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Only a quarter of the public think Britain’s approach in Afghanistan is working, shows poll

March 23 2011 - Joint campaign launches to call for ‘new approach’ to Afghanistan: A majority of people in Britain (58%) say they are not clear what Britain is trying to achieve in Afghanistan and only one in four (26%) think the current approach is working well, according to an opinion poll  commissioned by a new campaign coalition, Together Afghanistan, released today as the UN votes on renewing the mandate for its mission in Afghanistan.

Coinciding with the Afghan New Year this week, the campaign calls for a fresh approach focusing squarely on what Afghans need to build a better, more peaceful future – and what the  international community needs to do to support them. Backed by seven organisations such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and Afghanaid, the campaign calls for Britain and the international community to:

• Better protect Afghan civilians caught up in the conflict and ensure there is full transparency  on civilian casualties - including that proper investigations are carried out;

• Ensure aid is focused on Afghan needs and long-term development and that donors are open and accountable about how aid is spent;

• Push now for a comprehensive process to end the conflict that involves all the main parties inside and outside Afghanistan, and supports practical opportunities for ordinary Afghan women and men to have a meaningful say in any political dialogue or eventual peace agreement.

Manohar Shenoy, Country Director of Oxfam in Afghanistan said: 'Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries on earth. Only half of children go to school and just 12 percent of women over 15 in Afghanistan can read. Every half an hour, one Afghan woman dies in pregnancy and another of tuberculosis.  Aid is desperately needed, but at the moment far too much is given to areas where troops are rather than distributed according to need.  Afghans have put up with decades of grinding poverty and deserve better.' 

The launch comes on the day after President Karzai announced a handover from international to Afghan security forces in seven areas, including Lashkar Gah in Helmand, and on the day the UN votes on renewing its annual mandate for its operations in Afghanistan. But the Together Afghanistan-commissioned poll shows that eighty-three per cent of people in Britain believe Afghanistan will still be at war in 2014,  when British combat troops are due to leave and the process of transition to Afghan security forces is supposed to be complete.

Serena Di Matteo, Country Director for Afghanistan, Christian Aid said: 'Afghanistan’s development is being undermined by the current conflict.  More and more civilians are being killed in the fighting.  The UK government must now give its backing to a comprehensive peace process which helps bring an end to the conflict. Any peace agreement must respect the rights of all Afghan citizens, especially those of women. The UN Secretary-General should support the international community in its search for peace.'

The launch also follows the release of new UN figures showing the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan rose to over 2,700 in 2010, the deadliest year since the start of the current conflict, particularly due to escalating Taliban attacks.  

Chris Langdon, Managing Director, Oxford Research Group, said: 'Many Afghans have little trust in the forces that are meant to protect them. That trust erodes further every time Afghan civilians are killed and injured in air strikes or night raids, and every time there are allegations that internationally-backed Afghan security forces have abused their positions of power. International and Afghan forces must ensure there is full transparency in the recording of civilian casualties and that all allegations of misconduct, harm or loss of innocent life of civilians are thoroughly and transparently investigated.'     

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If you would like further information please contact jrogers@christian-aid.org  24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950  

Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk

6. Visit the TOGETHER AFGHANISTAN website here: www.togetherafghanistan.org