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Stakeholder Perceptions of Agriculture and Nutrition Policies and Practice: Evidence from Afghanistan

20 Oct 2016 09:54:32 GMT

Like in other countries in the South Asian region, malnutrition is a serious problem in Afghanistan: the latest national statistics confirm high rates of stunting among vulnerable groups such as children under the age of five (nationally 40 per cent and in certain provinces over 70 per cent). While there are multiple causes of malnutrition, undernutrition and lack of dietary diversity are significant causes and point to the need to address micronutrient deficiencies rather than generalised food insecurity.

More research on policies and policy formulation is needed to explore the nature of the linkages between diverse stakeholders in agriculture and nutrition policies, policy and project processes, and the mechanisms of intersectoral coordination. A crucial policy question is: what are the pathways and incentives needed to ensure that agriculture can have an impact on nutrition? The objectives of the research reported in this Working Paper were to identify the interrelationships among key organisations in agriculture and nutrition, evaluate the local evidence base linking agriculture to nutrition, and understand the perceptions of decision makers about policy making and implementation, and the capacities for improving nutrition through the agri-food system.

Findings concern agriculture and nutrition linkages already existing within the policy environment, how such policies operate in practice at central and provincial levels, the political economy and policy-making process, and gaps and opportunities for leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Afghanistan.

Areas of suggested policy response are:

  • greater decentralisation of governance to provincial levels
  • improved information flows and knowledge management between central and provincial governments
  • investment in infrastructure for agriculture and nutrition
  • national trade policies for agribusiness
  • investment in departmental government capacity


Case studies on UNICEF programming in child protection

24 Jun 2016 03:29:31 GMT

These case studies illustrate how UNICEF support is helping countries to strengthen child protection systems and promote social change to align social norms and practices with child protection. The case studies provide evidence of positive results from diverse initiatives in nine countries. They cover:

  • improving access to legal aid, counselling and basic services for children in conflict with the law in Afghanistan
  • raising rates of birth registration in Brazil by partnering with hospitals and using technology
  • empowering adolescents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through discussion groups, resulting in community engagement in combatting sexual violence
  • reducing corporal punishment in Jordan’s schools and encouraging teachers to adopt non-violent disciplinary methods
  • offering prevention, referral and protection services for children at risk of or suffering from violence, exploitation, abuse or neglect in Kenya
  • supporting community collaboration to curtail female genital mutilation/cutting in Senegal
  • developing child-friendly police units to handle child victims and perpetrators of criminal activity in the Sudan
  • strengthening child protection systems in Indonesia and Malawi

Strengthening displaced women's housing, land and property rights in Afghanistan

12 Jun 2016 08:42:44 GMT

This report captures the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) groundbreaking work in Afghanistan, including NRC’s role in bringing greater understanding and visibility to Afghan women’s housing, land and property (WHLP) issues in a displacement context. Over three million Afghan women have been internally displaced or sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Regaining or accessing housing, land and property is one of the most important steps towards achieving a durable solution.

Women’s housing, land and property rights are recognised in Afghanistan’s constitution and its civil code, as well as in Shari’a. However in reality women continue to face discriminatory cultural norms and customary practices. This report aims to highlight such customs and cultural practices and demonstrate the challenges women face to fully realise their rights enshrined in law. It also provides recommendations to the Government of Afghanistan, donors, humanitarian actors and civil society organisations on how to tackle these challenges and increase meaningful engagement on women’s HLP issues.

NRC Afghanistan is proud to be a leading organisation working on and bringing attention to women’s HLP issues. This report is based on experiences directly from the field. It captures the bravery of our clients, who are increasingly seeking recognition of their rights and challenging deep-rooted customs which constitute roadblocks to Afghan women achieving their rights.

Endline Evaluation: Women for Women International’s “Stronger Women, Stronger Afghanistan” Programme

09 Jun 2016 05:01:18 GMT

In 2011, Women for Women International (WfWI) received a three-year grant from Human Dignity Foundation (HDF) for its programme, “Stronger Women, Stronger Afghanistan.” The overall goal of WfWI’s Afghanistan programme is to improve the lives of socially excluded women and their families by building self-reliance and access to sustainable livelihood opportunities. The main purpose of the evaluation was to assess the impact of the intervention on women, families and communities in the programme locations.

