COUNCIL-BASED GOVERNANCE; MULTIPLE DECISION-MAKING CHANNELS IN AFGHANISTAN26 / September 2016 | 0 Comment
After assuming office, President Ghani developed and directed the National Unity Government’s activities well, created different councils and commissions ranging from economy to judiciary to urban development. During the previous regime there were only few high councils. It seems that the current government now might increase the number of existing councils.
High Economic Council
The High Economic Council was formed in 2012 during the presidency of Hamid Karzai. To build a great coordination between government and private sectors, evaluate Afghanistan’s economic problems and review strategic economic policies as suggested by Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the high economic council was approved by the government of the time. Members of this council were ministers of economy and finance, senior economic advisor, vice presidents, three people from chamber of commerce and industry, and three persons from academy of science or universities. This council had policy-making roles. However, at the time of Karzai’s presidency, the economic committee of council of ministers was playing a key role in economic decision making and it functioned under the supervision of one of the vice presidents. The committee met once a week and Mohammad Khalil Karimi, vice president during Karzai presidency, was the last head of the committee of council of ministers. Nonetheless, with the launch of national unity government, high economic council restructured, became more active and the ultimate decision maker on Afghanistan’s economic issues. This council is chaired by President Ghani who has incorporated high authorities in it.
Anti-Corruption High Council
This council was formed in 2016 by President Ghani to guide, lead and support the executive board of the anti-corruption institutions. The council also approves and develops plans and strategies and monitors and evaluates the implementation of the plans. President Ghani chairs the anticorruption high council. The composition of this council is; second vice president, head of the Supreme Court, attorney general, ministry of justice and heads of the Supreme Audit and the fight against corruption offices.
Human Resource High Council
This council was formed two weeks back by President Ghani. The aim of this council is to build capacity and enhance service delivery in government offices. Currently, in order to strengthen education quality in universities and schools, the council has begun evaluating and monitoring human and technical capacity of ministry of higher education and ministry of education. The council has already evaluated and reviewed university entrance examination system, educational records of government university professors, school curriculum and important fields of studies. This council is currently managed by a secretariat consisting of senior cultural advisor to the President Dr. Qayumi and minister of economy and the council is chaired by President Ghani.
Water and Land High Council
This council was formed in May 2016 through executive order for water and land management and to decide on water and land resources distribution. This council has various responsibilities and tasks and it makes the ultimate decision about water and land management in Afghanistan. This council is also chaired by President Ghani And it’s secretariat is Ministry of Water and Energy of Afghanistan. Along with this council, Afghanistan’s Independent Land Authority, an independent land management body, is one of the most powerful institutions in the country.
Urban Development High Council
This council was formed by order of President Ghani in 2016. The council’s first meeting was held in Darul Aman Palace. At the meeting, the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, key member of the Council, raised the reconstruction plan of Darul Aman Palace, which is expected to cost more than $ 16 million and will be rebuilt over a period of 4-5 years. The goals of Urban Development High Council are; finding ways and solutions for urban development, reinforcing the efficiency of municipalities, improving building construction, planning for rural development and improving government services for citizens to easily access affordable housing. The composition of this council are; Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, Ministry of Public Works, Afghanistan’s Independent Water, Land and Environment Authorities. The Urban Development High Council is led by President Ghani.
National Procurement Commission
This commission was formed in 2014 by President Ghani. The goal of this commission is to review government contracts and increase transparency level in economic sector by preventing corruption in big contracts and projects.
Effective control of public funds, increasing transparency in procurement processes, increasing free economic competitions and improving quality and transparency in economic competitions are other objectives of the commission. Since the creation of this commission, most government contracts with private companies were passed and unless this commission approves no agency in the country, including national procurement department, can sign any contract with preferred companies. The composition of this commission is Ministries of Economy, Trade, Finance, and economic advisors of President Ghani. This commission is led by President Ghani. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Afghan government, and Sarwar Danish, second Vice President of Afghanistan, are also members of this commission.
Council of Ministers
The ministerial council was the main decision-making body during the Presidency of Hamid Karzai. Since the launch of the National Unity government the ministers’ council is led by Abdullah Abdullah. The ministerial council meets once a week where the members make some approvals. The council reviews all political, security, economic, social and cultural issues. At the end of the meeting, the Chief Executive of the Afghan government reviews ministers’ suggestions and advises them accordingly. For the first time, the ministerial council was held in 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Abdullah. The commission has at least held over 60 meetings.
High Peace Council
This council was formed by former president Hamid Karzai in 2010. The main aim of this council is to encourage the Taliban to join peace process and create job opportunities for those Taliban militants who leave terror groups and join the government. Famous personalities like Burhanuddin Rabani, Salahuddin Rabani and Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani have been the heads of the High Peace Council. This council, at the time of its formation, had at least 70 members. Earlier, the Secretariat for Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which was operating under the supervision of Masoom Stanekzai, the current Director General of National Directorate of Security (NDS), was the main decision-making body. But with the launch of the National Unity Government, Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani is appointed as the new head of the council. However, it is believed that he has apparently not been very effective in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
National Security Council
This council was formed during President Karzai’s era. The purpose of the council is to review and discuss national security and foreign policy issues. Secretariat of the Council is headed by the Office of National Security Advisor. Towards the end of Karzai’s presidency, the council became more active and adopted important decisions in the areas of national security, foreign policy, defense and military matters. During Karzai’s presidency, the National Security Council had a significant role supporting the President’s policies against the US. Currently, the council’s authorities and competencies have expanded and it plays key roles in the area of national security and Afghanistan’s foreign policy. The council consists of the president, Chief Executive, both the vice president, Deputies of Chief Executive, and security and military affairs ministers, who make ultimate decisions related to national security and Afghanistan’s foreign policy.
Clearly, President Ghani is seeking to make broader national policies through collective decisions of these councils and run the country’s administration through the council-based policies. It also seems that by the end of his presidency, he might form some more such councils to cover other areas of governance. This is debated in Afghanistan. Although many feel that by creating more councils the president is attempting to centralize power, some others think that the councils in reality ease the decision-making process and bring efficiency and broader consensus in governance and to ensure rule of law.