Afghanistan: Development progress and prospects after 2014 - International Development Committee Contents

3  Aid in Afghanistan

History of aid in Afghanistan

67.  Since 2001, donors are estimated to have devoted nearly $30billion in development and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and the volume of aid has risen each year since 2001.[103] Afghanistan is now the largest recipient of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the world. However, aid for humanitarian and development programmes has been dwarfed by the amount spent on security—$243billion.[104]


The United States is the largest donor by far, having provided 40.9% of the total aid between 2002 and 2009, followed by EU institutions at 7.8%, the UK at 6.9%, Germany at 4.8% and Canada at 4.4%.[105]

68.  There have been numerous donor conferences since 2001 and various development plans and agreements. Following the establishment of the interim Afghan Government at the Bonn Conference in 2001, the Tokyo (2002), Berlin (2004), London (2006) and Paris (2008) conferences saw donors pledge tens of billions of dollars in aid for reconstruction as well as the establishment of the Afghanistan Compact and Afghanistan National Development Strategy to guide donor investment in priority areas. More recently, the London (2010), Kabul (2010), Bonn (2011) and Tokyo (2012) conferences focused on examining donor commitments in relation to security transition, placing increasing emphasis on capacity building of the Afghan Government and aid effectiveness. This includes the creation of 22 National Priority Programmes (NPPs), formulated by the Afghan Government to focus on key sectors including: peace/reconciliation, good governance, human resource development, infrastructure development, private sector development and agriculture/rural development. Since the Kabul Conference in 2010 only 16 of the 22 programmes have been finalised. We were told by DFID that "the Government of Afghanistan is yet to confirm how many are under implementation, although some NPPs contain existing programmes which have been under implementation for some time (e.g. the National Solidarity Programme)."[106]


69.  International assistance has undoubtedly improved life for Afghans and built the capacity of Afghan institutions. In 2001, under the Taliban, less than one million children attended school. Today, over five million children attend school. The Basic Package of Health Services, a national programme managed by the Ministry of Health and implemented by NGOs, has expanded health coverage significantly.[107] Mortality rates for children under age five have decreased by 40% on 2008 and infant mortality has decreased by 30%.[108] Now more than one in three pregnant women receive antenatal care, compared to just 16% in 2003. Economic growth has been strong, if uneven and largely driven by aid, with significant improvement in Government revenue collection.


70.  These gains are limited and fragile. Rory Stewart MP told us that much of the improvements in extending public services were achieved early on and in some areas have since eroded due to insecurity. An estimated 68% of the population have no sustainable access to improved water sources and almost 95% are without access to improved sanitation. Despite the success in expanding healthcare, for example, an estimated 5.4million Afghans lack access to health services, 4.4million of whom are female.[109] An estimated nine million Afghans (nearly a third of the population) live in poverty.[110] Child malnutrition is among the highest in the world: more than half of Afghan children (54%) are chronically malnourished (stunted), over a third (34%) are underweight and 72% of children under five suffer from key micronutrient deficiencies. One-third of the Afghan population cannot meet its daily caloric requirements and is considered chronically food insecure.[111]

71.  To date, only a minor proportion of aid has gone through the Government. This has limited the Afghan Government's ability to build public services and strengthen governance systems. It has also meant that due to the lack of donor coordination and transparency the Afghan Government has been unable to track accurately aid expenditure. In addition there has been the problem of the creation of parallel systems and civil services by international donors to distribute their aid budgets. In 2010-11, the World Bank estimated that just 12% of aid was delivered 'on budget' and the Afghan Government estimated that 82% of external aid between 2002-10 bypassed the Government.[112] Yet even when aid is delivered through the Government, the Afghan Government has a limited absorptive capacity. The Afghan Government is currently able to spend only an estimated 18 to 20% of the aid allocated to it by the US Government.[113] Where the Afghan Government has succeeded in extending infrastructure, strengthening access to markets and improving access to basic services, it is largely reliant on services provided by the UN and NGOs.

72.  We were told that where aid had gone through the Afghan Government it was not sufficiently reaching the provinces. BAAG felt that priorities were defined by the central Government, often with no engagement from rural populations about their concerns and needs.[114] BAAG saw a further problem stemming from corruption and the lack of technical, financial and project management skills at the local government level which meant that funds coming through the line ministries were directed on ill-informed priorities or to corrupt individual and institutions. This resulted in a failure to deliver good quality services to the needs of local communities.[115]

73.  We heard significant criticisms of the effectiveness and allocation of aid from certain donors, particularly with regard to the increase of aid in recent years. David Loyn described the high volumes as leading to "an aid juggernaut in Afghanistan, which has corrupted the elite of the country, corrupted people in the countryside and made it far harder for any of the effective international actors, such as DFID, to operate well within the country."[116] Ahmed Rashid recently commented that the "enormous sums spent on development" have created "a corrupt, wasteful, inefficient aid-delivery system which only reinforces the Afghan dependency on foreign handouts."[117] It should be noted that these criticisms are not necessarily focused on DFID which is generally seen to be a successful donor by many commentators as discussed in the next chapter.


