The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD) at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs convened the colloquium, “State, Security and Economy in Afghanistan: Current Challenges, Possible Solutions,” on 16-18 November 2007 in Brussels, Belgium. The conference was funded in part by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the House of Liechtenstein, and the Government of Austria.
The colloquium brought together senior policymakers, academics, diplomats and representatives from Afghanistan and the region, the US and EU, as well as representatives of the private sector, civil-society institutions, the UN and other non-governmental organizations. Among the more than 60 high-level conference participants, presentations and keynote addresses were offered by Christopher Alexander, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan; Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime; Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, Deputy Chair of the NATO Military Committee; Peter Feith, Deputy Director General of the EU Council Secretariat; Mohammad Karim Khalili, Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein; James Moran, Asia Director of the European Commission; and Francesc Vendrell, EU Special Representative for Afghanistan. The meeting was chaired by Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, LISD Director.
Consensus emerged from the conference that Afghanistan is not a “lost cause” and its security and development realities are not the same as and therefore should not be conflated with those of Iraq. While it is true that Afghanistan has made substantial progress since 2001 - especially in building a functioning parliament, increasing health services, and education - conference participants also concurred that critical issues remain. Democratic political institutions from the national to the local level remain underdeveloped, local perceptions of insecurity have increased substantially, an insurgency is mounting, suicide attacks are increasing, narcotics production has skyrocketed in some provinces, infrastructure and human capital development have been slow, the international community lacks a clear and common vision for Afghanistan, and a balance has yet to be found between international involvement and Afghan ownership in the country’s ongoing state and security building efforts. Conference participants expressed a sense of urgency, agreeing that while Afghanistan has immense potential, it is now at a critical juncture and its future can go in a positive or negative direction depending on how events transpire in the short term.