Swiss back Afghan drive for law and order

A pay cheque should be on its way thanks to Swiss aid Keystone

Switzerland is helping to ensure Afghanistan's 60,000-strong police force gets paid on time and strike a blow against domestic violence in the country.

This content was published on April 30, 2007 - 21:46

Moves to rebuild the police come at a testing time for Afghanistan where unrest has surged in recent weeks leaving hundreds of people dead.

As part of international efforts to boost law and order, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is funding the installation of a nationwide computer payroll system for the Afghan National Police.

While this may sound like small potatoes to those drowning in electronic wizardry, it represents a big technological leap forward for Afghanistan's fledgling police force, which was resurrected in 2003.

In the past the Ministry of Interior processed salary payments and personal data by hand, leading to often-lengthy delays for those in the provinces and providing fertile ground for corruption.

"Although corruption is widespread there is great will from all sides to combat it," Michael Gerber, the SDC's programme manager for Afghanistan, told swissinfo.

"One of the first steps will be to improve efficiency, transparency and accountability within all concerned institutions including the police. And here the electronic payroll system can make a small but significant difference."

Law and order

The project falls under the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (Lofta), which was set up by the United Nations in May 2002.

Since 2003 Switzerland has contributed just over SFr3 million ($2.5 million), mainly for the establishment of the new payroll system. The Swiss are also part of a steering committee that can make decisions concerning the selection criteria and requirements for police staff.

So far 33 out of Afghanistan's 34 provinces have introduced the system and more than 250 policemen and Ministry of Interior staff are receiving computer training on how to use it.

Another focus of Swiss funding is the recruitment of more policewomen to boost the number of female officers in the ranks up from the current figure of 160.

The SDC and the UN Development Programme are both financing a project that aims to increase this figure by 300 over two years, establish a gender unit at the Ministry of Interior, and extend a pilot domestic violence unit to Kabul and five provinces.

Domestic violence

"Women traditionally had a very low representation within the Afghan police. Domestic violence against women is widespread – and in most cases not investigated nor prosecuted," said Gerber.

"Up until now female victims had very few possibilities to report crimes, due to the fact that police stations are entirely managed by men."

Gerber said Switzerland was trying to improve the situation through the recruitment of 300 policewomen and the introduction of "family response units" at certain police stations.

He said experience showed that through recruiting, enabling and empowering policewomen, violence against women could be reduced and a contribution made to security and peace building in Afghanistan.

But Gerber warned that restoring public confidence, especially among women, would take years.

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont

Key facts

Afghanistan:
Population – 27.2 million.
Child mortality rate – 25.7%.
Life expectancy – 46.2 years.
Gross National Product (GNP) – $21.5 billion.
Per capita GNP – $800.

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In brief

The SDC has been working to support the people of Afghanistan for almost 20 years. The agency financed projects to the tune of SFr19 million last year.

Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2002, the SDC has concentrated its activities on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable population groups, such as internally displaced persons, returnees to Afghanistan and refugees in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.

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