74.  Coordination among donors, all with differing priorities, has been a significant obstacle as it has led to poorly coordinated or ill-advised aid projects. Implementation of aid projects on the ground have often been fragmented among donors with complex structures. The UK is a member of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), which is jointly chaired by the Government of Afghanistan and the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) with the aim of facilitating donor coordination. The JCMB meets regularly to monitor the Kabul Process, a plan agreed internationally in July 2010 at the Kabul Conference to support the transition to Afghan leadership and responsibility.

75.  While we acknowledge that there have been some improvements in strengthening donor coordination, they have been too little and too late for a reconstruction effort of this scale. CARE, for example, described the JCMB as "toothless and tokenistic".[118] DFID is generally seen as better on donor coordination than others, particularly the US. David Loyn referred to the DFID as "one of the aid darlings over the years," and said "the World Bank and DFID have worked together in Afghanistan in a very co-ordinated way."[119] CAI warned of the risks of poor coordination and duplication:

Any lack of co-ordination between donors at the programme level increases the risk that unscrupulous beneficiaries or suppliers or managing agents could obtain funds from multiple sources for the same purpose.[120]

76.  Part of the problem relates to a fundamental disagreement among some donors on strategy and objectives. Dr Gordon highlighted that:

within the aid community, there has been a renewal of good governance as a valid approach in conflict and post conflict environments. The only problem is, I think, that there are multiple definitions of good governance—of what the institutions, the policy, the strategy should look like.[121]

Orzala Ashraf, Civil Society Activist, described how poor donor co-ordination had manifested at the district level, stating that, "every country, every government has their own priorities."[122] As an example, she pointed to the creation of three separate programmes, some of which received DFID support—National Solidarity Programme (NSP), Afghan Social Outreach Programme (ASOP) and the District Delivery Programme (DDP)—which in some places were being implemented in the same villages with duplicate objectives. She explained that NSP elected a Community Development Council (CDC) and ASOP appointed an ASOP shura (who unlike CDCs were paid but not elected) both at village level. The DDP created its own 'shuras' or councils at district level that were not linked up with either of the other structures. She added:

In some cases these are creating more conflicts and more confusion at a district level. I am not sure about DFID, but I can say that probably the same organisation or the same donor is funding both projects in a larger picture. There is a need to go back to it and avoid duplication of the services provided, or find some more practical means of co-ordination.[123]

77.  Transition may provide new opportunities to address the weaknesses in donor coordination. Mervyn Lee of Mercy Corps felt, that with less overall aid money around, there would be a chance "to focus better and get better coordinated delivery of aid where it is needed most."[124]

Box 2
The National Solidarity Programme
  • The National Solidarity Programme (NSP) was created in 2003 by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), with assistance from the World Bank,
  • The key objective of NSP is to build, strengthen and maintain Community Development Councils(CDCs) as effective institutions for local governance and social-economic development so that Afghan communities can identify, plan, manage and monitor their own development projects.
  • NSP consists of four core elements:

- Establishment of CDCs in a democratic manner;

- Building the capacities of CDC and community members (both men and women) in a

variety of areas, primarily in local-governance and in development.

- Providing direct block grant transfers to fund approved subprojects identified,

prioritized and managed by the communities; and

-Linking CDCs to Government agencies , NGOs, and donors to improve access to services

and resources

  • of rural communities have been mobilized, and more than 29,474 have elected local councils to represent them
  • grants have supplied more than USD 800 million to community-driven rural reconstruction and development programmes
  • grants are calculated at US$200 per family with an average grant of US$ 33,500 and maximum of US$ 60,000 per community
  • NSP works with 29 implementing partner organisations, the majority if which are national or international NGOs.

