Alan Duncan: at it again

Paul Waugh has a lovely Alan Duncan snippet from Bill Gates’ visit to Parliament last week. After being told that his talk to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Development would be under Chatham House Rules, Duncan recounted his MP’s on ‘rations’ comment that was secretly taped after the expenses scandal.

“And that’s why I’m here at DfID!” Dunky finished with a flourish.

Of course no politician should be denied the chance to use humour – however weak – but taken in the context of murmurings from DfID mandarins about Duncan’s performance, or lack of it, there is a legitimate question mark over his commitment to the job.

Perhaps being second-in-command at DfID is simply not good enough for Mr. Duncan? It is unlikely many tears would be shed if he decided that were the case.

Development in Afghanistan is paying off, shows new poll

A new poll shows that people in Afghanistan are growing more prosperous and more confident, showing how the hard work of the international development sector is beginning to pay off for citizens on the ground.

The BBC/ABC poll show a 12% increase in the number of people who feel that job prospects are good, while agricultural production rose by 29%. The latter figure is particularly important in showing the move from poppy growing to agriculture and is encouraging for the future. Mobile phone ownership, which can aid development of businesses and regularised banking, was at 60% among the respondents.

This is thanks to the work of the international community, including the Department for International Development, who have been working on the ground in Afghanistan for several years now. Projects, such as the DfID-sponsored micro-finance initiative are helping to make life a great deal better. And the results are promising: nearly two-thirds of respondents said that they support foreign troops and 70% said that the Taliban posed the biggest threat to security. This growing rejection of the brutal Taliban regime is vital to securing Afghanistan’s future prosperity.

Is the work in Afghanistan now done? Absolutely not. Promising as these figures are, they are just a beginning. We need to ensure that funding for development is maintained and that corruption (seen as a problem by the survey respondents) is tackled: action that the Government believes in and will continue to implement. But, with continued aid and the right support to the area, these results show that, despite what critics say, Afghanistan can recover from decades of bloody conflict.

For more information on DfID’s Afghanistan strategy, click here.

By Tim Nicholls