Experts say Afghan brain drain, fastest in history

Mullah Hasan Akhund: head of Taliban Afghanistan’s new government

By Busayo Onijala

Some international democracy experts have said that the re-emergence of Taliban rule in Afghanistan sparked the biggest and fastest brain drain in the history of a country.

The experts highlighted this issue during a high-level discussion organised by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) to commemorate the 2021 International Day of Democracy.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports on Wednesday in Lagos that the International Day of Democracy is one set aside to provide an opportunity to review the state of democracy around the world.

The discussion revolved around what recent events in Afghanistan meant for democracy support at a time when democracy faced severe challenges.

Jerzy Pomianowski, Executive Director, European Endowment for Democracy, said that the evacuation of skilled people from Afghanistan was unfavourable, but there was no other choice.

He said that apart from those evacuated, there were still many people who understood the ideas that international democracy support communities brought to the conflict torn country.

According to him, the fall of Kabul weeks ago has highlighted the failure of nearly 20 years of nation-building and raises questions about the effectiveness of democracy support.

“We are not really ready as a democracy support community to talk about this issue because it is still so politicised and presented in the media with simplified narratives.

“If we do not start talking about what’s happening, someone else may talk with not necessarily good intentions, generating toxic narratives.

“All sorts of anti-democratic movements may try to use the situation as a proof of their agenda that the international community should not make any effort to support democracy,” he said.

Pomianowski said that if Talibans denied democracy as a concept and instead achieved some medium term stabilisation, the international research community and political analysts would need to find a good way to discuss issues arising.

“We are trapped in a very specific challenging situation and it is always better for democracy support communities to talk than to wait.

“The idea of democracy support is based on indigenous activities and we should enjoy a degree of independence and the ability to say no when things are going wrong.

“You cannot deliver democracy support if there is no indigenous drive towards democracy. Democracy cannot be exported,” Pomianowski said.

He added that democracy support communities should enjoy intellectual and political independence in order to fulfill their mission which was based on remarkable values and principles.

Ken Godfrey,  Executive Director, European Partnership for Democracy said that democracy support would be extremely difficult in Afghanistan over the next decade because many of the people who worked to support democracy in the country had left during “The big rush”.

“We have the responsibility to help Afghans in the future, and if they decide to leave the country, to ensure that they are repatriated in a safe manner and resettled correctly.

“That is a responsibility of the European government and governments around the world.”

Godfrey said that there were a lot of misconceptions about what had been done in Afghanistan and the role democracy support had played in it.

According to him, the link between democracy support and the coercion of conflict is unfortunate but is a reality in the case of Afghanistan.

“We need to think about communicating better and ensuring we speak about democracy support while also supporting institutions within countries that want democratic change,” he said.