By the end of what is referred to as the ‘transformation decade’ (2015–2024) – a phase of far-reaching change processes – Afghanistan is to have attained the status of a ‘normal developing country’. That means that by 2024 Afghanistan would still be extensively reliant on foreign assistance but would largely be capable of autonomously financing its budget and security costs. At present, however, the state has insufficient own funds to shoulder the country’s sustainable development, which is also related to the ongoing armed conflict. The commitment to successful negotiations for peace in Afghanistan is therefore a core area of the German Cooperation.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in dialogue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the Tokyo Conference in 2012, the international community agreed to continue its commitment to civil engagement until 2024 and reaffirmed this at the Ministerial Conferences in London (2014), Brussels (2016) Geneva (2018) and most recently in the two Ministerial Conferences in Geneva in 2018 and 2020.

At the Brussels conference in 2016, the international community pledged a total of USD 15.2 billion for civil reconstruction in Afghanistan for the period 2017 – 2020. The German Government had approved support for civil engagement amounting to EUR 430 million annually).

At the Afghanistan Donor Conference 2020 in Geneva, the German Government confirmed its commitment to Afghanistan. Federal Minister Maas again announced continued support of up to EUR 430 million for 2021 (Federal Foreign Office: up to EUR 180 million; Federal Ministry for Economic Development: up to EUR 250 million) and held out the prospect of a contribution at a comparable level for the following three years until the end of the transformation decade (2022 – 2024).

The release of the approved funds is, among other things, conditional on the implementation of the reforms agreed upon in the Afghanistan Partnership Framework (APF) between the international community and the Afghan Government. Particularly the protection of human rights, including the rights of women and minorities, the integrity of the state, good governance and the fight against corruption as well as cooperation in migration issues, remain prerequisites for German engagement.  

The Afghan Government bears the main responsibility for reform progress agreed jointly with the international community. However, it is dependent on the long-term commitment from the latter.

Germany will continue to support Afghanistan in the future to combat poverty, establish good governance, and improve the economic situation, thereby laying the foundations for lasting stability, security and peace. A prerequisite is the continuation of the Afghan Government’s reform efforts. In this regard, the European Union and its member states reaffirmed their expectations towards all Afghan actors in Council Conclusions on Afghanistan of May 2020.

The German Cooperation supports Afghanistan in building a state that is recognised by its citizens as a legitimate representative of their interests and as a service provider for their basic needs. To achieve this, the Afghan Government must be capable to provide prospects for its people beyond poverty, flight and extremism.

The German Cooperation with Afghanistan helps establish the preconditions for Afghanistan’s long-term stability and peaceful development. It takes a comprehensive, networked approach that includes diplomatic efforts and projects of the ‘Stability Pact for Afghanistan’, involvement in NATO’s training and advisory mission, development cooperation, efforts to rebuild the police force and humanitarian aid.

This approach is primarily implemented by the German Federal Foreign Office, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and the German Federal Ministry of Defence. In the following, we take a closer look at the process of civil reconstruction, which is mainly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan focuses on the following fields:

Advancing the peace and reconciliation process

The conflict in Afghanistan can only be resolved by political means. Only a political agreement between Afghan actors can create the conditions for stability and sustainable development in Afghanistan. We therefore support efforts for sustainable and inclusive intra-Afghan peace negotiations. At the same time, we want to help ensure that as many social groups in Afghanistan as possible, especially women, can help shape a political solution and that this solution essentially preserves what has been achieved in recent years.

Alongside its work to strengthen state institutions, the German Government supports civil society in Afghanistan; in particular approaches that contribute towards the peace and reconciliation process. In addition, the German Government is committed to preventing extremism and strengthening regional cooperation.

Stabilising civil society and building up the police force

Stabilising civil society and building up the police force are essential supplementary measures to development cooperation and military support in the networked approach. The aim is to create the preconditions for a peace process. In cooperation with the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) supports the Afghan Ministry of the Interior financially as well as by sending German police officers to establish a police force capable of enforcing security while upholding rule-of-law principles.

Job prospects as an alternative to extremism

Every year, around 400,000 young people enter the labour market. Measures to promote employment and create jobs aim to improve their prospects and help give both women and men equally a more secure future.

Building a future through education and vocational training

Good education and vocational training afford the basis for access to employment and political participation. The aim is to improve people’s opportunities to shape their own lives thanks to quality basic education and vocational training geared towards the labour market. With capacity building and infrastructure measures, we help improve the quality of vocational training as well as primary and secondary education. In addition, we take advantage of the functioning structures already in place, such as traditional apprenticeships, and develop them further.

Delivering justice through good governance

Well-performing public authorities, administrations and institutions safeguard public order, peaceful social relations and legal certainty. Measures to improve the performance of the legal system and local governance will serve to build these bodies’ expertise and capacities to perform their functions in a transparent manner, combat corruption and strengthen women’s rights.

