Experts tell Afghanistan’s development story

Experts tell Afghanistan’s development story

Edward O'Daly

4 December 2012: Aid organisations need to pay more attention to what Afghans need rather than what outsiders think is best for them, attendees at a forum on Afghanistan’s developments heard last week.

Organised by the University of Canberra’s ANZSOG Institute for Governance, the event featured a panel of experts from Afghanistan and around the world.

The panellists painted a largely optimistic picture of the nation, but highlighted errors in delivering aid to the nation, including three different organisations planning to build the same school, a multimillion dollar Australian development that lies empty and donor organisations insisting on funds going to women-only programs in areas where locals were crying out for carpentry training.

Speaking from the floor, Afghan ambassador His Excellency Nasir Ahmad Andisha highlighted a misconception that his country was simply “a green field and you build things there”.


Adib Farhadi outlined development successes and failures and shared some good news from today's Afghanistan Photo: Michelle McAulay

The panel, which included institute director Mark Evans, adjunct professor and journalist Virginia Haussegger, founding director of the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit at the University of York Sultan Barakat, medical researcher and leader of education initiatives in Afghanistan Nouria Salehi, post-conflict adviser Tony Preston-Stanley and ANZIG researcher Adib Farhadi, outlined a range of successes and failures in delivering aid to Afghanistan.

Recurring themes were challenges to attracting foreign investment when infrastructure was poor and giving the Afghan people themselves more say in the operation of aid programs.

“The issue is the priorities of donors are different,” Mr Farhadi said.

Encouraging news out of Afghanistan was that more than eight million children are in education and 40 percent of them are girls.

“For Afghanistan that’s absolutely amazing,” Mr Farhadi said.

The speakers also reported increasing GDP – although the opium trade is playing a part – while the so-called ‘New Silk Road’ plan is set to put the country at the crossroads of trade between China and Europe and at the heart of the regional economy.

Effective aid programs included targeted vocational education programs in local areas, which Preston Stanley felt had the potential to be “packed up in a box” and taken elsewhere in the country.

Successful development of Afghanistan lay in targeting the new generation of educated, post-Taliban young Afghans and, according to Professor Evans, in “supporting community owned, community managed development programs”.