The Results of German Development Cooperation
All German development cooperation programmes with Afghanistan are designed from the beginning to achieve sustainable results. This means that projects are planned in a way that leads to long-term benefits for the Afghan people. It’s important that government and private partners in Afghanistan can take over responsibility for implementing project measures and tasks independently in future. A team of experts conducts an on-site assessment of the feasibility of every project in the early stages of its planning. This ensures that planned German development cooperation measures are practical and sustainable and include consideration of gender sensitivity and respect for human rights.
When development cooperation talks about results, it refers to the positive changes it wants to achieve through a particular measure. In order to demonstrate that results have in fact been achieved, the development progress made in each project is continuously monitored and then evaluated in detail at the end of the project in accordance with international quality standards.
Since the end of 2009, data on German development cooperation with Afghanistan has been collected with the help of a tracking system in the areas of construction measures, financial services, training, continued education and others. This tracking system was created within the framework of the development offensive for northern Afghanistan. The system aimed at recording implemented measures and ensuring reliable reporting. It also aimed at providing the public and taxpayers with an accurate account of how funds are used and the achieved results.
In 2014, the tracking system developed into what is now the German Development Tracker for Afghanistan, or DevTracker. Since that time, the database has been used to continuously collect quantitative and qualitative information on the results of German Cooperation with Afghanistan, so-called output data. The system presents its data in a user-friendly format, which ensures that data can be analysed more quickly for transparent reporting.
The data and information collected with the DevTracker provide a detailed overview of all projects in Afghanistan and are used in a variety of ways. The main use of the data is in public relations. It is also used to provide specific information to German and Afghan ministries and the German Embassy in Afghanistan.
In addition, the data and information collected serve as an important foundation for further analyses, for example in conducting impact assessments as well as evaluations of individual projects or the entire Afghanistan portfolio.
Database excerpts can be provided on request for specific questions.
Should you need to obtain information or data from the DevTracker for research purposes, please send an individual request with a brief description of your research project to: email@example.com.
Additionally, you will find master data on most of the projects funded by the German government in the freely accessible database of the Afghan Ministry of Finance, Development Aid Database (DAD).
Results monitoring is basically aimed at increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of project measures and in this manner achieve the best possible ‘return on development’ for the funds used. In this way, the progress made as well as deficits in all project measures can be made more visible. Long-term data collection and the ability to make comparisons on its basis allow conclusions to be drawn that enable future projects to be designed more effectively.
The measures of the German Cooperation with Afghanistan are monitored at different levels and recorded with the help of databases.
This is done at an international level in cooperation with other international institutions:
- The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) online platform provides an annual transparent overview of the financial expenditure of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and other funding agencies.
- Within the framework of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), the German development cooperation monitors the effectiveness of joint development activities in Afghanistan and reports on these, in particular with regard to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- The annual Survey of the Afghan People conducted by the Asia Foundation reflects the perceptions of the Afghan people. This survey also reveals the attitudes of people in Afghanistan towards various development measures conducted by the international community, as well as their results achieved on the ground. Once every two years, the survey is expanded to include a set of additional questions that relate specifically to the impact of the development results of the German Cooperation with Afghanistan in the country’s six northern provinces.
Monitoring activities are also carried out jointly with the partner country Afghanistan and its institutions:
- The Development Assistance Database (DAD) of the Afghan Ministry of Finance (DAD) provides information on the financial framework, the range of measures conducted by all bilateral and multilateral funding agencies and the specific programmes of the German Cooperation with Afghanistan. The database, which is updated every year to include the latest data, is made available to the public in Dari and English.
- Along with specific monitoring activities, the German government supports Afghan ministries with consulting activities and capacity building measures in order to optimise monitoring and evaluation processes and make them more efficient.
- The results of the implemented activities in each project financed by the German government are continuously monitored.
Portfolio review and evaluation
After the development measures have been implemented, they are evaluated on a random basis by external appraisers in accordance with international quality standards (OECD-DAC criteria). The evaluations of the measures is based on the following criteria: overarching development results achieved, relevance in the specific context, effectiveness in terms of goal achievement, economic efficiency, long-term sustainability and coherence with measures of other donors. The results of the evaluations are used to help improve projects conceptually and design them to be more effective.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) describes the strategic focus of its development policy priorities in its Country Strategy 2014-2017 document and in the subsequent position paper on development policy cooperation with Afghanistan. Both documents define the development policy objectives that should be achieved when the relevant projects end and enable an independent evaluation of the Afghanistan portfolio. Interim evaluations examine the latest developments and help with the design of the subsequent country strategy and the adjustment of the strategic focus of German-Afghan development cooperation. Data from the DevTracker is incorporated into the development of new strategies and supports the comprehensive assessment of all individual measures.
An evaluation or portfolio review of the overall approach and the results achieved is planned for 2021/2022. Here, independent appraisers will, among other things, use ‘baseline values’ obtained back in 2014 and 2015 to measure any changes that may have occurred as compared to the initial situation. The DevTracker will also be used as a source of comprehensive information, as will the evaluation and monitoring data collected in individual projects. In addition, within the framework of the Survey of the Afghan People in the prioritised northern provinces of German development cooperation (German Development Cooperation: Trends and Impacts in North Afghanistan | 2016-2018), BMZ has further data collected every two years in those districts in which the German development cooperation organisations are especially active and which display evidence of development changes.
