Summary of Findings of the the feasibility study in Afghanistan for UNDP
Some of our main findings are:
- The life has come back to normal in most of the Afghanistan. Street and bazaars in major cities are hustling with men and women busy doing their daily business. Reconstruction work is underway. Law and order situation has improved considerably.
- Prospects of permanent peace and a good environment for developmental activities are bright. The Afghan warlords were responsible for the ethnic tension in Afghanistan, whereas the Taliban have become a third and neutral option for the suffering people. As a result, they are acceptable to the majority of Afghans. They have no ill feelings among the different ethnic groups who for one or another reason got exploited by the warlords in the past.
- The government departments responsible for social development of the country have been weakened due to migration of staff to neighbouring countries and plunder of the available resources. Any development work without investing in capacity building of the government departments will bear little fruit.
- Social sector activities have been suspended due to lack of resources. Electricity has been restored and work on water supply and telephone facilities is underway. Educational institutions have been revived. Some parts of Kabul university have been rehabilitated. Classes for boys have commenced whereas reconstruction of other parts are underway to resume classes for women. Girl’s education in medical science faculties has also resumed.
- The government is not oppose to women education. It, however, wants separate educational facilities for women within the frame of Islamic way of life. Such a set up requires additional resources for construction of separate facilities and ensuring HR and other support systems.
- Fifty-two international and 194 local NGOs have been registered in Afghanistan for rehabilitation and development. However, the scale of their work is negligible and community participation is on ad hoc basis. No efforts have been made to establish sustainable community organizations in the villages.
- Few NGOs are working in the field of rural development. None is focused on poverty alleviation. Most of their work revolves around providing support to individuals.
- As a trend, all the past assistance and most of the present assistance by the funding agencies comes in the form of handouts and social service that creates a dependency syndrome in the communities. There is no focus on asset-based community development from inside-out. There is a needs for the type of community development program that will help the communities attain self-reliance and effective utilization of local assets and skills.
- The Taliban have given representation to all the regions in their government. The team met officials at various ministries led by regional leaders, ensuring broad-based representation. It seems like the most appropriate way to ethnic reconciliation and rebuilding of a war torn country.
- The government has established law and order and provided the public the much needed peaceful environment to carryout the development work. Its now up to the funders and development agencies to take an initiative.
- The government officials stressed that they fully support community development activities of the non-profit organizations in the country. They were, however, disappointed with the lack of support to the NGOs which were operating in tough field conditions – the most serious of which is the dilapidated roads, which impede mobility and communication.
- The Deputy Chief of Protocol Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured the assessment team of all full support should UNDP decide to commence a Rural Support Programme for poverty alleviation in Afghanistan.
- The Minister of Planning also stressed that the government had no objection to the commencing of a Rural Support Programme in Afghanistan, except that it has to be registered according to the established procedures before commencing any operation.
- The government is also willing to allow government officials on the Board of Directors of the proposed Afghan Rural Support Programme should such representation of the Government is required.
- The Directorate of Rural Development also expressed its willingness to work with ARSP.
- After years of war, communities are of the mindset that NGOs would tell them what to do or the government would do everything for them. In waiting for the handouts and social welfare, they have no individual or collective thinking for turning their individual or communal life around.
- Regarding women in development, the government officials were clear that the government has no objection to women education, skill development, farming and agriculture or any other sector. Women trainers in natural resource management and other relevant fields have already been engaged. These trainers work with women in rural areas without any problem.
- NGOs are allowed to open home-based schools for girls. NGOs are also providing pick and drop support to the girl students.
- There is a good working relationship among NGOs and between the government and non-government sectors. The NGOs supported the government in restoration of power, while the Norwegian funded NGOs are working on the rehabilitation of drinking water supply schemes in Kabul City.
- NGOs are also allowed to recruit female staff. For example, the Norwegian Programme Office – Rural Rehabilitation Association of Afghanistan (NPO/RRAA) – has at 30-70% female-male staffing ratio in Afghanistan.
A word of caution: Although the factional fighting in the rest of the country has been subsided to a great extent. There is continued conflict in the North, which is a matter of concern as further spread to the rest of the regions might harm any future development activities undertaken by the NGOs and the funding agencies.