This evaluation found that while the programme had a number of positive achievements it generally fell short of its target objectives. Fewer than one in four programme participants are earning an income, and of those, more than two thirds were earning an income prior to participating in the programme, suggesting that the programme had little success in empowering non-income earning women to become economically active. Additionally, less than one in ten participants earn more than 1 USD per day, though approximately 1 out of every 2 income earning women saves at least a portion of their income.

Generally, based on the results of the different measurements of women’s empowerment included in theevaluation, it could be concluded that programme participants are somewhat empowered in the political, psychological, and physical domains of empowerment, but less so in terms of the socio-cultural beliefs and visibility, economic, familial/interpersonal and legal dimensions. While there have been some very positive outcomes in terms of women’s sense of social belonging, self esteem, and self-efficacy, participants also demonstrated contradictorily somewhat negative gender role attitudes, a limited understanding of their rights, and many experience ongoing physical and/or psychological abuse. Taken in context of these findings, the evaluation concluded that at present, structural barriers are not adequately considered or addressed at the very root of the problem, inside the family, or at the macro-level and through institutions and legal mechanisms within the programme. Taken as a whole, the findings of the evaluation would suggest that at minimum, several key assumptions of the programme require further research and consideration.

Specifically, the results chain positing that women’s economic participation can transform gender relations was unsubstantiated, particularly in consideration of the pervasive levels of ongoing abuse found in the evaluation. The dominant shortcomings in programme activities that emerged throughout this evaluation were a lack of follow-up support from WfWI, especially in taking what women had learned and translating it into income generating activities, which would require investment, access to markets, business skills and financial literacy, logistic and legal support. However, while the findings regarding women’s economic empowerment highlight a number of fundamental areas of the programme that fell short of the programme goal and objectives and other aforementioned areas requiring further focus, the evaluation also found a number of positive aspects of the project. It is evident that the experience of participating in the long-term training programme may make important contributions to women’s social wellbeing, and furthermore facilitate women’s sense of self esteem and self-efficacy.

IPCS Forecast 2016: cardinal transitions, red herrings, shrinking spaces

12 May 2016 11:36:58 GMT

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) Forecast 2016 is a collection of writings on the near-term trajectories of a wide range of geographic and thematic issues covering Asia, the United States and Nuclear power and energy, authored by analysts and scholars from the Indian strategic community and beyond.

The introduction argues that in 2016, India is likely to hit a sweet spot and come to be seen – despite a host of domestic debilities and external vulnerabilities – as an island of growth and stability. This year, several countries whose internal dynamics are acutely relevant to India will undergo internal transitions of one sort or another.

Leading the pack are the three countries that constitute India’s three cardinal external relationships: the US, China, and Pakistan. Three others – Myanmar, Afghanistan and Nepal – in India’s immediate neighbourhood too are experiencing protracted political transitions. Finally, there is an important evolving relationship with Brazil, a country three oceans and two hemispheres away that is experiencing severe internal turbulence and could well be heading towards transition.

State support to insurgents in other states: resolution or worsening of conflict?

12 May 2016 11:17:56 GMT

What are the causes and consequences of interventions by other states in the form of support to insurgent groups? Why do countries intervene and support insurgent groups in other countries?
There could be a variety of reasons. Large-scale human rights abuses/mass killings could lead to intervention. Countries might intervene for their own economic interests. Geopolitical interests could also be a reason: this could be either expanding one’s own influence in the region or preventing other major powers from expanding its influence. To deflect attention from crises in one’s own country, the governments involved might lend support to insurgent groups in foreign territories. If country A is defeated by country B in a war, country A might be looking for an opportune moment to create instability in either country B or any of the close allies of country B. If the ruling government is overthrown and the insurgents can take over power, the nature of alliances can be changed. Ethnic/religious reasons also prompt countries to come out in support of insurgent groups in other countries.
The nature of support could be anything ranging from provision of sanctuary to the rebels, arming the insurgent groups, training, finances, moral support and so on. In this Issue Brief, the question has been studied with the help of two cases: Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. These two cases have been chosen because they are acknowledged as two of the biggest interventions in the last few decades.

The role of social protection programmes in supporting education in conflict-affected situations

21 Mar 2016 02:05:29 GMT

This background paper examines the role of social protection programmes in supporting education in conflict-affected contexts. It looks at the impact, design and implementation issues of social protection programme experience in conflict, protracted crisis and post-conflict contexts, including in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Somalia, Nepal, Northern Uganda and Pakistan.

