Thursday, December 3, 2009

My first foray into the Afghan 'space'

Development people have their own language, like lawyers and philosophers and anyone else who wants to make certain that not just anyone gets an invite to their party (it isn't the White House, after all).  I'm learning some of the lingo as I go along, and one of the development junkies favorite terms is 'space'.  Back on September 28, 2009, when I went to my very first talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, I called it a talk about Afghanistan.  Now I call it a talk about the Afghan space.

On that day Mark Ward of UNAMA made a bold statement; he claimed that there had not yet been an economic scandal in Afghanistan.  My eyebrows raised, having heard that Afghanistan and corruption were joined at the hip.  I was pleased that my countries were being scrupulous in the handling of their financial  affairs, but doubted the complete veracity of that statement.  I don't think Mr. Ward lied, because, it turns out, you can have coruption that doesn't involve scandal, as long as no one knows about it.  Despite the scandal-less travesties that take place every day in Afghanistan, the lives of many, many, many Afghans has improved dramatically since 2001. Afghanistan now has bridges, roads and schools.  We have a constiution.  Twenty-eight percent of parliamentary seats are reserved for women.  People are allowed to LAUGH.  Girls play soccer and hold jobs.  It's not the same country as it was, and that's good.  The problem now is that it IS the same country as it was. . . . in 2003.

I invite you to listen to Mark Ward's talk.  It's an excellent primer on in country conditions in Afghanistan and he paints a picture of a lively and bustling Kabul.  While reporting on his whole talk would be fun for me, and amusing (maybe) for you, I think hearing it from the expert himself will let you draw your own conclusions about the Afghan space.

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