What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Landmines

I have recently wondered about the significance of that in Afghanistan last year still over 600 people were killed by landmines and other unexploded explosive ordnance remaining behind from the 1980s or from later times.
Yesterday I was glad to see the Hungarian public television MTV report on ICRC's ongoing campaign to raise awareness about this issue during the Euro 2008 football championship. Good to see them pay attention to this, and not ignore this, over the same week that a Hungarian combat engineer was killed trying to dismantle an IED in Baghlan province.
ICRC is UEFA's (the Union of European Football Associations) official partner for Euro 2008, and, among others, there's Mohammed Kabir as well to take part in the series of events organised as part of the campaign. He is an Afghan man who became relatively well-known for having stepped on a landmine while playing football with his friends in a field. Obviously, for a great number of people his is the sort of story that can bring home the horrific nature of the landmine/UXO threat. See a lot of moving images here.
One could, by the way, also check out Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's movie "Safar e Ghandehar" for the dramatic effect of the famous scene with prosthetic limbs raining from the sky on parachutes.
But the point is that mines have no place in a peaceful land. If you want to do peacebuilding in Afghanistan, you have to get the country rid of the landmines.
How about announcing an enhanced demining sweep? Or something akin to that? At least in the areas not affected by the insurgency.
Unfortunately, I haven't seen such things coming from Paris. A lot of countries made pledges that included sums of money already earmarked to be spent. Or making pledges taking into account their flow of aid precalculated years ago, announcing a part of that sum for an x number of years from now on as a new commitment. So numbers from Paris don't really tell any kind of story other than one of business as usual.
Supposedly, the Paris donor conference could have meant something at least in terms of how the aid is spent. Well, they asked Afghanistan not be so corrupt and that will surely revolutionise life there. They also concluded that Afghanistan wouldn't really have the capacity to spend more money. Which is the sort of thing I hate. They wouldn't have the capacity to have their country demined? To have roads to travel on? Even while their cause has the capacity to finance the livelihood of a large number of consultants?
I understand it that resources are not endless. Of course. But please don't complain so much about local capacity all the time when we haven't got to that basic stage where it could really make a difference. (By the way, who made political parties in Afghanistan as weak as they are so they can't exert that much targeted pressure for the sake of improved governance? Who designed the institution of the presidency so that for all interests, local and global alike, one man named Hamed Karzai should find the common denominator?)
I always see the ghost of cultural relativism lingering around this, haunting us in instances like this.
Remember how it is often hinted that Afghanistan has always been like it is today? That it has always been poor? That there hasn't ever existed statehood in a Western sense? That there feuding and internal war is the norm? Semi-truths that some people use to suggest that Afghans' contemporary condition is somehow self-explaining.
Well, those landmines have ended up in the ground in Afghanistan since the 1980s. They haven't always been there.

1 comment:

Guy said...

"Remember how it is often hinted that Afghanistan has always been like it is today? That it has always been poor? That there hasn't ever existed statehood in a Western sense? That there feuding and internal war is the norm? Semi-truths that some people use to suggest that Afghans' contemporary condition is somehow self-explaining."

So accurate it isn't funny. The British media are particuarly good at this. One mention of Afghanistan and out come the Rudyard Kipling quotations and allusions to the Great Game, the Soviets and British imperial adventures. All else is ignored.