Afghanistan has had a turbulent history, and its economy relies heavily on international aid. The nation continues to struggle for economic independence and, while there are many exciting opportunities, the road to reaching this goal will be long. Recently, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disaster held an international conference titled “Rebuilding Sustainable Communities in Afghanistan: The Way Forward” to tackle this issue.
The conference affirmed that the future of sustainable development in Afghanistan lies in the private sector. By securing private international investment, the nation can begin to develop those business enterprises needed to support an expanding economy. As businesses grow, they will begin to drive economic development with new revenue streams. However, private sector growth requires security and a robust regulatory structure that can guarantee investment protection. This regulatory structure must also be enforceable. Millions of dollars of aid have helped Afghanistan build important infrastructure, such as roads, dams, hospitals, and schools. Private sector expansion is key to the sustainability of these structures once international aid dwindles.
Experts at the conference also called for strengthening law enforcement in Afghanistan. Rather than focusing on militarization, discussions emphasized a move toward a stronger judicial system. By enforcing laws through prosecution, Afghanistan can discourage the corruption that has limited private sector investments in the country. The need for a stronger justice system partly involves the formation of a strong constitution that reflects the recent history of the nation, as well as the cultural and faith-based beliefs that undergird Afghan society. The constitution should also point to human and civic rights to create a stronger international community.
Rebuilding Sustainable Communities in Afghanistan provided a great forum for evaluating reconstruction efforts of the past decade and accounting for what has held the nation back as it continues to develop. The event also included special panels on the role of women in the economic development and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Keynote speakers included Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Ambassador Peter Wilson.