About the Author: Richard Ponzio serves as Senior Strategy & Policy Officer in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization
On July 20, 2010, the Government of Afghanistan will convene Foreign Ministers from around the world for the Kabul Conference, co-chaired by the United Nations, to deliberate and endorse an Afghan Government-led plan for improved development opportunities, governance, and stability. The gathering will mark the culmination of several intensive months of careful study and policy debate on new programming priorities and the implementation of the five-year Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) for the period mid-2008 to mid-2013.
In June 2009, the U.S. Embassy responded to a request from the Afghan Minister of Finance and the UN Development Program (UNDP), to facilitate a technical support mission to review and consider options for a new phase of international support to the implementation and monitoring of the ANDS. The mission team, lead by the Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization (S/CRS), included participation from the Afghan Ministries of Finance and Economy, UNDP, and the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, and it consulted partners from across government, civil society, and the donor community in Afghanistan. Following the 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan, a four year ($10 million) UN support project for the ANDS was finalized and agreed to by the Government of Afghanistan.
Upon the establishment, in January 2010, of a new office of the Afghan Deputy Minister of Finance for Policy Humayun Hamidzada (a chief recommendation of the technical support mission), S/CRS embedded three staff members in the Ministry of Finance, joining a group from many U.S. agencies who mentor and assist in Afghanistan's ministries and provincials governments. The team is tasked to assist the Deputy Minister develop a large and highly skilled staff charged with whole-of-government policy analysis, planning, coordination, and monitoring functions related to ANDS implementation. An important first milestone for the new Deputy Minister is to oversee the substantive preparations for the Kabul Conference, scheduled for July 20.
Through an innovative clustering of ministries around key issues of governance, economic and infrastructure development, human resource development, and agriculture and rural development, the Kabul Conference will create a compact between Afghanistan's government and its people to improve development and governance. By further investing in Afghanistan's institutional and human capacities, and ensuring that the country's recovery is truly Afghan-led by channeling more donor resources through the government, the Kabul Conference is the country's first gathering at the Foreign Minister level since 9/11. Already anticipation is mounting in Kabul following a series of consultations held in April with representatives of Afghan civil society, academia, and the private sector.
Kabul Conference preparations have mobilized technical advisors from USAID; the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, and State; as well as numerous offices and agencies at U.S. Embassy Kabul and throughout Afghanistan. As a result of commitments made at this high-level gathering, the international community's civil-military planning and broader programming efforts will be further harmonized with the Government of Afghanistan's socio-economic development, governance strengthening, and security sector reform priorities. Ultimately, America and the wider international community's success will depend on whether Afghans steadily assume full responsibility for their country and collective destiny.