Source: Afghan Government National Solidarity Programme website


78.  Where aid has not gone through the Afghan Government, the Afghan Government has faced significant challenges in tracking the geographic distribution of aid, due in large part to lack of information from donors.[125] The data they have been able to collect highlights the concentration of aid in Kabul as well as highly insecure provinces with a significant international troop presence. The table below, taken from the Afghan Ministry of Finance's public reporting, shows the disparity of development spending:

Figure 4: Top 10 provinces by aid allocation (in USD millions)

Source: Afghan Ministry of Finance

79.  Christian Aid was concerned that donors tended to focus on insecure areas, often where their national military forces were deployed, meaning some provinces received far higher aid levels than others not always on the basis of considerations of most urgent needs.[126] Recent World Bank analysis showed that most aid since 2001 had been focused on security and governance rather than poverty reduction.[127] This focus on insecure areas has meant that more peaceful provinces—where long-term gains in sustainable development are more feasible—have been neglected. Orzala Ashraf said that people in areas of relative stability in Afghanistan such as Bamiyan province joked that "Okay, we should also find some suicide bombers so that we get some more funding."[128]

80.  The greater concentration of aid in insecure areas with international troop presence is based on the belief that aid will help facilitate or consolidate gains made by military forces in improving security, but evidence to support this contention is lacking. Governor Mangal highlighted how improved security has facilitated the expansion of infrastructure in Helmand, but it was unclear if these gains would be sustained if security deteriorated.

Helmand Provisional Reconstruction Team and the Conflict Pool

81.  The Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are a combination of international military and civilian personnel based in provincial areas of Afghanistan. Currently, there are 26 PRTs operating throughout Afghanistan. A lead nation retains responsibility for a PRT but some may also contain military and civilian personnel from other nations. Each PRT has three core tasks: to support the extension of the authority of the Afghan central Government; to support reform of the security sector; and to facilitate development and reconstruction.[129]

82.  The UK leads the PRT in Lashkar Gah, Helmand. As part of the PRT DFID works alongside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. Approximately 60% of the UK Government's tri-departmental Conflict Pool programme is focused on Helmand supporting programmes aimed at conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping, Around 20% of the total Conflict Pool budget is allocated to governance and rule of law activities, including building Afghan capacity to deliver basic policing and justice services and supporting law enforcement programmes tackling high level narcotics and corruption offences. The Conflict Pool has also funded some infrastructure development in Helmand, including roads, power and irrigation repairs, and building provincial capacity to maintain them.[130] Almost 80% of the UK's Conflict Pool activities in Afghanistan are classed as ODA.[131]

83.  Allocations to the Conflict Pool have significantly increased in recent years, from an allocation of £4million in 2007-08 the allocation for 2012-13 will remain at the current level of £68.5million. The following tables illustrate planned Conflict Pool spend and distribution by sector:

Table 1: Planned Conflict Pool spend by sector
Sector FY 11/12 spend (£m)
Urban development 25
Justice 22.8
Non-ODA 7.9
Governance 6.3
Security 3
Culture 1.4
Agriculture 1
ODA unclassified 0.9
Total 68.5

Source: DFID supplementary submission

84.  The PRT in Lashkar Gah will be closing in 2014 and DFID will no longer have a permanent representation in Helmand. The Helmand PRT is planning for a "gradual civilian drawdown"[132]; DFID's expects to revert to nationally managed programmes once the PRT has closed. Helmand will continue to benefit from UK aid through national programmes for example via the ARTF and support to the NPPs.[133] Conflict Pool funding to Helmand will gradually decline in line with these plans. The following table shows current and future planned Conflict Pool funding:

Table 2: Current and future planned Conflict Pool funding
FY 11/12 FY 12/13 FY 13/14 FY 14/15
£68.5m £69.4m £53.9m £37.1m

Note: the Afghanistan programme recently returned £8m of its £69.4m allocation for FY 12/13 to the centre

Source: DFID supplementary submission

DFID said it is actively encouraging NGOs and donors, particularly multilateral donors, to increase their work in Helmand in its absence. In parallel the PRT is working with the provincial government to ensure they are able to lead development efforts after 2014 and to be able to draw down resources from the central Government in Kabul. At the meeting with Governor Mangal in Helmand he told us that he would like to have a DFID presence in the province after the PRT closed. DFID staff however informed us that this would not be possible without the security of the PRT military base.

85.  While PRTs have been an important interim structure through which security and infrastructure have been provided, we heard criticisms of PRTs. Mervyn Lee of Mercy Corps highlighted that each PRT ran a different national agenda and he hoped that donor co-ordination would improve once they all closed down in 2014.[134] Orzala Ashraf said that the way in which some PRTs provided services had damaged the work of the NGOs and made it less secure from them to operate. While NGOs had tried to assume a neutral position and not associate with PRTs or other military actors, many had nonetheless been perceived to be aligned with the Government and international forces and threatened and attacked. She felt that even after the withdrawal of international forces, some NGOs might not be able to restore their reputation to work in areas where PRTs had operated and that would create gaps.[135]

