The changing landscape of Afghanistan

26 Jun 2012

As in most countries, Afghanistan’s future lies in the hands of its people.  

Yet the challenges are huge:  Afghanistan faces enormous recovery needs after decades of war, natural disasters and a continuing cycle of violence.  Despite significant steps forward, millions of Afghans still live in severe poverty. This rugged, landlocked country remains one of the poorest in the world, with more than half the population living below the poverty line.

Despite these hurdles, Afghanistan now stands at the crossroad of recovery and development. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has been working in Afghanistan for more than 50 years and remains committed to improving the lives of Afghans through national governance and poverty reduction programmes, rural and urban development schemes, and by providing support to vulnerable groups, such as returnees and Internally Displaced Persons, ex-combatants, and disabled and vulnerable women.

A young woman named Kimia from Herat in northwest Afghanistan is one of many Afghans who have benefited from UNDP’s assistance.  When her husband died, leaving her alone to raise five children, she struggled to make ends meet, even having to give temporary custody of two of her children to her brother-in-law.  However, in a recent video interview, she describes how a carpet-weaving course offered by UNDP provided her with the means to earn an income, support her family and put her children through school, an unimaginable dream for her.

Kimia is not alone in recognizing that educating the young is critical for developing a strong nation.  As part of its rehabilitation and recovery activities, UNDP has been promoting education and leadership across Afghanistan.  In several Afghan schools, UNDP runs a programme where young people between the ages of 12-20 are elected to community leadership roles where they learn to address vital issues such as environmental protection and waste management, inspiring in them a sense of civic responsibility.

Credible leadership and the establishment of solid institutions are necessary for Afghanistan’s long term stability and reconstruction. Likewise, democratic elections are key to building support at the grassroots level.  For years, UNDP has been supporting transparency and democracy through its activities within the country.  Though huge strides have been made in terms of voter turnout, there is still a long way to go.

In the immediate future, the Government of Afghanistan recognizes that the success of the country’s development depends largely on peace and security – which still remains in short supply across large tracts of the country.  Afghanistan’s national security and recovery depends just as much on the reintegration of former fighters as it does on strengthening the national police force.

One of UNDP’s largest programs in Afghanistan is the Law and Order Trust Fund which helps build the Afghan National Police into a force capable of maintaining peace.  
 
Yet more needs to be done to train and create a professional police force that is capable of handling Afghanistan’s security issues.

The withdrawal of most international troops by 2014 will have a profound and lasting impact on the country’s economic and development fabric.

And as Afghanistan’s development slowly moves forward, UNDP will continue to guide the country and its people towards their hopes of becoming a stronger and more stable nation.