A new National Solidarity Programme aimed at strengthening a network of some 30,000 self-governing local community institutions in Afghanistan has been established by the government with the support of UN-HABITAT.
The programme, started in December 2003 and set to expand rapidly in coming months, represents an important milestone in the Afghan Government’s reconstruction efforts to help rebuild trust among themselves and with the government. The flagship NSP is the largest and most visible of the government’s development programmes and pivotal to its strategy to rebuild the country after 23 years of war.
With more than a decade of experience in urban Afghanistan, UN-HABITAT is the largest of more than 20 partners working on the programme with core funding from the World Bank and co-financing from a number of additional donors. A total of US$ 302,550 in grants was approved for projects ranging from schools, to public baths, water supply, roads, bridges, carpet weaving and micro-hydroelectric power. The communities themselves have committed over US $30,000 of support in-kind.
They will work with the government through representatives elected by secret ballot to their own Community Development Council (CDC). Regular consultations and consensus among community members is a very important principle of the program.
The NSP strongly promotes a unique development paradigm whereby communities can make important decisions and control resources at all stages of development. This will ultimately enable all villages and communities in Afghanistan to be eligible for funding through the NSP or other current development projects.
Executed by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), the NSP is one of the largest people’s projects in the country’s history. On 9 and 10 December 2003, the Transitional Islamic Government of Afghanistan disbursed the first NSP grants to 14 communities. It aims to bring an improvement in the quality of life for people in the 30,000 communities in three years.
UN-HABITAT is helping the government implement the programme in the provinces of Kandahar, Herat, Bamyan, Farah and Parwan. The agency expects to reach out to some 1,080 communities in these provinces in 2003-04. The first 14 recipients of new government grants are all supported by UN-HABITAT technical assistance. The government’s whole 2003-2004 target is to reach 7,000 communities.
The NSP aims to have the communities participate in identifying and planning projects, help contribute towards capital costs, operation and maintenance mainly by providing the labour, and conducting their activities in a transparent way that also promotes the involvement of women.