Make Civilian Security in Afghanistan a NATO Summit Priority, CCIC Urges PM

April 1, 2009

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the eve of the Strasbourg NATO Summit (3-4 April), CCIC President and CEO, Gerry Barr, urges him to take a leadership role in "promoting measures to increase the safety and protection of civilians caught in the conflict, and in particular those involved with development and humanitarian work inside Afghanistan."

A CCIC briefing note on civil-military relations in Afghanistan, Aid in the Crosshairs, accompanies the letter to the Prime Minister. The note documents the growing insecurity experienced by Afghan civilians and aid workers: 120 attacks against aid workers in 2008, resulting in 30 deaths and 92 abductions; 256 attacks against schools, resulting in 58 deaths and 46 injuries in 2008; more than 600 schools forced to close because of insecurity, leaving 300,000 students without essential education.

The perceived association between international military forces and civilian aid has led to threats against development and humanitarian organizations by anti-government groups, undermined the progress of development efforts, and impeded their ability to work with vulnerable communities.

"We are profoundly concerned that military involvement with aid is increasing risk for civilians," says Barr.

CCIC is also concerned that military imperatives, rather than needs, are determining the geographic distribution of humanitarian and development assistance. For example, Canada allocates 50% of its aid to Kandahar province, to the detriment of poor and vulnerable communities elsewhere in the country. The effect may be to increase regional tensions between the North and the South.

The letter urges Mr. Harper, during the NATO Summit, to:

1. Recommend a clear separation between civilian aid and military actors in Afghanistan.

2. Urge all NATO troop-contributing countries to respect and implement the Afghanistan Civil and Military Guidelines and abide by the strictest standards of international humanitarian law.

3. Recognize and promote a balanced "needs-based" approach to the distribution of humanitarian and development aid in all regions, stressing the role of Afghan citizens and government in determining priorities for donors.

For more information, please contact:

Peter Puxley
Media Relations
Canadian Council for International Co-operation

Tiffany Baggetta 
Sr. Communications Officer/Advocacy 
World Vision Canada