Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas: how can the UK support development?

Posted in Other | 06-Feb-09 | Author: Judith Kent

  1. Thank you for inviting me to speak at this conference today, on this important subject. I'd like to spend the time you've given me in setting out how, in the UK's Department for International Development, we see the challenges involved in supporting development in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and how we believe we might respond.

  2. First, I should make clear that Pakistan remains at the top of the UK's international development priorities. We are doubling our aid to Pakistan to £480m during 2008-2011 - by 2011 it will be our 2nd largest aid programme worldwide. We have a 10 year Development Partnership Agreement with the GoP - a shared vision with the Government about how we will work together to make Pakistan meet its poverty targets. The Development Partnership Agreement is based on our shared resolve to reduce poverty, address corruption, respect international human rights and obligations and improve coordination between donors. We are already the largest aid donor in health, and now plan a substantial new investment in education (up to £250 million over 5 years), looking at primary and secondary education and vocational skills. Importantly - for the subject of our conference today - while we will continue our large programme in Punjab - where many of Pakistan's poor people live - we intend to do more in the areas bordering Afghanistan. We will expand our current programme in NWFP, and begin to work also in Balochistan and the FATA, both new areas for us.

  3. So what do we know about poverty in the FATA? There is limited specific data available, but what we have paints a deeply worrying picture, with development indicators well below those elsewhere in Pakistan. For example, of the FATA's 3.8 million people, over 60% live below the poverty line, compared to 22% nationwide. Literacy rates are very low, especially for women, only 3% of whom are literate. And access to health services, including antenatal and maternity services is extremely limited. With the growth in the insurgency, we know that villages have been destroyed by military action, and that rebuilding needs will be high. And even without data, we know that where there is violent conflict, it adds to poverty, impedes development, constrains growth, particularly affects women and children, destroys life and livelihoods, and can fuel a vicious cycle of persistent conflict as those with no prospects, particularly unemployed young men, join insurgencies.

  4. What are we doing already to address this challenge? Some of DFID's existing national sector programmes, particularly in health, already provide benefits to the whole of the border areas, including the FATA. For example, 1400 Lady Health Workers in the FATA are directly financed through DFID resources. And DFID is implementing a £1m programme to strengthen the capacity of the FATA Secretariat to better manage and plan its resources. During 2008 we provided £2m equally to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of at least 200,000 people displaced from FATA (mainly Bajaur agency) and SWAT in NWFP. This support has included provision of safe water and sanitation, shelter, food and health care.

  5. What are the key issues we face, if we are to do more in the FATA? The key issue both for DFID and other international development actors in supporting development in the FATA is not resources, it is the difficulty of working there. The FATA's predicament as a "buffer zone" effectively outwith Pakistan's laws and institutions, has resulted in a vacuum of governance, without an effective and accountable government machinery to deliver services to poor FATA citizens. The present arrangements are fraught with contradictions: FATA elects members of the National Assembly but the laws they pass do not apply to FATA; political parties are banned, leaving a vacuum to be filled by the Taliban; the British Frontier Crimes Regulation is still applied and FATA is outside the jurisdiction of Pakistan's Supreme Court. Although there is a sustainable development plan for the FATA, there is no clarity on the political road map - yet clarity about the political future of the FATA is a vital precursor to security and development. Until the status of the FATA is resolved, it will be difficult to plan major development investments.

  6. A related challenge is how we meet our own requirements to account for our aid, and how we ensure both our own staff and those whom we work with can be safe. Like any other government aid agency, we are accountable to parliament for our use of UK taxpayers' resources - we have to be able to verify that they have been spent as intended, that there has been no corruption and that they are achieving the objectives which we have set for them. Monitoring in Pakistan everywhere is weak. In FATA it is even more so. We know that the political agents and officials themselves find it difficult to move about FATA at present. Civil society organisations also struggle. .And the hostile attitude of militants towards "western" governments and our money creates real security concerns both for our own staff and any organisations we may fund. We are all very concerned to ensure that those we work with are not put in danger by their association with us. An NGO in FATA told us recently that they had had three staff kidnapped - one of whom has never been found and three vehicles stolen. We must think about these issues when we consider development initiatives. So this presents us with a considerable challenge if we are to effectively monitor what our money is delivering for poor people.

