Bribes or Bargains? Peace Conditionalities and ‘Post-Conflict’ Reconstruction in Afghanistan

This article focuses on the role of international aid donors in Afghanistan since the signing of the Bonn Agreement in 2001. Specifically, it explores the scope and utility of peace conditionalities as an instrument for peace consolidation in the context of a fragile war-to-peace transition. Geo-strategic and institutional concerns have generally led to an unconditional approach to assistance by international actors. It is argued that large inflows of unconditional aid risk re-creating the structural conditions that led to the outbreak of conflict. Aid conditionalities need to be re-conceptualized as aid-for-peace bargains rather than as bribes for security. Some forms of conditionality are necessary in order to rebuild the social contract in Afghanistan. This finding has wider relevance for aid donors and they should reconsider orthodox development models in ‘fragile state’ settings. Rather than seeing conditionalities and ownership as two ends of a policy spectrum, the former may be a necessary instrument for achieving the latter.

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