Afghanistan The good news is that things are nothing like as bad by etssetcf


Afghanistan The good news is that things are nothing like as bad

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									C                                                        Afghanistan? The
         ontemporary media reporting of
         post Taliban Afghanistan depicts a
         country ravaged by persistent conflict;
of experienced and capable Taliban fighters

                                                         good news is that
drawing NATO forces into an increasingly
bloody conflict; and of a resurgent Taliban
gaining in strength and bringing a fledgling
democracy to its knees.

                                                        things are nothing
    Not a day goes by without new reports
of suicide bombings, assassinations and
mounting civilian and military casualties.
It is this backcloth of unrelenting conflict

                                                           like as bad as
that lends credence to the West’s traditional
perception of Afghans as bloodthirsty
warriors perpetually at war and rejecting a
path to development.
    While not denying the existence of serious
security problems in southern Afghanistan,
nor the resoluteness of the Taliban insur-
gence, this article presents a different image
of Afghanistan — a people desperate for
a chance to live a peaceful existence and to
                                                           the media say                              ernment, improved community relations and
achieve the most basic living standards for its                  Mark Evans                           the empowerment of CDCs. Eighty-six per
future generations. A people tired of war and                                                         cent thought it had brought greater unity and
factionalism, intent on choosing freedom                                                              national solidarity and 77 per cent considered
and a path to development.                         communities, accounting for 10.5 million           the government to be interested in their com-
    It focuses on the findings of a recent eval-   people — half Afghanistan’s population             munity, compared to 26 per cent of those not
uation by the Post-war Reconstruction and          — in 175 out of 364 rural districts across all     involved in the NSP.
Development Unit based at the University of        34 provinces in Afghanistan. In Phase 2 the            As one respondent put it: ‘the NSP unites
York of the Afghan government’s National           programme will be rolled out to every rural        communities, bringing us together to solve
Solidarity Programme (NSP) — the largest           community in Afghanistan by the end of             our problems and plan for our future; for
reconstruction programme in the country. It        2008.                                              the first time the government has shown that
is designed to reduce poverty by empowering            The evaluation, conducted for the World        it cares about us so we must now show our
communities through improved governance,           Bank, took a representative sample of 36           loyalty to our government.’
and social, human, and economic capital.           CDCs in 11 provinces, including those expe-            Remarkably, the CDCs have already
Directly elected Community Development             riencing significant problems with Taliban         secured the trust and acceptance of the
Councils (CDCs) — 16,250 of which have             insurgents in Nangarhar and Laghman in             majority of community members, with 58
already been etablished — are at the heart of      eastern Afghanistan and took 12 communi-           per cent viewing the CDC as the core institu-
this strategy, putting communities in charge       ties not yet participating in the NSP to isolate   tion of community level governance. Where
of their own development and resourcing            any effect the NSP may have had.                   the Shora, the traditional unelected village
them to deliver projects that they want.               Contrary to recent media reports, the          councils still exist, a gradual transition and
    Since the programme’s inception in Sep-        evaluation identifies significant evidence of      assimilation of the two forms of governance
tember 2003 it has reached 22,500 rural            increased public faith in the system of gov-       is taking place. Public participation in dis-
                                                                                                      cussing community priorities ranges from
                                                                                                      50-90 per cent in CDC communities, com-
                                                                                                      pared with 28 per cent in non-CDC com-
                                                                                                          A key strength of the NSP has been the
                                                                                                      capacity of CDCs to act as instruments of
                                                                                                      peace-building, playing an important role in
                                                                                                      conflict resolution and reducing the power of
                                                                                                      warlords and corrupt elites over rural com-
                                                                                                          The NSP has undertaken 26,000 proj-
                                                                                                      ects, building roads and boreholes, which
                                                                                                      the evaluation found to be generally well
                                                                                                      designed and constructed. 65 per cent said
                                                                                                      that they had directly and indirectly ben-
                                                                                                      efited from their community’s project/s.
                                                                                                      There is also evidence that the NSP has facili-
                                                                                                      tated other community led initiatives that

