanaid, Global Witness and Tearfund.

Participants in the survey are the Afghan delegates invited to attend the London conference, selected in a process organised by the Kabul-based Civil Society Joint Working Group. They represent 30 development, human rights and campaigning organistaions.

If you would like further information or to arrange an interview with one of the Afghan delegates, please contact Jo Rogers on jrogers@christian-aid.org and 020 7523 2460. 24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended:  this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.  Further details at http://actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk


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