by Ahmad Rashid Watanpahl
Development programs have to be designed and directed in light of the Afghan National Development Strategy, which explicitly outlines Afghanistan’s strategy for security, governance, economic growth and poverty reduction.
In particular, the focus should be on long-term sustainable programs that encourage higher community participation and contribute to strengthening local governance. It is important that Afghans themselves take a leading role both in conceptual design and implementation of these programs.
The National Solidarity Program (NSP) was created in 2003 by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to develop local capacity to indentify, design, plan, implement and oversee projects. The program is implemented through partnerships with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
As a partner with NSP, Sanayee Development Organization (SDO) helps to form a Community Development Council (CDC) in each area where we work. The members of a CDC are democratically elected through full community participation.
Within the CDCs, committees are formed and a Community Development Plan is developed. SDO then provides training on various topics, from proposal writing to monitoring and evaluation and how to integrate peacebuilding and conflict analysis. We fully involve the community in all financial affairs of the program, which allows for full transparency and mitigates corruption.
SDO has so far worked to form 486 CDCs, which have served 540,594 people within the 11 districts of Kabul province. The project has empowered community members who now have the capacity to come up with their own initiatives and developed a sense of solidarity and cooperation among the community members. Specifically, the project has made it possible for community members to come together and represent themselves as one unit collectively working on the development of their community.
Further, one of the most visible effects of the project is its emphasis on gender equity, including the establishment of women’s councils. From the start of the project, there is an emphasis on considering women a strong part of the society and seeking to empower them gradually.
The initiative has also challenged the existence of traditional councils and the rule of warlords in a community. Traditionally, the main decisions within a community rest in the hands of the head of the village, called “Malik,” who may or may not be the ideal power holder for the community members. However, the NSP provides for the formation of an elected entity, the Community Development Council, which is a collection of representatives selected by the community.
The mobilization and involvement of the community has been the most effective element of the program. Apart from empowering the community to identify their needs, and design and monitor their sub-projects, one sees a great degree of positive change in the mindset of community members, who have long been subject to the devastation of war.
People who used to chant the slogans of war now offer to work for peace and solidarity. People have come together to resolve their conflicts and to collectively work for the welfare of their community. After four years of working with communities, we can clearly notice that there have been major changes in their attitude towards living in peace and solidarity.
Ahmad Rashid Watanpahl is Acting Program Director at Sanayee Development Organization, an MCC partner agency in Afghanistan. More information about SDO can be found at sanayee.org.af.