Afghanistan: Civilian experts ready to help world's most hostile places

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A new thousand-strong pool of UK professionals who will help unstable countries get back onto their feet after periods of conflict is now in place, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander announced today.

Speaking from a visit to Afghanistan, Mr Alexander said that countries emerging from conflict and failing states needed expert help to bridge the gap between war and peace.

The £10 million annual budget of the UK Government's Stabilisation Unit will fund management and training of the UK Civilian Stabilisation Capacity (CSC), made up of experts in fields ranging from law enforcement to building local institutions. They will plan reconstruction and stabilisation work in some of the world's most troubled places.

Their work will include working with local partners to help set up local community councils, strengthen the effectiveness of government, advising local police, planning road building, and overseeing the provision of local services like education and electricity. This is the groundwork for longer-term development work.

Mr Alexander made the announcement on a visit to Afghanistan, where civilian experts are already deployed in seven Forward Operating Bases. Their work has included re-establishing effective justice, enabling the local government to reach out to more of the Afghan population, improving the supply of irrigation, training Afghan journalists, and creating alternatives to growing poppy.

The 1,000 person CSC come from both the public and private sectors, including 200 Civil Servants from 20 different Government Departments. Professions represented include agricultural advisors, administrators, project managers, economists, retired police officers, telecoms experts, and ex-military personnel.

Up to two hundred experts will be able to be deployed at any one time. They will be sent to some of the world's most hostile environments. An additional pool exists for serving Police Officers.

Today's announcement will build on the work done by civilian experts in stabilisation who are already working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur and the DRC, and as part of multinational peacekeeping in Kosovo and Georgia. There are currently 70 civilians from the CSC and 35 serving Police Officers 'on the ground'. Deployment is funded from the Conflict Pool and by the individual budgets of DFID, FCO and MOD.

Douglas Alexander said:

"I have seen for myself how the UK is helping Afghan people to rebuild their country.

"UK troops are helping to make towns and villages more secure. Alongside the military effort, UK civilian professionals are planning roadbuilding, working on anti-drugs projects, and giving expert advice on agriculture - vital tasks which are helping the Afghan people to live their everyday lives.

"Countries emerging from conflict need this expert advice to help them get back up and running. Today's announcement means we will be able to give extra practical help to some of the world's most troubled countries."

Depending on their country of deployment, CSC members will work alongside the military, the UN, and other multilateral bodies such as the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) or NATO.

They will be part of the Stabilisation Unit, a cross-Government team working to DFID, the FCO and the MOD. Today's announcement fulfils a pledge made by the Prime Minister last year.