86.  While we heard positive reports about cross-departmental coordination between DFID, FCO and MoD during our visit, others have offered a different point of view. The 2009 DFID evaluation noted initial problems they attributed to "approaches toward counter-insurgency, stabilisation, counter-narcotics, peace and development were not necessarily mutually reinforcing."[136] Past ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper Coles said that DFID had to fight for recognition and to get their policies implemented in country.[137] Naysan Adlparvar told a similar tale:

Due to the highly political nature of the UK's engagement in Afghanistan, and the potential implications of the UK's relationship with the United States of America and NATO, British aid in Afghanistan has become highly politicised. This has resulted in a subordinate position for the developmental role of DFID in Afghanistan compared to the political role of FCO and the military role of the MOD. Increasingly, since British troops arrived in Helmand in 2006, DFID has continually been under pressure to increase total volumes of aid, and to target more aid toward Helmand (now over 31 % of bilateral and Conflict Pool funding). The resulting increase in aid is channelled through both the bilateral programme and Conflict Pool, primarily in a bid to support FCO and MOD-led stabilisation operations in the province.

Such assertions are at least partially supported by DFID's most recent (2009) Afghanistan Country Programme Evaluation, which stated that "to some extent this [pressure on DFID] constrained the choices available to DFID and undermined the coherence of its overall strategy." However, the previous Secretary of State, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP disputed this:

I can categorically state that DFID is not a "poor relative" in Afghanistan. The UK Government recognises that military means, although essential, are not enough on their own to meet Afghanistan's many complex challenges. Political progress, alongside governance and development, is also needed to address the underlying causes of the insurgency. But these cannot take place in the absence of security. An integrated approach is required to achieve a common goal; a safe and secure Afghanistan.[138]

The then Secretary of State confirmed that all DFID funding adhered to OECD Development Assistance Committee definitions of non-security aid and the DFID Afghanistan programme prioritised poverty alleviation.[139] However, DFID has a dual mandate of poverty alleviation as well as providing "support[to] the UK's National Security Council strategy helping Afghanistan resist extremism and achieve a lasting end to the insurgency."[140]

87.  Naysan Adlparvar questioned the effects of the Conflict Pool pointing to research carried out in Helmand, and published in 2011, which found that 'aid' used in the form of stabilisation operations "may have as many negative, unintended effects as positive ones and, at the very least, is not a panacea."[141] Dr Gordon agreed:

I think it was Petraeus—I might be wrong—who said, "Where the roads end, the Taliban starts," but I think the reality is that where the road building starts, the Taliban benefit. The problem with much of the infrastructure work that has gone on through the international community outside of Government processes has been that it has created rent seeking opportunities and it has been a conflict driver as well, with diversion of money to the Taliban and to militia groups and also a real sense, in this sort of zero sum society where there are always winners and losers, that some people have benefited and others have not benefited from road building and all of the major infrastructure projects. That has been a source of conflict as well.[142]

88.  While we agree with the then Secretary of State's assessment that DFID staff should be relocated from Helmand to Kabul following the closure of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)—due to the lack of a secure base to work from following the departure of the military—the UK should not abandon Helmand. DFID and FCO staff should continue to monitor the situation closely and provide advice and support to the provisional government in Helmand, where it can help. While we support the shift towards a less Helmand-focused portfolio and presence, DFID should ensure this transition is gradual and continue to fund effective programmes to encourage rural development, education and good governance in the province managed by locally-engaged DFID staff. Security gains in Helmand have been achieved at a very high cost in terms of British lives, injured service personnel and support staff as well as military and development spending. The UK must not walk away from the province after 2014.

Tokyo Conference

89.  There have been two key moments this year at which the international community and the Government of Afghanistan have firmed up commitments to Afghanistan—the NATO Summit in Chicago on security transition held on 21 May, and the Tokyo Development Conference on civilian aid through transition held on 8 July. A key outcome of the Tokyo Conference was to secure $16billion in aid pledges up to 2015. It is hoped by DFID that these international commitments will align behind Afghan Government priorities including the 22 National Priority Programmes . Ahead of the Summit the then Secretary of State pledged:

that the UK would maintain its current funding levels of £178 million a year for the next five years and will continue to support Afghanistan through its 'transformation decade' to 2025 as long as the Afghan Government continues to deliver crucial reforms and results for its people.[143]

90.  Additionally, at the Conference the international community and Afghan Government agreed a Mutual Accountability Framework for Afghanistan's sustainable economic development for the Transformation Decade (2015-24). The Mutual Accountability Framework sets goals and objectives for a new commitment between the international community and Afghan Government, with indicators to be decided by the JCMB. A follow up conference is scheduled to be held in the UK in 2014. However, it remains unclear how these commitments will be met by both sides, and what—if any consequences—will result from a failure to do so. There have been persistent problems in the past in ensuring that donors have followed through their commitments; the last time the pledges were measured by the Afghan Ministry of Finance in 2008 donors had only dispersed 40% of the pledges they made to date.[144]

