“We have great concerns about gender equality,” Carlsson said, as the government announced it had given state agency Sida the task of putting together a proposal on how best to spend Swedish assistance funds in Afghanistan.
“We’re good at education, and we have supported many initiatives that support women,” Carlsson said. While the details are yet to be hashed out, Sida has run successful midwife projects in other parts of the world. “It’s both cost effective but also strengthens the role of women, and the likelihood of surviving childbirth in Afghanistan has to increase.”
“But it is so important that the Afghans realize this. This is not unconditional work we are doing; the Afghans have to see that investing in women and girls is vital for the future,” Carlsson added.
The allocated budget for Sweden’s assistance in Afghanistan runs up until 2024. At present, Sweden sets aside 600 million kronor a year – meaning the new long-term aid package represents nearly double as much money annually. While Sweden committed itself to assistance until 2024 once troops pull out from 2015, Sida will now get to work looking at the first half of the dedicated period.
TL: Sweden is a mining country; is there Swedish expertise that could help Afghanistan develop its mining industry?
GC: When we see what we can do in enterprise and employment, we see that the rural parts must be developed. We also see that, with all the resources they have, if they manage them properly and had good governance, and come back from war, there is a huge potential.
You have to build capacity in how you deal with your own resources, and the international community should help with this.
TL: Do you think the troop withdrawal will make it easier or harder for aid workers to operate in Afghanistan?
GC: We have huge challenges with corruption and an aid-dependent economy, and the security situation is alarming to me. Sometimes people who come to help Afghans are targeted – so we will follow this very closely.
But the transition is ongoing, the Afghans are taking charge, and the country is preparing for presidential elections. The Afghans must recognize that they must take the destiny of their country into their own hands. We have to trust them, but they must also know that they need some assistance from outside.
We are there to assist, but we can’t do their job fully.