Afghanistan is in the midst of what President Ashraf Ghani has described as “The Transformation Decade” – a 10-year program of ambitious reforms across all sectors of government intended to dramatically improve the lives of all Afghans by making the country economically self-reliant, peaceful, and politically stable. President Ghani’s blueprint for that reform, “Realizing Self Reliance,” was endorsed at the 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan. Since, the government has made measurable progress in its national priority areas: job creation and industry development, delivery of citizen services, regional cooperation, infrastructure development, judiciary reform, women’s empowerment, and ending corruption.
The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, held in October 2016 and attended by 75 countries and 26 international organizations and agencies, was regarded as the first major international review of Afghanistan’s reform progress. At the conference, the Afghan Government presented its National Peace and Development 2017-2021 and Self-Reliance Through Mutual Accountability Frameworks. The conference’s final communiqué was well received by attendees and internationally, providing important recognition of results in key areas of reform and confidence in pledges made.
2017 saw an acceleration of the Citizens’ Charter program, which is now reaching 2,500 villages across the country.
The Citizens’ Charter is a foundational program for realizing the government’s self-reliance vision. The Charter is a government commitment to provide every village in Afghanistan with basic services, based on the community’s own priorities and needs. Built on unified community-level budgeting and financial reporting, the Charter empowers communities to oversee their own development goals, monitor the quality of service delivery, and report grievances to authorities and civil society. The Charter aims to promote inclusive development and accountability at all levels of government, giving a voice to vulnerable groups including women, returnees, and the poor. It additionally strives to provide a positive Afghan government presence in areas that have previously known only lawlessness and poverty.
Over the next ten years, the Citizens’ Charter aims to reach every community in Afghanistan. It is currently in its first phase, which focuses on the poorest and most underserved districts, which make up more than one third of the country.
Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (with links to National Peace and Development Framework 2017-2021 and Self-Reliance Through Mutual Accountability Framework) http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/10/05-bca-main-results/
The Citizens’ Charter: http://projects.worldbank.org/P160567
Administering Reform in Afghanistan: A Conversation with President Ashraf Ghani’s Chief Adviser Dr. M Humayon Qayoumi http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/events/past-events/administering-reform-in-afghanistan
Afghanistan During the Transformation Decade: Implications for the New U.S. Administration https://www.csis.org/events/afghanistan-during-transformation-decade-implications-new-us-administration
IMF Commends Afghanistan for Progress on Reform Objectives http://www.publicfinanceinternational.org/news/2017/03/imf-commends-afghanistan-progress-reform-objectives
Tracking Budget Transparency Reforms in Afghanistan http://www.internationalbudget.org/2017/05/tracking-budget-transparency-reforms-afghanistan/
Afghanistan’s contested presidential election in 2014 was resolved in a U.S.-brokered deal that created a National Unity Government (NUG). New President Ashraf Ghani, by decree, created the post of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), filled by Abdullah Abdullah. The formation of the NUG presented an opportunity for Afghanistan’s leaders to redefine the role of government and institute reforms that grow public support while working to ensure further international assistance.
At the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in October 2016, 75 countries and 26 international organizations and agencies participated in order to evaluate progress by the NUG and reaffirm support for Afghanistan. It was a very important moment for the NUG to demonstrate its progress on reform and set out a clear vision for the future. The NUG presented the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF), setting out strategic policy priorities to achieve self-reliance. The NUG additionally presented five new National Priority Programs (Citizens’ Charter, Women’s Economic Empowerment, Urban Development, Comprehensive Agriculture, and National Infrastructure) to improve the conditions for sustainable development and stability. Strides made in good governance, a rise in the country’s revenues, the fight against corruption, and economic integration were centerpieces of that presentation. The NUG succeeded in attracting $15.2bn in aid from the international community, expected to last until 2020.
In October 2017, the NUG hosted a Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Kabul, with the international community again affirming their support for the reform agenda, and committing to further funding of its programs.