Meta-review of evaluation reports from 2008-2018
BMZ plans an evaluation or portfolio review of all measures in 2021/2022. In preparation for this evaluation, an external expert, Professor Christoph Zürcher from the University of Ottawa, conducted a meta-review of evaluations of development cooperation in the period 2008 to 2018 on behalf of the BMZ. The goal of the meta-review was to provide appraisers with a sound overview with comparative evidence of the situation in the various sectors of the German Cooperation with Afghanistan. Lessons for the future commitment of the German government can be derived from the meta-review. The meta-review was also conducted to analyse how the international community in Afghanistan can best position itself in future. In addition, the analysis provides findings that can be useful when planning engagement in other fragile contexts, such as Mali, Iraq, Syria or Libya.
Various types of evaluation reports put together by a broad range of bilateral and multilateral actors were used to produce the study (e.g. impact assessments, performance reviews, formative assessments, bilateral evaluations at the country level, etc.). Relevant English-language publications (articles, books, conference papers, reports) that were published between 2008 and 2018 were identified through a systematic literature search. A total of six major databases were searched, and extensive manual searches for studies were conducted as well. The websites of relevant development institutions of all OECD and DAC countries, multilateral donors such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the UN and UN agencies, and the websites of selected NGOs with large portfolios in Afghanistan were searched. The website of the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) was also searched for relevant publications.
Based on predefined inclusion criteria, 148 studies were selected and then analysed and summarised in the meta-review. The selected evaluations were divided into five groups. A total of five reports ensued from the groups, as well as a summary in the form of a chapeau paper:
The meta-review is currently the most extensive systematic overview of the status of international efforts in Afghanistan. The chapeau paper examines the results in the context of extremely difficult conditions that the donor community found in the country marked by war and terror. The paper examines the complex political dynamics in Afghan society, as well as the role of the international community and the strong political pressure it faced to achieve rapid results under extremely difficult security conditions.
The conclusions drawn in the meta-review give pause for thought and are unsettling. To summarise, it can be said that certain successes were achieved ‒ access to basic health care and education improved tremendously, clean drinking water is now more widely available, roads and bridges have been rebuilt, electricity is now being supplied to many villages, basic government services are available, and small basic infrastructure and a variety of training programmes have improved the livelihoods of people in rural communities. Nevertheless, most of the ambitious goals were not achieved.
One finding stands out, namely that the international community repeatedly overestimated its ability and the ability of its Afghan partners to bring about rapid social transformation. The projects that worked the best were those that were embedded on the local level, had modest objectives and produced direct tangible benefits. More specifically, interventions in the areas of basic health and education and those designed to improve people’s livelihoods achieved positive results. Complex projects geared towards capacity building and changing people’s attitudes were rarely successful. For example, efforts to build up institutional capacity in Afghan administrative agencies, or with regard to rule of law and gender issues, rarely worked.
With the support of major development efforts undertaken by the international community, the Afghan people and Afghan government have made considerable progress since 2001. Improvements were achieved in particular in the areas of access to education and training, health care, energy and water, development of institutional capacities of central and provincial government authorities and good governance. Quality of life has improved significantly for many communities in Afghanistan. Around 75 per cent of the population now has access to basic health services (2001: 8 per cent), maternal mortality has declined to 396 cases per 100,000 live births (2001: 1,050), around 30 per cent of the population has an electrical grid connection (2002: 6 per cent) and 55 per cent of Afghans have access to clean drinking water (2001: 30 per cent). More and more children are now attending school. There were 9.2 million children in school in 2019; 3.6 million of these children were girls (2001: one million children in school in total). At the same time, the poverty rate has been rising again since 2015 and now stands at 55 per cent.
The Afghan government’s institutional structures and services are slowly improving, but they are far from able to keep up with the increasing demand and requirements. The government has succeeded in increasing its own contribution to the funding of the budget to 45 per cent. Nevertheless, the government lacks planning and implementation capacity, and good governance. Corruption and nepotism, and a war and drug economy, undermine the acceptance of the government among the population. The Afghan government is unable to adequately maintain the country’s infrastructure on its own.
From an economic point of view, Afghanistan displays major development potential, as the country has an abundance of raw materials (world’s largest copper reserves as well as oil, natural gas, coal, lithium, gold, gemstones) and could theoretically produce extremely large amounts of energy from renewable sources. Afghanistan could also become a logistics hub in future if regional integration efforts were to make further progress. Agricultural development is the most important driver of economic growth at the moment, which is why the Afghan government is focusing on the agricultural sector. Some success has also been achieved with infrastructure development. However, very little private Afghan or international investment is made in this area due to the volatile security situation.
The entire situation in Afghanistan is made even more difficult by the fact that Afghanistan is one of the countries that have been hit hardest by climate change. Moreover, because of the effects of climate change and rapid population growth in the country, conflicts over water, other natural resources and land are increasing. The deteriorating security situation in particular causes major concern among many Afghans, not to mention the lack of positive economic and political prospects for the future.
Many of the evaluations point to ongoing deficiencies with regard to respect for human rights, the very limited progress made in terms of women’s rights, the high drop-out rate in schools, the low school enrolment rate for girls, the continued high level of illiteracy, and highly insufficient economic growth and corruption in the Afghan government.
However, most of the evaluations also point out deficiencies among the bilateral and multilateral donors themselves. One problem here involves the lack of coordination of approaches and measures conducted between donor countries. Often parallel institutional structures were created and too little attention was paid to strengthening Afghan government institutions evenly at the central and the local levels. Too little attention was paid to the selection of actors and partner institutions for cooperation. Development activities were unevenly distributed across the provinces, while on the Afghan side, the institutional capacity for implementing development activities was not sufficiently available. This is one of the reasons why widespread corruption has become even worse in some cases.
What needs to be done in future is to employ modified concepts and strategies in order to achieve more significant progress, and thus finally be able to offer the Afghan people hope for the future after more than 40 years of war.
The latest results of German Cooperation with Afghanistan are summarised in the data overview and show the progress achieved as a result of measures financed by the German government.