Keep your eye on the goal

Mahmood Anwari, Afghanistan’s National Coordinator, on why he is committed to the EITI’s potential.

If ever you need an EITI vitamin injection, spend some time with Mahmood Anwari, Afghanistan’s National Coordinator. With his easy laugh and trademark quick speech, it’s difficult to avoid being infected by his engagement for the EITI.

Untapped potential 

“I applied for the position of National Coordinator because I believed that the EITI had real, untapped potential in Afghanistan”, Mahmood explains. “I’m not sure I realized how tough it would be at the time! But it’s also very rewarding. Afghanistan needs change, and we want to do our part to help to bring the government’s sector reforms closer to the public.”

Why are we doing this?

Mahmood clearly feels strongly about making Afghanistan a better place for future generations. “My family had to leave the country when I was 11 years old. And when I say my family, I mean it in the Afghan sense: more than twenty of our closest family picked up their things and started a new life in Pakistan! My father and grandfather were wealthy businessmen in Kandahar, and this was enough to get you killed under the previous regime. I remember people treated us well in Pakistan, and we didn’t really feel like refugees. Plus, we would still get to visit Kandahar occasionally.”

Mahmood stops and gets serious for a moment. “What I remember the most though is how backward Afghanistan was, back then. I have a three-year-old child now, and I like to think that the work I am doing is helping ensure that he will have a future to grow into here, in his own country.”

 

Sometimes you feel like things are moving backwards; other times I look at what we’ve already achieved as a country in spite of all the difficulties and feel proud.

It’s not easy…

I ask Mahmood how he believes things are going. “It was never going to be easy”, he responds. “Sometimes you feel like things are moving backwards; other times I look at what we’ve already achieved as a country in spite of all the difficulties and feel proud. On the EITI specifically, I think we’re finally getting through the idea that the EITI is not just about writing reports but mainly about helping to implement reforms in the sector. That is why it is so important that President Ghani has expressed his clear support for our work. Now we just need to make sure to translate this into concrete action.”

…but it helps to know you’re part of something bigger…

That’s easier said than done, I respond. “Sure”, Mahmood answers, “but we are lucky in that we have strong support from the international community. I am especially grateful for the sustained support we receive from the World Bank. Also, participating at the last EITI Board meeting in Berne was a real eye-opener for me. It’s one thing to know you’re part of something bigger, it’s quite another to see for yourself how the different constituencies interact at the international level. I mean, if they were able to move forward on their very difficult agenda, surely we should be able to do the same in our national multi-stakeholder group!”

… and accept responsibility for your country’s future.

I’m glad you raised Berne, I say. You were quite vocal in expressing the need for more consultation with implementing countries. In your view, how do you think this should happen?

You can tell Mahmood is excited about this. “It was great to meet our representatives on the Board! I had not realized what it really means to have all the constituencies represented at the EITI’s decision-making body. But as I said in Berne, we need to be better within our constituency at improving communication and setting up proper consultation mechanisms. Our realities are difficult to portray on paper, and we depend on someone representing us strongly in the Board. This is something we in Afghanistan feel very strongly about, and in fact we’re considering nominating a Board member in Lima.”

Do I hear a little bit of campaigning? I ask. “Why not?” he responds. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. And as I said, I have my child’s future to think about. I want him to have a good life in Afghanistan; I want him to be proud of his Afghan heritage.”

Mahmood stops, then adds “although guess it’s alright if he supports football teams from other countries. As long as it’s Chelsea.”

 

Country Manager Pablo Valverde interviewed Mahmood Anwari as part of our series “Faces of transparency.

Read our past profiles on Veronique Deli Meadows (Mexico), Olena Pavlenko (Ukraine) and Dorina Cinari (Albania).