Economic development in rural areas

Three out of four Afghans live in rural areas and the majority work in agriculture. Against this backdrop, we focus our support in particular on the creation of both long-term and short-term productive employment opportunities, such as through the expansion and strengthening of milk and wheat value chains.

Providing basic infrastructure

Despite the progress made, Afghan citizens’ access to public infrastructure, services and accommodation is still very limited, especially in rural areas. Our work aims to improve the supply of basic infrastructure, such as energy and water supply, to citizens, particularly vulnerable groups such as internally displaced persons, and to support urban development, in order to contribute towards sustainable rural and urban development. A functioning basic infrastructure also strengthens citizens’ confidence in public institutions.

Strengthening local structures

An important prerequisite for development is the assumption of responsibility by local partners. With this in mind, the German Government strengthens local decision-making structures and increasingly integrates them in planning decisions and in the implementation process. This approach also contributes towards the resolution of conflicts of interest. To the extent possible, construction work is performed by local workers using local building materials in order to create jobs and generate income locally.

Providing humanitarian aid

Despite efforts to secure peace and development, 18.4 million people in Afghanistan need extensive humanitarian aid in 2021 according to the United Nations. Afghanistan’s population is suffering the consequences of frequent natural disasters and decades of armed conflict. Both factors have led to large numbers of internally displaced people who, like many of the Afghans returning from Pakistan and Iran, need humanitarian assistance. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbate this situation.

The role of civil society

Civil society has an important role to play in setting expectations on public institution’s transparency and accountability and advancing change in society. Consequently, the German Government works closely with civil society organisations and provides them with advice to enable them to participate more intensively in state processes and thereby contribute to enforcing civil rights.

Support as an incentive for reform

In return for its financial assistance, the German Government expects the Afghan Government to keep to its reform pledges in the fields of governance, the fight against corruption, human rights and women’s rights in particular, and economic inclusion especially for women, as well as cooperation in refugee and migration topics.  

In future, the German Government intends to systematically expand cooperation with Afghan reform partners and increasingly set incentives for transparency, self-reliance and a focus on development.

In this context, the continuation of support will depend on the Afghan Government’s implementation of the mutually agreed reforms. If sufficient reform progress is not evident, we reduce or discontinue our support consistently. Germany and the international donor community closely align their respective support efforts with each other.

German Cooperation with Afghanistan – Presence in a Fragile Environment

The German Cooperation operates in many areas, including those marked by crisis and conflict. These areas are in particular need of the broad-based commitment offered by the German government. National institutions and civil society organisations require support in guaranteeing a life in peace, political security and stability as well as in developing economic prospects and enabling participation for the entire population.

The German Cooperation focuses on close collaboration on equal terms with the Afghan population and national partners on the ground. The framework for cooperation is formed by the Agenda 2030 and the values and rights of the UN Charter, especially human rights. After all, only these partners should and could be able to develop the necessary skills and unleash the essential momentum to plan and implement development programmes independently in the long term. For this reason, one of the German government’s top priorities is to work in close consultation with Afghan partners to tailor programmes to specific conditions in Afghanistan and adapt them to local needs in the best way possible.

In these efforts, Afghan experts working for the implementing organisations play a particularly significant role. The approaches used in technical and financial cooperation consistently aim at familiarising the national personnel with the German Cooperation’s processes and training them to manage implementation. The goal is to develop expertise on the ground, to gradually transfer responsibility to Afghan staff as they increasingly gain practical experience and, in doing so, involve them in management processes. Together with international experts, they need to be able to collaborate with Afghan partners to professionally plan programmes, manage their implementation and ensure effectiveness and sustainability of all activities.

The national and international staff’s security in Afghanistan is a top priority for the German government. The security situation for national and international staff can be very different and the situation is continuously monitored. Appropriate safety precautions can be adapted and standards on the ground improved. In case international experts must leave the country temporarily, activities will not grind to a halt. Resulting from strengthening the Afghan personnel’s capacities, programmes continue to run uninterruptedly. In addition, business continuity management is tested on an ongoing basis: When international staff are unable to be on site, constant business management is guaranteed.

This model has proved its success and is continuously developed further. From the planning phase onward, programmes are designed to allow them to continue even if managed remotely from abroad. In respect of all necessary security standards, this is possible due to the active involvement of and close cooperation with national experts in all German Cooperation projects and programmes. Thus, German Cooperation programmes can be implemented under difficult security conditions and their quality and effectiveness ensured.

Results of the German Cooperation

Screen shot CevTracker

Achieving, monitoring and critically evaluating results – how the German Cooperation with Afghanistan works

To continually optimise the approaches and impact of German Cooperation measures with Afghanistan, the German government monitors progress in strategy implementation, reviews the results of individual programmes and carries out regular evaluations. 

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