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Studies Identify Significant Problems in the Mining, Good Governance and Migration Sectors in Afghanistan

in Afghan Business

Studies Identify Significant Problems in the Mining, Good Governance and Migration Sectors in Afghanistan

By Ahmad Masoud

“During the last two years, Governance Forum Afghanistan as a think-and-do-tank, informed the government and the international community on urgent topics for Afghanistan, such as the role of the civil society, civil service reform or provincial planning and budgeting,” said First Lady Rula Ghani at the culmination ceremony of two years of Governance Forum Afghanistan (Govern4Afg), which was recently organized in Kabul.

“I speak from personal experience. I have found myself relying on these studies to understand the situation on the ground,” she told a gathering of Afghan government representatives, legislators, members of the international community, academia and civil society organizations, engaged in a one-day discussion.

The Governance Forum Afghanistan initiative was financed by the German government through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH or GIZ. A consortium, spearheaded by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) with the full support of the Germany-based GOPA and the Kabul-based JS Consultants, implemented the Govern4Afg project. The initiative was launched in 2015 with the main objective of establishing a platform for overarching policy dialogue on cross sectoral governance reforms in Afghanistan.

“Govern4Afg brought together key sectoral actors to discuss and develop topics and consequently help facilitating overarching discussions that involve not only government and donors, but also civil society organizations,” said Dr. Orzala Nemat, Director of AREU, a leading nonpartisan Kabul-based research organization that “envisions of an Afghanistan where policy decisions are made by evidence, open debate and widespread public awareness in the belief that this will better reflect the priorities of Afghans.”

Nemat said that this has strengthened not only the Afghan-German cooperation in the sector, but also inter-governmental and civil society cooperation.

As the result of poor governance, widespread corruption, increasing insecurity and lack of capacity, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. These challenges have slowed down the socio-economic growth, aggravated the vulnerability of people and adversely affected employment opportunities in the country. A recent World Bank report reveals that Afghan households have been negatively affected by the crisis triggered by the security and political transition. The majority of Afghans live in rural areas that lack basic facilities.

good governance 2The Govern4Afg initiative conducted a number of research initiatives including urban governance, mining governance and migration governance.

The focus of the good urban governance project was the assessment of the implementation of the urban development program while the migration governance project looked at the evolution of concepts and institutional frameworks in Afghanistan. The mining governance research assessed Afghanistan’s extractive industries revenue collection system.

“Urban Afghans are safer and have better access to services and economic opportunities than those living in rural areas,” says a recent World Bank report. “Inequities also persist between Afghan men and women, who increasingly find it difficult to access education and health services. Left unattended, poverty and inequality can further undermine social cohesion and jeopardize progress attained in the past 15 years.”

Good Urban Governance:

The Afghan government looks at urbanization as one of the most important drivers of change; therefore, urban governance is on the top of the list of its good governance reform agenda. The research paper says that the current phase of rapid urbanization in Afghanistan is still new in the hitherto overwhelmingly agrarian country. Urban population grow rate is estimated at over four percent per year and this rate is higher than the global average rate of 1.8 percent. “This poses a particular challenge especially under circumstances of widespread poverty and continued political instability and armed conflict,” the research paper says. “While the urbanization rate at the turn of the century was about 10-15 percent only, it now stands at some 8.3 to 10.1 million living in urban areas, or about 22-25 percent, depending on how ‘urban’ is defined.”

“The Govern4Afg will provide hands-on recommendations for municipality officers to support the management of urban development. It will also provide guidance to the revision of gozar boundaries and propose improvements in the provision of basic services at a neighborhood level where
grassroots” user groups interact with municipality and line agency officers (for example, in the provision of potable water),” the paper says.

“Our expert teams merge in-depth local knowledge and state-of the art of international best practices,” said Bernd Messerschmidt, Sector Coordinator for Good Governance of the German Cooperation. “This enables the teams to do a precise problem analysis and feed hands-on-recommendations to key stakeholders in the discussion process.”

The Mining Governance:

“Making mining data public will create accountability, reduce corruption and meet long term sector plans,” said Arnim Fischer, Promotion of Mineral Governance Project Director at GIZ.

The Afghan government’s five-year-strategic plan, the National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF) 2017-2021, indicated the mining sector as one of the main factors behind economic growth. The strategic plan also emphasizes the need for improving governance of the sector as the main requirement for opening up the sector to investment and, therefore, it calls for full compliance of the extractive activities to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative standards.

The research paper expects that standardized accounting, reporting and auditing system will help improve governance of the natural resources and avoid loss of revenues. The paper suggests that it will directly help improve efficiency and effectiveness of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and Ministry of Finance and will indirectly improve living conditions of the Afghan people through increased resources for service delivery.

According to the research paper, it is too early to observe any effects, since positive results will only be produced following the installation and implementation of the system. However, key government officials in relevant agencies have been sensitized with the idea and they now have been sensitized regarding the shortcomings of the current system and the potential to improve processes by means of a standardized system.

Migration Governance:

Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of migration in the world. Every year hundreds of thousands of people return to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran where they lived as refugees. On the other hand, thousands of Afghans leave the country annually and it is believed that in 2015 about 250,000 Afghans contributed to the migration crisis in Europe.

The result of the research paper indicates that in previous years the migration and reintegration concepts, policies and institutional mechanisms in place were rarely sufficient to accommodate these new developments. Moreover, prior to the current crisis, migration governance suffered from weak conceptualization, lack of organizational capacity and institutional fragmentation.

It is believed that the study will contribute to developing a robust and effective governance mechanism that can assist the Afghan government to mitigate on-going as well as future migrations challenges in a sustainable manner. Especially, the challenge of re-integrating large numbers of returnees from Pakistan as well as the anticipated return of Afghans from Europe, calls for strong governmental mechanisms that can facilitate the broad range of services required, and respond to shifts in return movements and public needs in a timely manner.

It should be mentioned that AREU is the main source of standard qualitative research for experts and the academic community on Afghanistan and has gained a reputation as a trustworthy and independent organization that produces rigorous, substantive, timely and evidence-based research.  AREU also serves as “an important source of information for local and international development agencies working in Afghanistan and is often the first point of call for visiting researches, scholars, journalists, consultants, and officials.”

AREU was established in 2002 by the support of the international community with an aim “to inform policy and practice through conducting high-quality, policy-relevant research and actively disseminating the results with relevant stakeholders and to promote a culture of research, learning and knowledge contribution.”

In its 2016 annual assessment of think-tanks, the University of Pennsylvania ranked AREU as one of the top 10 think-tanks in Central Asia. AREU jumped from 9th place in 2015 to 6th place in 2016.

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