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could not otherwise have been undertaken.           from improved infrastructure and through          more effectively, incentivising CDCs and
Additional infrastructure is often added to         community confidence-building. Certain            encouraging income-generating programmes
the project which enhances the value of the         gains in gender equality have been achieved       to meet its economic growth strategy, and
NSP, demonstrates community ownership               in some regions.                                  simplifying delivery systems at all levels to
and initiative and provides evidence of sus-            Most significantly, in our survey CDC         eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and its
tainable development. Moreover, there is also       communities expressed more confidence             associated direct and indirect costs.
evidence of neighbouring CDCs combining             in the future (28 per cent attributed their           Yet, despite the scope and intensity of this
available resources in order to be able to facil-   optimism directly to NSP) than those in the       development effort, the Western media has
itate a large project, such as a road.              matched communities, although a general           continued to dwell on the activities of four to
    Many needs, especially for sustainable          trend towards greater optimism was evident.       five thousand Taliban insurgents in five out
livelihoods, remain and need to be addressed            ‘The NSP weakens the power of warlords        of the 34 Afghan provinces. It is hardly sur-
through the development of formal link-             because decision making is now at the grass       prising that public opinion polls in Britain,
ages with other national level development          roots and because of employment and better        Canada, Japan and the United States should
programmes. The relationship between NSP            livelihoods, people do not want to fight. We      continue to report a growing disenchantment
projects and poverty reduction at the com-          are very optimistic about future unity in         with humanitarian assistance to Afghani-
munity level varies from one community to           Afghanistan. There have been many years of        stan.
another.                                            war but the NSP gives us hope and we know             This programme has been delivered at a
    Certain of the NSP sites visited showed         that the world is supporting Afghanistan. We      cost of only $214m so far. Those charged
discernable poverty reduction benefits,             are Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Pashtun, Commu-         with ensuring that development aid pledges
including the ability to grow more produce,         nist, Mujahedin and we were divided but this      to Afghanistan are honoured — and they
especially cash crops like sugar and cotton,        programme helps us come together.’                are running at less than 50 per cent — need
and to adopt year round cultivation, gen-                                                             look no further than the NSP to see what
erating more income for the community.                                                                well-planned and adminstered initiatives
Improved transport brings cheaper goods
and reduces costs for communities’ own
produce, greater levels of protection against
                                                       T    he NSP is now recognized both by the
                                                    people of Afghanistan and the international
                                                                                                      look like. Money spent in development is
                                                                                                      a surer means of establishing Afghanistan’s
                                                                                                      security than any level of military spend and
natural disasters, better communications and        community as the central policy instrument        deployment. Though the two must go hand-
higher levels of education.                         for Afghan state building and development.        in-hand, development alone can win the
    Some limited benefit can also be perceived           This is not to say that the NSP is not       battle for hearts and minds. This is what the
in relation to poppy eradication objectives at      without its problems — we have proposed           Taliban fear most of all.
the local level through alternative livelihood      sixty-four recommendations for enhancing                 Professor Mark Evans is a member of the
promotion.                                          both the quality of community level gover-            Post-War Reconstruction and Development
    Inclusive cost-benefit analysis of the          nance and the delivery of projects in Phase 2,                            Unit at York University.
NSP reveals significant gains to the Afghan         including the need for a greater emphasis on
people in relation to institution-building and      building indigenous capacity both within the
capacity building — mainly through skills           Afghan civil service and the CDCs, the intro-              The PRDU NSP evaluation included: Professor
                                                                                                        Sultan Barakat (Team Leader), Professor Mark Evans
development — and social solidarity at the          duction of a ‘whole government approach’ to              (Senior Investigator), Richard Brown (Engineering
national and community levels and to a lesser       the delivery of the NSP to gain greater politi-   Analyst), Dr Arne Strand (Community Development spe-
                                                                                                       cialist), and RAT team leaders Dr Magaret Chard, Dr
degree at the provincial and district levels.       cal legitimacy and to coordinate national         David Connellyand Dr Richard Jones. The evaluation
Impressive economic benefits have also come         development planning and programming                          was conducted from July 2005 to May 2006.

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