The paper finds that the costs of education are significant in conflict-affected countries – not only are the direct costs of schooling high, but also parents often have to contribute a significant amount to the school to keep it functioning. In a context of high rates of poverty and disrupted livelihoods and potentially high opportunity costs of sending children to school, the direct and indirect costs of sending children to school are often the most substantial barrier to children’s schooling.

Experience suggests that education subsidies and fee waivers offer important potential to offset costs and increase enrolment and attendance, but they have not been widely implemented. Education has remained mainly a secondary objective in social protection programming, for example in cash grant transfers, public works programmes and school feeding programmes. Longterm funding, institutional coordination and support for capacity building are needed to deliver sustainable social protection at scale which supports households to meet both the direct and indirect costs of education in conflict-affected contexts.

How do social protection and labour programmes contribute to social inclusion? Evidence from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal

19 Mar 2016 05:14:05 GMT

Today, the positive effects of social protection and labour programmes on core dimensions of well- being such as food consumption and access to health and education are well-recognised. However, less is known about the ability of these programmes to tackle the structural causes of social exclusion and poverty or to promote sustainable changes in the lives and livelihoods of the poor. This paper seeks to help to fill this empirical gap by drawing on the findings from four country case studies that examined the role of social protection and labour programmes in promoting social inclusion. 

The study finds that the interventions in the four countries have contributed to wellbeing outcomes and have had some, albeit small, impact on the drivers of social exclusion. However, it is also found that, on many occasions, interventions have not delivered transformative change. The findings and their policy implications are discussed and the following recommendations are delivered: i) design and delivery of programmes must be adequate and appropriate given context-specific economic, social and institutional factors, ii) design of policy instruments must start with social and institutional analysis and iii) a social exclusion framework is a useful tool in assessing outcomes and drivers of social exclusion and their intersections with poverty. 

Adapted from author’s summary.

Evidence and gaps in evidence on the principle political economy constraints and opportunities to successful investment in inclusive agribusiness in Asia

15 Mar 2016 02:27:37 GMT

This report pays particular reference to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyz Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Tajikistan. The purpose is to inform a more detailed call down piece of work for DFID to scope the potential establishment of one or more investment platforms through which it would deploy investment capital in order to catalyse private investment in south and central Asia. It’s been proposed that the platform(s) should
focus on clean energy, inclusive agribusiness and financial services.

Policy Brief: Why Women as Peace Negotiators & Peace Builders?

23 Nov 2015 04:53:25 GMT

Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) strongly believe in the inclusion and role of Afghan women as peace builders and negotiators. Despite the fact that women have struggled over years for their inclusion and impactful representation, they remain underrepresented. Through this Policy Brief, the AWN highlights findings from a number of reports on women peace builders in Afghanistan and internationally, which clarify the vital importance and value of women in peace processes. AWN proposes five strategies for women’s inclusion in peace negotiations in this brief. These are:

  • Direct participation of women at the negotiating table
  • Support women in observer roles
  • Establish a consultation mechanism with women central to this
  • Problem-solving workshops for women peace negotiators
  • Encourage movement-building and mass actions

AWN have also produced two key research reports in 2015 on women’s rights in Afghanistan:

China in Afghanistan: balancing power projection and minimal intervention

23 Oct 2015 02:51:07 GMT

As it was foreseen, the initial months following the start of the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) withdrawal from Afghanistan were harsh for the Afghan government and civilians. In April 2015, the Taliban launched their annual spring offensive ‘Azm’ - their most elaborate attack since they were overturned from power in 2001. With a majority of the Afghan provinces under attack, this nationwide operation is challenging the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and has displaced nearly a million citizens. This plight brings to mind the chaos following the erstwhile USSR’s Red Army’s departure in 1989 that led to the fall of the former Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah’s government three years later. The international community is worried that the current dispensation in Kabul may suffer the same fate if the ongoing issues are left unaddressed.

Since he came to power, incumbent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani believes he has the optimal solution: “The problem, fundamentally, is not about peace with Taliban…The problem is fundamentally about peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”5 He decided to bank on Islamabad to bring peace in Afghanistan. Given the long-standing Pakistani interference in Kabul’s affairs, there has been scepticism about Islamabad’s truthful support. The 7 August 2015 attacks substantiated worries. But Ghani reached out to a third party, China, in order to guarantee Islamabad’s dedication to the peace process.

