Peacekeeping: Donor Fatigue Over Afghanistan

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August 5, 2015: The UN is distressed with the growing difficulty in getting donors for refugee support operations in Pakistan. There, for over thirty years, the UN has solicited donations and supported millions of Afghan refugees with the billions of dollars raised. All this began with the 1979 Russian invasion that drove about five million Afghans into Pakistan and Iran. The Russians lost 15,000 troops, while 1.5 million Afghans died during the 1979-89 Russian occupation and eventually gave up and left. Russia and their pro-Russian Afghan government still controlled most of Afghanistan when Russian troops departed. The Russians gave the pro-Russian government some $300 million a year until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. After that, the payments stopped and the pro-Russian government fell in 1992. The subsequent civil war enabled the Taliban to take control by 1996. Through all this few (about 150,000) Afghans wanted to return to Afghanistan and many more fled to Pakistan and Iran. So the UN was stuck with trying to support these refugee populations.

When the Taliban were overthrown in late 2001 and aid began pouring into Afghanistan from the West. With that the Afghan economy experienced explosive growth, which continues. By 2008 most of the refugees had returned from Pakistan and Iran, but by then the Taliban had reformed and began fighting again. At that point there were nearly three million Afghans living in Pakistan, most of them born there and only 60 percent of them legally registered as refugees (and thus eligible for refugee aid). At this point donors began refusing to give for Afghan refugees in Pakistan because the refugees seemed reluctant to return home. Only 130,000 Afghan refugees have moved back to Afghanistan in the first half of 2015 and the UN is having a hard time justifying over three decades of money for refugees who now act like migrants. The foreign aid groups call this "donor fatigue" and it has been around for a long time but started becoming acute in the 1990s. Donors are not just tired of providing “temporary relief” for refugees but are also put off by the growing corruption among aid officials and the refugee community itself. Thus recent UN fund raising efforts for Afghan refugees in Pakistan failed. The UN was able to obtain only about 40 percent of the aid donations it sought in the first half of 2015. Donors are more inclined to give for new emergencies or older ones that are more efficiently run. There are plenty of those, and never enough money to go around.

 

 


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