Developments in Afghanistan

Updated: 26 May 2015

Afghanistan is a country that has suffered greatly and that after more than 30 years of war and conflict is characterized by deep poverty. The country is one of the world's most corrupt and patriarchal structures mean that women and girls are not seen as full citizens.

In recent decades Afghanistan has been hit by a series of wars. Since the fall of the communist regime in 1992, the country has been ruled by brutal warlords and the Taliban and bombed by the US and its allies.

The war is still part of everyday life. The number of civilian casualties has increased considerably in recent years. 2014 saw a 22 percent increase compared with 2013. The security situation has deteriorated, partly due to the political uncertainty created by the presidential election in 2014. The gradual withdrawal of international troops, which was completed in 2014, makes it difficult to assess the security situation.

After more than 30 years of war and conflict, Afghanistan is a country characterized by deep poverty and 36 percent of the population live below the poverty line. The country's resources are insufficient but also very unevenly distributed. The differences in living conditions between urban and rural areas are great.

The first reasonably free elections in the history of Afghanistan were held in 2004 and since then there have been two presidential and parliamentary elections. Since 2014 Afghanistan is governed by a national unity government after the two rival presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah agreed to share power. The election winner Ghani was appointed president and Abdullah got a new position equivalent to prime minister. There are some doubts as to the ability of the coalition government to govern the country effectively. The democratic transition of power can nevertheless be seen as a step forward. Voter turnout was 68 percent, a third of whom were women.

Despite long-standing conflicts there has also been progress and positive developments, including access to education, reduced infant and maternal mortality, empowerment of women and improved access to clean water - to name a few.

Democracy and human rights

Afghanistan is described as one of the most corrupt countries in the world and corruption is prevalent at all levels of society. The human rights situation has improved markedly after the fall of the Taliban and the anarchy of the 1990s, especially when it comes to women's and girls' rights. However, there could be setbacks due to the  aggravated conflict, the presence of warlords in political life, and the inability of the rulers to meet basic human rights. The judicial system is weak with a limited range. Patriarchal customs and structures mean that women and girls are not seen as full citizens. The widespread violence against women and girls is a fundamental obstacle to development in Afghanistan.

Few women can read and write

Nearly seven out of ten Afghans are under 25 years of age and the literacy rate is very low, particularly among women. The education system suffers from major shortcomings, particularly in terms of availability of trained teachers, classrooms and textbooks.

The situation is worst in rural areas where there are few female teachers and often far to the nearest school. Girls don’t have the same education opportunities as boys. At the same time there have been major improvements in the education sector after the fall of the Taliban. In 2001, only 900,000 children were in school, basically none of them girls. In 2014 the figure had increased to 8.5 million, of which 39 per cent are girls.

Agriculture and economy

More than 70 percent of the Afghan population depend on agriculture for their livelihood and income. Despite successful harvests in recent years, this has not translated into economic growth. The national demand is largely met by imports from neighbouring countries.

The prolonged conflict, drought and floods, lack of access to functioning markets, value chains, seed and irrigation systems as well as the threat from mines and ammunition make it difficult for farmers to cope.

Afghanistan is highly dependent on aid funds. The country's economy is poorly developed, and the illicit cultivation and trafficking of narcotics is on the increase. Despite major investments from international and national actors over the years, major challenges remain. For example there is a need for a better investment climate and opportunities for entrepreneurs to gain access to markets and to be able to market competitive products.

Page owner: Department for Asia, North Africa and Humanitarian Assistance

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