AFGHANISTAN: a fragile context
At the heart of the Silk Road, Afghanistan was once a country of interconnectivity and opportunity.
The 1895 'Pamir Convention' formally divided the mountainous region of Badakhshan into separate entities under Russian and British/Afghan influence. This significantly undermined Afghanistan's development trajectory and fractured the region.
Much of the country is mountainous, remote, inhospitable and difficult to access. Regular natural disasters and the negative effects of climate change exacerbate the country's already considerable and myriad risks.
AKDN IN CENTRAL & SOUTH ASIA: 100+ years of partnership
AKDN opened its first schools in Asia in India in 1905. Since then the network has expanded its sectoral operations to include energy and infrastructure; telecommunications; tourism microfinance; health; education (from pre-primary to higher and continuing); civil society; governance; humanitarian response and culture amongst other areas.
AKDN IN AFGHANISTAN: a continuum of development since 1995
Since 2002, AKDN has channelled or enabled over US $800m in Afghanistan. AKDN works to create a safe, secure, and prosperous future for the Afghan people by: IMPROVING conditions for local and national governance, through trust building processes with material benefits; WORKING with public institutions and local officials to provide vital services; BUILDING active markets to expand assets and improve livelihoods; CREATING opportunities for licit income generating activities; and DEMONSTRATING to Afghan citizens that national institutions can improve their quality of life.
6 ELEMENTS TO ENABLE STABILITY & DEVELOPMENT EFFECTIVENESS >> a long term and multi-input area development approach
1. SOCIAL ORGANISATION: to prioritise community needs
Since 2003, AKDN has helped facilitate the National Solidarity Programme and helped to set up 1,500+ Community Development Councils (CDCs), 9% of the total. CDCs, along with District Development Assemblies (DDAs) discuss community needs and identify priority areas. Since their inception, CDCs and DDAs, such as the below one in Kunduz, have mobilised some US $10m towards the construction of critical infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, schools and public buildings.
Such has been their success that CDCs have been replicated in a further 1000 villages in Afghanistan. AKDN's maturity assessment tool for grading these organisations is now used by the Ministry of Rural Development for all CDCs.
2. SUB-NATIONAL GOVERNANCE: to create stakeholership
AKDN introduced social audits to improve the accountability and transparency of CDCs and similar such social organisations. They are designed also to create stakeholdership within the community by giving it a greater say in how things are run. They also work to promote greater gender equality. Social audits are now being adopted by higher tiers of government to improve transparency and are being institutionalised and rolled out by the Ministry of Rural Development so that in the next two to three years every village in Afghanistan will undergo social audits.
3. CIVIL SOCIETY: to help build the nation
4. ENTREPRENEURSHIP & INNOVATION: to create jobs
Pamir Energy was created in 2002 to deliver clean, reliable and affordable energy to communities on both sides of the Afghan-Tajik border (many for the first time). Pamir Energy now provides energy to 88% of the households in GBAO and to 3% in Afghan Badakhshan (up from less than 1% pre-2008). Electricity has enabled the creation of new businesses (especially SMEs), new jobs and increased productivity thus enabling new opportunities. Electricity also allows for access to new media and communications through television and the internet and distance learning and teaching. The impact of Pamir Energy on both sides of the border led the World Bank to recognise it as one of their top 4 financed projects with high socio economic impact. For the UN Economic council, it is a model public-private-partnership and one to be replicated elsewhere.
5. CLOSE & CROSS-BORDER EQUITY: to promote regional harmony and opportunity
The construction of five cross-border bridges with markets at either end connects communities, encourages trade and provides the spaces and places for regional trade and cultural exchange. In 2011, US $1.3m of goods were sold in three weekly markets. Over the course of that year 16,000 people crossed bridges to access markets and services, for business meetings and tourism.
Cross-border bridges also provide significant economic opportunities for women (in some markets as many as 80% of traders are women) and allow Afghans to cross into Tajikistan to receive critical emergency health care.
6. CULTURE: to strengthen identity and promote community cohesion
Since 2002, AKDN has been working with the Afghan government to restore and rehabilitate some of the country's national treasures, such as Babur's Gardens in Kabul and Herat's Timurid Shrine Complex. These investments in culture not only drive local economic development, but preserve traditional craft techniques and, critically, instil a sense of shared identity and pride in local people. They also provide spaces for relaxation and leisure which all members of society can enjoy. AKDN is also involved in the preservation of intangible cultural heritage in Afghanistan through the Aga Khan Music Initiative.