With a population of 38 million, Afghanistan is amongst the poorest countries in the world, with poverty widespread in both urban and rural areas. Protracted conflict has had a strong impact on the country’s economic and social development. Afghanistan has nevertheless witnessed a considerable improvement in its human development indicators since 2001, particularly with regard to health and education.
The European Union (EU) has a long-term commitment to support the people of Afghanistan on their path towards peace, security and prosperity. Since 2002, the EU has provided more than €4 billion in development aid to Afghanistan, which makes Afghanistan the largest beneficiary of EU development assistance in the world.
The EU's overall strategic objectives in the implementation of development aid in Afghanistan are defined by the 2014-2020 Multiannual Indicative Programme, which focuses on 3 priority sectors:
- Peace, stability and democracy
- Sustainable growth and jobs
- Basic social services.
These cooperation priorities are aligned with the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF), which is the government's five-year strategic development plan targeted at achieving its overarching goal of self-reliance.
The EU is a major contributor to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), providing critical support to the poorest Afghan people and helping the government build and strengthen institutions.
- In 2018, some 1 378 health facilities in 34 provinces were set-up through the EU-funded SEHAT and SEHATMANDI programmes. 203 new health facilities in under-served areas were established, 432 Community Midwifes, 432 Health Nurses and 1800 Nutrition Counsellors graduated and deployed.
- Expansion and better mental health services for people with mental health disorders and disabilities. 237 physiotherapist and 40 Orthopaedic Technicians are currently under training. 200 Psychosocial Counsellors completed training in 2018.
- Technical Support to Ministry of Public Health: Over 1190 staff (including hospital directors health directors) are being trained in hospital management and various health topics.
- Contribution towards the development of National Strategy for Mental Health 2018-2022.
- Supporting the implementation of National Family Planning Socio-Behaviour Change .
Agriculture and agro-business:
- EU support to agriculture has increased seed production capacity from 40 to 104 tons, established a network of 6 perennial horticulture development centres, supported the establishment of public-private partnerships with over 1,000 private nurseries and established a strong network of more than 1,100 veterinary field units across the country. The EU has been providing long-term support to agriculture and rural development for more than 10 years.
Rule of law and police:
- Support to payroll management and salaries of around 124,000 employees of the Ministry of Interior responsible for maintaining the rule of law, which also includes the professionalisation of the Afghan National Police including fundamental reforms in the ministry and recruitment of competent civilian experts. Along with the contributions of other development partners, EU support is provided through the Law and Order Trust Fund (LOTFA), implemented by UNDP.
Public finance management:
- The government revenue collection results grew from USD 1.3 billion in 2015 to USD 2.7 billion in 2019, representing around 14% of GDP. EU support to domestic resource mobilisation and self-reliance is provided through direct budget support and technical assistance under the State and Resilience Building Contract.
Reintegration of migrants:
- Almost 500,000 individuals benefit from concrete long and short-term support from EU programmes for Afghan people on the move. Through special measures and regional programmes for migration, the EU supports voluntary return and integration of returnees and internally displaced people, including provision of support to Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan. Some concrete examples of this support include:
- Skills Development and Business Support (3,000 individuals – 40% female participants).
- Emergency Child Protection Services (23,000 children received psychosocial support and protection services through Child Friendly Spaces).
- Polio Vaccination (targeted 5.6 million children by January 2019.
- Migration Resource Centre (awareness raising for over 6,000 Afghans).
- In addition Afghan refugees in Iran (8 schools under construction; 68,000 have improved access to primary health care; 45,000 have improved access to tertiary and secondary health care through health insurance; 1,000 Afghans supported through self-employment/business support and vocational training).
- Afghan Refugees in Pakistan (improved access to health services; 200 vulnerable women completed artisanal skills training; Legal assistance for persons of concern through Aid and Legal Advice Centres; and 1,267 outreach volunteers being trained in protection related activities - 538 women) are served and have better protection space.
Climate change mitigation and adaptation:
More than 90,000 people in Northeast Afghanistan benefit from EU support on eco-system management and sustainable energy. The EU environmental and natural resources management portfolio aims to protect biodiversity conservation and increased ecosystems and community resilience through improved natural resources management and climate change adaptation measures.
European development aid to Afghanistan is funded from the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). The current funding cycle for 2014-2020 amounts to €1.4 billion. Key activities are:
Sustainable growth and jobs
- Foster a more inclusive, sustainable and private sector-led economic growth, notably by contributing to unlock the potential of medium and small medium enterprises;
- Support jobs creation through rural enterprises and by leveraging private capital and investments.
Basic social services
- Contribute to the government’s long-term goals of reducing poverty and deepening the relationship between citizens and the state on the basis of quality basic social services;
- Support the government towards improving the health and nutrition status of the Afghan population;
- EU supports the Afghan Flagship Citizens’ Charter programme. The Charter ensures that every rural and urban community in Afghanistan have access to basic service standards: water, electricity, roads, health and education services based on community’s own prioritization.
- The Citizens’ Charter has reached to around 12,000 communities, with more than 12,000 Community Development Councils elected; 49% of members are women.
Peace, stability and democracy:
- Promote a peaceful and inclusive Afghan society through improved security, access to justice, democratic governance and domestic accountability;
- Stabilise and improve the security situation through support to the police force and increase the enforcement of law and order through strengthened justice sector institutions;
- Enhance democratic governance and domestic accountability to improve service delivery to the Afghan citizens through legitimate and effective institutions and processes and sound public financial management.
In addition to the above-mentioned support, Afghanistan also receives funds from the EU thematic budgets, regional programmes and special measures. In particular:
- Continuous support to protection, improving conditions for voluntary return and integration of returnees and internally displaced people, including provision of support to Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan;
- Promotion of human rights, women empowerment and the protection of human rights defenders through EIDHR projects;
- Engagement with Afghan civil society through thematic programmes.
- The 2020 Afghanistan conference sent a strong signal of support to the country. The EU pledged €1.2 billion in assistance, conditional on the continued commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and gender equality. This is subject to completing the programming under the MFF 2021-2027.