Lessons from the national solidarity programme in Afghanistan.

 
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24 June 2014

Years of conflict have severely damaged social and economic opportunities in Afghanistan by severing ties between villages and the central, provincial, and district governments, offering little opportunity for representative or participatory governments. In addition, local governance in Afghan villages has often been dominated by village elders, thus offering little opportunity for representative or participatory decision-making. Afghan culture also has entrenched a limited social and political role for women.

The National Solidarity Programme (NSP), a community-driven development approach, has been undertaken to try and address this situation. Community-driven development is based on participatory planning in which community members, assisted by government and development experts identify and implement projects that directly respond to their needs. These projects benefit communities by providing better targeted and more efficient development programmes in the short term, and encouraging sustained participation in the longer term through local representative institutions.

The NSP in Afghanistan, funded by the World Bank and a consortium of bilateral donors, is designed according to this community-driven approach. It aims to improve the access of rural villagers to critical services, and to create a structure for village governance centered on democratic processes and participation of women. The program is structured around two major interventions at the village level: (1) the disbursement of grants to fund village-level projects that are selected, designed, and managed by the council in consultation with villagers; and (2) the creation of a gender-balanced Community Development Council, elected by secret ballot and universal suffrage.

Impact of the National Solidarity Programme

The National Solidarity Programme had a number of positive effects in Afghanistan, it:

  1. Substantially increased access to drinking water and electricity.

  2. Improved acceptance of democratic processes;

    * increased the number of community members who vote.

    * Increased the proportion of male villagers who supported elections.

    * Increased the frequency of meetings of representative councils.

    * Increased the number of village members who would like to challenge or change leadership decisions.

  3. Improved opinions about women's political and social participation:

    * Increased enfranchisement.

    * Increased representation in governance bodies.

    * Increased access...

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