Save the Children Releases Report, Afghanistan in Transition

MFAN Partner Save the Children has released a report, Afghanistan in Transition, calling for attention to development and governance during the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops, and outlaying recommendations to development and government actors.

As the United States begins to draw down its efforts in Afghanistan – a situation not unlike some 20 years ago – the sustainability of the transition will depend on careful focus and continued development efforts. Afghanistan has received large portions of U.S. aid and made significant development gains over the last decade, but this progress will be at risk if continued diligence is not given.

The report details much of Afghanistan’s progress in sectors such as health, nutrition and food security, education, child protection and child rights, and humanitarian issues. However, achievements in these sectors are only relative, and even these gains are at significant risk of being lost. As an example, Afghanistan has witnessed a 26 percent reduction in its child mortality, yet it still retains one of the world’s worst child mortality rates. Solutions, such as training for Community Health Workers and midwives, have been only marginally addressed. Save argues that greater focus is needed in all sectors where relative achievements show promise but lack necessary emphasis and funds.

Afghanistan in Transition goes further to outline the reasons why development progress has been slow in Afghanistan. First is the issue of poor governance, including cases of corruption and a lack of institutional capacity. This leads to bottlenecking and waste of aid dollars, as well as the misalignment of development projects.  Moreover, a relatively weak civil society and a lack of transparency and accountability in governance add to this deficit.

Afghanistan is a fragile state in the midst of conflict, further complicating its development progress. Under the discretion of national security interests, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) targets areas of strategic importance rather than responding to direct provincial needs. As the report notes, “the aim of ‘winning hearts and minds’ has had the effect of penalizing the ‘peaceful but poor’ provinces.” For example, 77 percent of aid efforts are directed to southern and eastern regions of military interest, drawing resources away from peaceful provinces where the poverty rates are far higher.  Questions of sustainability are also rising, as 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP is comprised of aid money.

In the end, Afghanistan in Transition’s recommendations include:

  • Long-term investments to ensure sustainability and effectiveness of aid programs;
  • Strengthened mutual accountability, by increasing transparency and improving results measurement;
  • Investment in improved data and statistical capacity through concerted efforts;
  • A focus on children; over half of Afghanistan’s population is comprised of children, and issues such as health, education, and protection will require donor involvement; and
  • Prioritization of funding for needs-based areas. Military, political, or security interests cannot divert efforts for sustainable development.

 

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