Makhfi Girls High School in Faizabad, Badakshan is one of many schools that receive support from Sweden through the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). Through the program, the school has received lab material and its own library. The girls raising their hands have all used the library.
Photo: Lotta Westerberg/Sida
Our work in Afghanistan
Swedish development cooperation with Afghanistan aims to help people living in poverty – particularly women and girls – to improve their living conditions in a peaceful and democratic society. We are working towards increased aid effectiveness, greater respect for human rights and democratic development, gender equality and education.
Sida aims to strengthen and focus the dialogue, both at home and in Afghanistan, on human rights and gender equality, especially concerning women and children’s rights, as well as to promote women 's and men's equal participation in the social and political development.
We also work with a clear conflict sensitive approach and with anti-corruption. Corruption hinders democratic development and the fight against corruption therefore permeates all our interventions.
Swedish aid has achieved positive results in Afghanistan. For example, the number of children in school has increased from 1 million in 2001 to 8,6 million today, of which 39% are girls. There has also been a reduction in maternal and infant mortality, although the rates are still high.
Our work is guided by the Swedish government's strategy for development cooperation with Afghanistan (2012-2014) and the volume amounts to 655 million in 2014, which is mainly channelled through the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), UN agencies, World Bank, international and national NGOs. A new strategy for development cooperation with Afghanistan is being developed.
At an international donor conference for Afghanistan in Tokyo in 2012, Sweden made a comprehensive and long-term commitment that the Swedish development cooperation with Afghanistan should be seen in a perspective of 10-15 years. During the period 2015-2024, Sweden’s support to Afghanistan is planned to continue, with an indicative volume totalling 8-8.5 billion SEK. In addition to the Strategy for Development Cooperation, Sweden provides humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
Focus on human rights and democratic development
The human rights situation is serious, which is also related to the difficult security situation, the lack of a functioning judicial system and the weak public administration. Violations of human rights are all too common, in particular against women and children. Therefore, we are working to strengthen the respect for human rights and to get especially women, youth and children to strengthen their opportunities to influence society.
Working towards a democratic development, Sida supports the World Bank's fund for reconstruction (ARTF) that contributes to the democratization, strengthening and streamlining the Afghan administration at central, regional and local level. We are working to strengthen civil society's capacity and role in a pluralistic society. Sida supports agents of change such as the Integrity Watch Afghanistan that is working to improve openness, transparency and accountability vis-à -vis the state and contribute to the fight against corruption. Sida supports efforts to protect and strengthen the rights of children through organisations including UNICEF and Save the Children.
Sida also contributes to the establishment of the Afghan Independent Election Commission through the UN agency UNDP ELECT. The long-term support is focused on capacity development, reform of laws, the design of the voting records and promoting democratic participation. Support that is channelled through the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) further contributes to the strengthening of democratic institutions in the country but also to the strengthening of civil society and its opportunities to participate.
Focus on gender equality
Gender equality is considered one of the most important areas for Sida's development cooperation with Afghanistan, since a peaceful and long-term development is not possible unless both women and men are involved in the societal development. In order to promote greater equality, Sida cooperates with the UN Development Fund for Women, (UNWOMEN). Through this cooperation, Sida has contributed to the establishment of protection through women's shelters set up in some twenty provinces, where women also receive legal assistance and support for rehabilitation. Sida has also been a driving force in the implementation of the so called EVAW Act, which will protect women and girls from gender-based violence.
Our support has contributed to results in the case of girls and women's education, protection of women, improved maternal health care and women's participation in decision-making at various levels. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan runs a programme that educates new midwives and female teachers every year, contributing to safer deliveries and more girls attending school. Maternal mortality rate has in recent years declined from 1600 to about 400 per 100,000 births, and the number of girls in school has increased from almost none to about 38 percent. The proportion of women in traditional village councils are now nearly a third, and the women’s representation in parliament is 27 percent. Even if the representation does not always mean real influence in decision-making, it is an important step forward.
Sida considers it important to work with gender equality from different angles and at different levels. This is why we work both at policy level as well as with strengthening civil society actors. Gender equality permeates all of Sida's aid efforts.
Private sector development and infrastructure
To create opportunities for people to support themselves, we want to strengthen the private sector and contribute to rural development. This area of cooperation is to be further developed and is currently mainly carried out through support for the development and repair of infrastructure as well as support for increased business opportunities and employment.
In order to increase the prospects for market development but also increase access to public service for local people, Sida contributes to supporting maintenance and repair of roads in northern Afghanistan. The infrastructure support has resulted in a rapprochement between urban and rural areas and has also created employment through project-related jobs and thus contributed to increased livelihood opportunities for the rural population, not least for women.
Education for continued development
The fact that so few Afghans can read and write constitutes an obstacle to development in Afghanistan. Improved access to high quality primary education quality is a priority, which is why Sida supports efforts to improve the teacher’s skills.
The lack of security is another problem, as the armed conflict is threatening many students' right to education. To help ensure that children and youth receive education, Sweden cooperates with SCA, UNICEF and the World Bank.
Special contributions are made to increase girls' access to education, including training more female teachers. Since 2001, the number of teachers has increased from 20,000 to 172,000, of whom 31 percent are women. Efforts are also being made to raise the literacy rate among women and youth. Sida works to promote the ability to read through the UNESCO and UNICEF literacy programmes.
Afghanistan is one of the 19 major ongoing humanitarian crises in the world, with huge humanitarian needs and high vulnerability. About 9 million people – a third of the country’s population – are in direct need of humanitarian assistance today. There is a particular priority given to the 5.4 million people who lack access to health care; 1.5 million people who need assistance with protection efforts; 0.5 million in need of housing and 2.5 million people living in severe food insecurity.
More than half a million people live as internal refugees in their own country, and 3 million Afghans are still refugees in neighbouring countries, despite extensive repatriation. Afghan people are today one of the largest refugee population in the world and the largest group of asylum seekers in the West.
Humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan is need-based and in line with Sida's overall strategy for humanitarian assistance. Need-based aid means that aid is channelled to the population groups most in need of help. Swedish humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan currently focuses on protection, assistance to internally displaced persons and to returning refugees, but also to especially vulnerable groups, such as women and children.
The majority of the Swedish humanitarian assistance is channelled through the UN-led joint donor fund "Common Humanitarian Fund," which supports key humanitarian priorities in the country’s Strategic Response Plan. The fund channels support to both UN agencies and individual humanitarian organisations and is designed to provide early and rapid funding, enhanced planning and coordination, as well as channelling funds to the most urgent needs. Sida is also part of the fund's advisory board.
Sida also gives direct support to Swedish and international organisations operating in Afghanistan.