  7. If we cannot go to the FATA, then we of course lose the ability to talk to ordinary people and understand the ground realities. This is, important, not just to monitor aid, but because poor understanding and weak analysis in conflict situations may lead us into doing the wrong things, channelling money to inappropriate recipients, exacerbating rather than resolving conflict. Effective development spending requires that we understand the causes of conflict and do not make them worse. At the very least, we must "do no harm". The threads of violence and conflict in the FATA are complex and messy, and involve a mixture of actors, such as the Taliban, opportunistic criminals and drugs interests. We cannot risk our resources flowing into such hands and further fuelling conflict. And while development is of course good, and something which we all want, we should nevertheless be careful about making assumptions that development is the answer to the insurgency.

  8. So, having painted this rather gloomy picture, what can we do? In terms of our overall approach, I'd like to highlight that we in DFID are clear that we will need to work very closely with our colleagues in other departments, particularly the Foreign Office, to ensure that we are joined-up in our analysis and our investments. One of the things we have been doing with our cross-government resources for conflict prevention is to carry out polling in FATA - asking citizens about their concerns and priorities and what they think about their situation. In a part of Pakistan which does not have normal governance processes in place - no local governments, no elections to provincial governments, and elections of MNAs to a Federal Assembly which has no mandate in respect of FATA - polling, however imperfect, is one way to find out what people think. It is also a way to try and find out the views of women, very few of whom vote.

  9. DFID will continue to help the FATA Secretariat become more effective in the way in which it administers its now large and growing budget. We will continue to be alert to humanitarian needs, and to respond to these as they arise. In the longer term, we will certainly consider supporting stabilisation and reconstruction activities when this is possible, possibly through a trust fund mechanism which would allow donors to pool our resources. Rebuilding of infrastructure, particularly houses and roads, ensuring food security as people return and providing jobs will all be critical. Until the scale of reconstruction needs is understood and there is stability, it is however difficult to estimate what scale of investment would be needed.

  10. Clearly, provision of security and effective justice is a major challenge for the FATA. The UK Government, is already working with the Government of NWFP on strengthening policing. We are now looking at how police strengthening and accountability to citizens can be taken forward and a number of donors including the EC are interested in working with us on this important initiative. DFID's new Pakistan civil society programme will also consider ways in which ordinary people can become more active in holding the police to account and better at demanding their right to safety and security from the police. At present FATA deals with policing through its tribal levies. In the future, strengthening law and order enforcement and moving to accountable policing in FATA will be essential if the vacuum left by insecurity and the lack of access to justice is not to again be filled by militant groups.

  11. Other possibilities which we can explore include how we could support those displaced from the FATA, not just to camps but also to towns and cities. With our cross UK government funds, we have begun a scholarship programme for FATA students to study outside FATA. DFID's new technical and vocational education programme will offer opportunities throughout Pakistan. We are also looking at how we can support communications and media to reach excluded communities, support development and address grievances.

  12. I should of course also mention the fact that DFID is by no means the only aid donor with a presence in the FATA. The US is of course the biggest, and has committed $750m over five year. Others are also supporting NGOs and rural development programmes. But the number of partners is limited, and we all face real practical barriers to effective design, implementation and monitoring.

  13. Finally, although the focus of this conference is on the FATA, I think it's important that we pay due attention to the security and development needs of NWFP and Balochistan, also of course subject to conflict and insurgency. We are all very aware of the recent fighting and displacement in the Swat valley. DFID will expand our existing programme in NWFP with a strong focus on education and better governance, alongside programmes in health and water. And education and governance will also be the immediate priorities for a new programme in Baluchistan.

  14. Thank you for inviting me to speak, and I look forward to responding to any questions which you may have.

Judith Kent, DFID
19 February 2009