Table 3: Aid pledged compared to aid disbursed to Afghanistan by international donors
Total pledged


Total committed


Total disbursed 2002-2009 % of pledges disbursed by end 2009
US$bn US$bnUS$bn US$bn
United States 38.028.4 10.928.8%
EU institutions 2.02.0 2.1102.8%
United Kingdom 2.91.8 1.863.3%
Germany1.2 1.01.3 108.0%
Canada1.7 1.21.2 70.3%
Japan1.9 1.41.0 52.5%
Netherlands 0.80.9 0.8102.4%
Norway0.9 0.60.7 71%
India*1.2 1.20.4 36.1%
Sweden0.3 0.50.4 79.6%

Notes: all disbursements are based on OECD DAC data, excluding India which is based on Afghanistan DAD data

Source: Lydia Poole, Afghanistan: Tracking major resource flows 2002-2010, Global Humanitarian Assistance, January 2011

91.  We questioned the then Secretary of State on how the Afghan Government would be judged to be abiding by the Mutual Accountability Framework and at what point aid money would be 'turned off'—for example we asked at what level of corruption DFID would take the decision to suspend funding and whether it was clearly laid out for the Afghan Government. The then Secretary of State informed us that there was no such protocol as he needed to "maintain the flexibility to be accountable to Parliament."[145]

92.  International development funding to the Afghan Government must be carefully monitored and conditions-based. If the transfer of aid 'on budget' increases without sufficient monitoring and quality control corruption could get worse and access to basic services for Afghans could deteriorate. It needs to be made absolutely clear in an agreement between the international community and the Afghan Government at what level of not following through on commitments that aid funds would be reviewed and suspended. The Mutual Accountability Framework does not go far enough in this respect.

103   Lydia Poole, Afghanistan: Tracking major resource flows 2002-2010, Global Humanitarian Assistance, January 2011 Back

104   Lydia Poole, Afghanistan: Tracking major resource flows 2002-2010, Global Humanitarian Assistance, January 2011 Back

105   Lydia Poole, Afghanistan: Tracking major resource flows 2002-2010, Global Humanitarian Assistance, January 2011 Back

106   Ev 48 Back

107   "Afghanistan Country Overview", World Bank website  Back

108   "Afghanistan Country Overview", World Bank website Back

109   OCHA Back

110   "Afghanistan Country Overview", World Bank website Back

111   World Bank, Poverty and Food Insecurity in Afghanistan: Analysis Based on the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment 2007/08, 2012 Back

112   World Bank, Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014, May 2012; Government of Afghanistan Ministry of Finance, Development Cooperation Report, 2010  Back

113   "Aid Agencies in Afghanistan Fear Reversal after US Exit", NY Times, 5 December 2011.  Back

114   Ev w38 Back

115   Ev w38 Back

116   Q5 Back

117   "Aid will not sustain Afghanistan's economy", Financial Times, 30 July 2012 Back

118   Q32 Back

119   Q8 Back

120   Independent Commission for Aid Impact, Programme Controls and Assurance in Afghanistan, Report 6, March 2012, p8 Back

121   Q22 Back

122   Q32 Back

123   Q32 Back

124   Q34 Back

125   Government of Afghanistan Ministry of Finance, Development Cooperation Report, 2010 Back

126   Ev w2 Back

127   Ev w2 Back

128   Q37 Back

129   "Operations in Afghanistan: Reconstruction" Ministry of Defence website Back

130   Ev 43 Back

131   Ev 43 Back

132   Ev 44 Back

133   Ev 44 Back

134   Q34 Back

135   Q37 Back

136   DFID, Country Programme Evaluation in Afghanistan, Evaluation Report EV696, May 2009, p. xiii Back

137   Sherard Cowper-Coles, Cables From Kabul: The Inside Story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign 2011 p 112 Back

138   Ev 44  Back

139   Ev 44  Back

140   DFID Afghanistan, Operational plan 2011-15, June 2012 Back

141   Ev w56 Back

142   Q8 Back

143   "International community must make long term and specific financial commitments at Tokyo Conference to secure Afghanistan's future warns UK Development Secretary", DFID Press Notice, 2 July 2012 Back

144   Matt Waldman, Falling Short: Aid Effectiveness in Afghanistan, ACBAR, 2008 Back

145   Q68 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 25 October 2012