The New Afghanistan, G7+: http://www.g7plus.org/sites/default/files/resources/The-New-Afghanistan.pdf
Office of the President of Afghanistan: https://president.gov.af/en/
Communique on the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (October 5, 2016): https://af.usembassy.gov/communique-brussels-conference-afghanistan-october-5-2016/
“We could form a government of national unity fighting corruption. The ordinary Afghan is sick and tired of it, because it's she or he that pays the price.” - President Ashraf Ghani
“These cases show that money and power are not a guarantee. We face many difficulties, but we are committed. We still do not have complete justice in Afghanistan, but we no longer have complete impunity.” - Attorney General Hamidi
Ending endemic corruption in Afghanistan has been a priority of the current Afghan government since it came into office in 2014. Sweeping measures have been implemented to create transparency and accountability, which have reduced opportunities for corruption across government agencies: Entire sections of the civil service have been purged of employees who were caught committing or benefitting from corrupt practices; National contracts are now scrutinized by a President-led commission that saved millions of dollars in its first year of work; and a completely overhauled judiciary system is prosecuting high-ranking military and civilian figures.
As of Summer 2017, the Attorney General’s Office was reviewing more than 1,100 cases of corruption, including for bribery, embezzlement, abuse of public authority and forging documents. Since its launch in August 2016, the Anti-Corruption Justice Center has referred more than a dozen high-level cases for prosecution, resulting in 31 people sentenced to prison – among them, three officials from the Ministry of Urban Development and six from the Ministry of Finance. Seven Education Ministry officials have been arrested, as has a senior Interior Ministry official. The National Procurement Authority has blacklisted more than 100 firms found guilty of corrupt contract practices. For the first time, land grabbing is now a criminal offense and 64,000 hectares of illegally seized land have been reclaimed. At the Ministry of Defense, 1,400 officers have been dismissed, and investigations are underway into 55 cases of illegal ammunition and weapons sales involving 109 people. An additional 578 cases are being investigated for other crimes. Afghanistan moved up four points in the 2016 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, but remains ranked only 169th out of 176 countries.
In October 2017, the government launched and adopted a new Anti-Corruption Strategy for the country, which was subsequently ratified by the Cabinet. This was seen by many observers as a major milestone in the Government’s wider campaign to end corruption and improve law and order.
High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (government website): http://anti-corruption.gov.af/en
Afghanistan Okays National Anti-corruption Strategy (September 2017): https://www.pajhwok.com/en/2017/09/29/afghanistan-okays-national-anti-corruption-strategy
Global Witness: Afghan Commitments a Step Forward in the Fight Against Corruption: https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/afghanistan/anti-corruption-summit-afghan-commitments-step-forward-fight-against-corruption/
How Afghanistan is Ramping Up Its Fight Against Corruption (August 2017): https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/how-afghanistan-is-ramping-up-its-fight-against-corruption--especially-among-the-countrys-elite/2017/08/18/b2b25ac4-81bb-11e7-9e7a-20fa8d7a0db6_story.html
New Afghan Attorney General Seeks Justice In System Rife With Graf (September 2016): https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/world/asia/new-afghan-attorney-general-seeks-justice-in-system-rife-with-graft.html
UN Welcomes Afghanistan’s Progress in Fight Against Corruption (April 2017): https://unama.unmissions.org/un-welcomes-afghanistans-progress-fight-against-corruption
Afghanistan Gets Tough on Tax Evasion: https://www.wsj.com/articles/afghanistan-gets-tough-on-tax-evasion-1483903867
Video: President Ghani’s Remarks at London Anti-corruption Conference (May 2016): http://president.gov.af/en/videos/president-ghanis-remarks-in-counter-corruption-conference-eu/
Afghanistan’s education sector, particularly with respect to inclusivity, suffered greatly under Taliban control, which mandated boys-only schools. However, a determined effort by the government – aided by committed international partners – is rebuilding the system and has dramatically improved the number of children enrolled and quality of education they receive.
As of 2017, 60 percent of Afghan’s approximately 6 million children - 40 percent of whom are girls – were enrolled in school. This is up significantly from the 900,000 boys enrolled in 2002. Since then. more than 16,000 new schools have been built and 150,000 teachers recruited and trained. The Ministry of Education is implementing the second phase of the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP II), the primary goal of which is increasing access to quality primary education, with a focus on improving access to education for girls.
In Afghanistan, Raising the Quality of Girls’ Education for A Better Future: http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2017/03/afghanistan-raising-quality-girls-education-better-future/
A Rare Success Story in Afghanistan: Education: http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/a-rare-success-story-in-afghanistan-education/
In Afghanistan, New Facilities Boost School Enrolment and Learning: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2017/05/11/grant-enhances-education-quality-increase-school-enrollment
SOLA: The first all-girls boarding school in Afghanistanhttp://www.sola-afghanistan.org/