Photo credit: UN Photo/Helena Mulkerns
Being one of the largest beneficiaries of aid and assistance in the world, Afghanistan has made notable efforts to better align and coordinate development efforts with its development partners and national priorities.
Starting in 2010, Afghanistan produced its first Development Co-operation Report (DCR) signaling its very initial commitments to more effective development co-operation. The report summarised the outcomes of key Development Co-operation Dialogues (DCDs) held on an annual basis since 2002. The DCDs were a platform to discuss policy and program priorities, suitable financing modalities, review progress on aid effectiveness indicators and other commitments made at international fora.
In the same year, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan formally established the Aid Management Directorate (AMD) to manage the influx of development assistance and ensure that it is used as effectively as possible and responds to national priorities as identified in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS). The ANDS established a set of 22 National Priority Programs (NPPs) representing a clear prioritisation for implementation of specific deliverables. The NPPs encouraged inter-ministerial work, involving the participation of more than one ministry, in attempt to co-operate more effectively by synchronising timetables, budgets, and shared resources.
For even more transparency and mutual accountability, the ANDS also established a consultation mechanism called the High-Level Committee on Aid Effectiveness which met on a regular basis with government and its development partners to review the aid coordination and effectiveness landscape in Afghanistan.
Since then, the Directorate has served as a bridge between several development partners, line ministries, Ministry of Finance and CSOs. In 2013, it was instrumental in crafting Afghanistan’s first-ever multi-stage consultative Aid Management Policy that embodied the commitments made at the Busan Forum in 2011. The policy was meant to serve as a partnership between the government and its development partners, including bilateral and multilateral donors, CSOs, and government departments to guide effective delivery of aid in Afghanistan. It also incorporated key elements from New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States on best practices on international engagement in fragile situations.
The main objectives of the policy mirrored the principles of effective development co-operation as it aimed to improve the effectiveness of development co-operation through greater government ownership and leadership, operationalise a process for mutual accountability, and increase transparency between development partners and the governments in better managing development co-operation. The AMP called for a renewed stronger foundation for partnerships that would support sustainable growth of Afghanistan.
Reaffirming the importance of continued mutual accountability between the government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the international community, the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) was introduced in 2012. The TMAF was followed by the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) approved in 2015 and updated with short term deliverables in 2016. These frameworks’ principles encourage continuous donor support and ensure government’s accountability to its commitments.
Later in 2016, the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF) was developed. The ANPDF presents the government’s five-year strategic development plan targeted at achieving its overarching goal of self-reliance. The ANPDF introduced ten National Priority Programs (NPPs) in order to reduce poverty, create jobs, improve service delivery, ensure sustainable economic development, and protect Afghan citizens’ rights and peace.
To that end, it was in 2017 that Afghanistan submitted its first voluntary national review (VNR), signaling its strong support and work towards achieving the SDGs at the country level. The VNR described a national consultation process that localised and reshaped the global SDG targets and indicators into eventually 111 national targets and 178 national indicators, as well as divided the 17 goals into 8-socio-economic sectors. The government engaged all national and international stakeholders in an attempt to align the ‘A-SDGs’ with national planning processes, policies and strategies, conducting around 50 workshops, seminars, symposiums and conferences with CSOs, private sector actors, academia, media, youth, students and women’s groups.
The A-SDGs recognised that multi-stakeholder partnerships have the power to mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technologies and financial resources. For these purposes, Afghanistan established an oversight commission, ‘A-SDGs Executive Committee (EC)’ that would work on data collection, data verification, reporting and follow-up mechanisms. The NEC provides high-level political support to A-SDGs implementing entities including government, NGOs, CSOs and private sector. The NEC also works as a platform for direct and sustained engagement between the various government stakeholders, the private sector actors, CSOs, NGOs, academia, youths and the international community, with the common purpose of attaining the A-SDGs.
The development of the A-SDGs and the eventual achievement of the SDG goals require a clear approach to data gathering and use. However, an overarching issue is the absence of systematic data gathering during the past forty years of insecurity in Afghanistan which resulted in a situation where development actors engaged in independently developing data sets. To combat this, the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) with technical and financial support from UNDP conducted a Rapid Integrated Assessment (RIA) of A-SDGs and produced a report that provides insights into how GoIRA could increase its emphasis on the achievement of SDGs, as well as improve data collection, monitoring and financing assessments.
Furthermore, in 2018 Afghanistan joined 90+ countries in reporting to the Global Partnership’s third monitoring round (previously also reporting to the 2016 round: see Afghanistan monitoring profile) – a government-led, consultative process that monitors the progress of a country and its development partners in meeting effective development co-operation commitments made at the Busan Partnership Agreement (2011).
Most recently, in the Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, which marked the midpoint of what is known as the ‘Transformation Decade’ (2014-2024), agreed on a set of new indicators and short-term deliverables for the 2019-2020 period called the Geneva Mutual Accountability Framework (GMAF). The GMAF, continuing to build on and strengthen partnership and co-operation between the Afghan government and the international community, will frame and guide the government and international community’s reform activities in 2019 and 2020 in pursuit of increased self-reliance towards the end of Transformation Decade (2024). GMAF indicators aim at reducing poverty, and achieving peace, development and welfare of the Afghan people.
Given the ever-changing political landscape of Afghanistan, challenges for working together towards effective delivery and monitoring of development do exist. However, the ANPDF, NPPs, AMP, A-SDGs, EC, and GMAF, are all progressive steps towards formalising multi-stakeholder engagement processes to deliver effectively together on Afghanistan’s development targets.