UK — Improved governance in Helmand

Lindy Cameron, who has recent­ly returned from Afghanistan where she head­ed up the Hel­mand Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team, spoke yes­ter­day about recent improved gov­er­nance and its pos­i­tive impacts on the Afghan pop­u­la­tion.

Ms Cameron has been deployed to Afghanistan over recent months as head of the Hel­mand Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team and NATO Senior Civil­ian for Region­al Com­mand (South West). 

Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Teams (PRTs) are at the heart of NATO’s ISAF mis­sion. Made up of mil­i­tary and civil­ian per­son­nel, they embody a joint approach to sta­bil­is­ing Afghanistan. The UK-led PRT in Hel­mand is based in Lashkar Gah. 

As the head of the Hel­mand PRT, Ms Cameron direct­ed the inter­na­tion­al sta­bil­i­sa­tion and devel­op­ment work across the province, includ­ing some 200 civil­ian and mil­i­tary staff from the UK, the US, Den­mark and Esto­nia. These per­son­nel are deployed in ten dis­trict sta­bil­i­sa­tion teams through­out the province and pro­vide civil­ian exper­tise and men­tor­ing to their Afghan gov­ern­ment coun­ter­parts, as well as man­ag­ing devel­op­ment projects that direct­ly ben­e­fit the Afghan population. 

Speak­ing yes­ter­day Ms Cameron con­trast­ed the sit­u­a­tion in Hel­mand province on her first vis­it in 2006, when inse­cu­ri­ty, a dev­as­tat­ed econ­o­my and unpro­duc­tive gov­er­nance plagued the province, with the progress she has wit­nessed over the past year. 

She specif­i­cal­ly cit­ed the ben­e­fits of Gov­er­nor Gulab Mangal’s lead­er­ship. He imple­ment­ed the first mer­it-based selec­tion of dis­trict gov­er­nors as well as an effec­tive alter­na­tive liveli­hoods pro­gramme. As a result, the peo­ple of Hel­mand have demon­strat­ed a grad­ual shift in con­fi­dence in the Afghan Gov­ern­ment. Recruit­ment to the civ­il ser­vice has increased, pub­lic debate has become more inclu­sive, and more indi­vid­u­als are will­ing to run for dis­trict com­mu­ni­ty councils. 

She also praised the efforts of the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces, as not a shot was fired with­in six kilo­me­tres of Helmand’s cap­i­tal of Lashkar Gah dur­ing the recent par­lia­men­tary elections. 

Instead of focus­ing on secu­ri­ty, offi­cials were able to focus on fight­ing fraud, with inter­na­tion­al experts play­ing a min­i­mal role. 

On progress in Mar­jah, Ms Cameron not­ed that ‘Mar­jah is mak­ing exact­ly the kind of progress we would expect it to’, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of the fact that the dis­trict start­ed from a much low­er base­line than any­where else. Gov­er­nance had to be built ‘from scratch’ and, while still a work in progress, she saw real evi­dence that the Gov­ern­ment is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence dur­ing a vis­it there last week. 

The focus­ing of resources on Mar­jah result­ed in Afghan Gov­ern­ment con­trol of all the dis­trict cen­tres in cen­tral Hel­mand, mul­ti­ply­ing the pos­i­tive impact on the population’s confidence. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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