Economic sanctions and restrictions on development aid in fragile and conflict-affected states have become an increasingly prominent part of the international toolkit for dealing with regimes that violate international norms and rules or are beset by conflict. However, there is a well-known problem: sanctions and cessations of development aid often end up hurting the poor more than the rich, particularly the political elites who the sanctions are most meant to target. Donors try to limit the impact of sanctions on the poor through humanitarian assistance, usually run by United Nations (UN) agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). However, in all but the smallest countries, this is extremely expensive as well as a major organizational and logistical challenge. Most recently, situations such as those in Myanmar and Afghanistan have thrown the spotlight on the complexity of the discussion.
Official Development Assistance (ODA) from European countries and the EU institutions has been a large and important source of grant funding for international peacebuilding over the last twenty years. It will continue to be an important source of funding for international peacebuilding in the likely absence of comparable other sources of financing for the next twenty years. Yet competition for allocation of public funds is fierce in the wake of the economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic, an ongoing global climate crisis, significant inflationary pressures, and an impending economic recession as well as fallout from the war in Ukraine.
With 14 months to go before the next elections, the electoral calendar is still pending. In the meantime, distrust of the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) remains. And the controversial reappointments of members of the Constitutional Court, the last lock in the electoral process, further reinforce the lack of trust. Can the challenges of transparency and credibility be met in these first elections under Félix Tshisekedi?
The Catholic Church is a critical player in Congolese politics. From the National Sovereign Conference of 1992 to the protests around the electoral process between 2015 and 2018, to the revitalization of a political opposition weakened by co-option and corruption, it has played a crucial role in the struggle for democracy, notably through the Conférence Épiscopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) and the Comité Laïc de Coordination (CLC). However, its relatively narrow focus on elections when it comes to street protests, to the exclusion of other important challenges, represents a missed opportunity.
After much back and forth, some of Afghanistan’s frozen reserve funds have been released—sort of. The much anticipated September 14 announcement by the US government of the formation of the USD 3.5 billion “Afghan Fund” that will operate independently of the Taliban was not what the Taliban wanted nor did it completely fulfill the macroeconomic purposes for which reserve funds are intended. But it was potentially a positive step towards bringing Afghanistan’s economy back to life.