This paper aims to provide a brief overview of Beijing’s response to President Ghani’s request, before evaluating the former’s ability to become a game-changer for Afghanistan. This analysis first highlights the key features of China’s foreign policy, and then contextualises Afghanistan in that foreign policy calculus. It proceeds to assess China’s bid in Afghanistan, before concluding with a review of the unlikely prospects of this intervention.

Output 4 Options Analysis: options analysis for a regional climate change programme to deliver more effective climate services, early warning and disaster risk reduction

15 Oct 2015 10:07:27 GMT

South Asian countries are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events, climate variability and longer-term climatic changes due to high population density, poverty, and lack of resources for adaptation.

This report provides an Options Analysis for a South Asia regional programme on climate services for risk reduction and economic growth. It is the fourth output of a scoping project, which has reviewed evidence on climate services, early warning systems and disaster risk reduction in selected countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Burma. It considers four options for DFID investment with different emphases on the ‘supply’ or ‘demand’ sidei of climate information provision and use, the choice of sectors, geographical focus and finally the appropriate delivery mechanisms for implementing the programme. The proposed investments range from £5 million to £145 million. The lowest cost options involve small-scale research and innovation projects with targeted support to country offices or existing donor programmes, whereas the larger options include significant capital expenditure on weather observations and investment in national hydrological and meteorological services.

Resurgence of al-Qaeda in South Asia post-US drawdown

17 Sep 2015 11:05:36 GMT

As 2014 came to a close, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation A(NATO) ended its then 13-year-old military operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The US-led international military coalition began its withdrawal on 28 December 2014, and although the US is maintaining some military presence in Afghanistan over the next few years, this residual force is a substantially reduced one.

This paper examines the prospects of al-Qaeda after the US drawdown in Afghanistan and the likely threats which the
region, and India in particular, might face in the near future. Such an analysis will necessarily call for a supplementary scrutiny of ISIS and its possible expansion in the region.

Projected climate change and impact on bioclimatic conditions in Central and South-Central Asia

07 Jul 2015 02:58:47 GMT

This report summarizes a set of bioclimatic indicators and the expected impacts of climate change on bioclimatic conditions in Central and South-Central Asia.

It is intended to provide a basis for understanding the potential impacts of climate change across Central and South-Central Asia and a knowledge base for the design and implementation of agroforestry practices, environmental conservation efforts, and sustainable development.

Under all scenarios, the spatial analysis indicates quick and drastic change in bioclimatic conditions in the near to medium term, and predicts significant and increasing biophysical and biological perturbation for biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services, and agricultural and pastoral production systems.
The major conclusion of the report is a necessity to recognize the central role of a rapidly changing climate and environment across central and south-central Asia, and the need to plan for adaptation within almost all aspects of sustainable development and conservation planning, efforts and policy.

[Adapted from source]

Strengthening rule of law responses to counter violent extremism: what role for civil society in South Asia?

11 Jun 2015 09:33:57 GMT

Violence and extremism in South Asia, including potential threats posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), remain a concern for many regional and international observers. Three South Asian countries—Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India—are among those with the highest reported incidents of terrorism. Reports of foreign fighters from South Asia have prompted concerns that ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the establishment of the self-proclaimed caliphate by ISIL serve as a compelling narrative for potential recruits.

New alliances and splinter groups, as well as emergent competitions, mean increased potential for groups or individuals who may be inspired by violent extremist groups like ISIL to carry out attacks either inside or outside of the region. These lone-wolf attacks can be perpetrated with minimal, if any, contact with official group members or leadership.

Given this evolving security landscape, counterterrorism experts and policymakers increasingly recognize that traditional security measures, such as military and law enforcement interventions, are not sufficient to respond to these threats. This awareness is especially important since poorly managed law enforcement and military responses have, in some instances, exacerbated these threats.

In the wake of the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism held in February 2015 and increased global focus on preventing violent extremism and addressing the threat of foreign fighters, the role of civil society in these efforts has been at the forefront of policy discussions regarding these issues. Terrorism and violent extremism are not simply security challenges but can have devastating effects on the social and economic development of communities.

Attacks on women, education, and minorities have become the hallmark of extremist groups. Civil society has in many instances played an important role in securing hard-won rights and liberties and in promoting a resilient social contract between citizens and the state. There are important lessons from the fields of development, public health, and governance, and civil society contributions to them that should inform efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism. Women have played critical roles in and outside government in strengthening community resilience to extremism. However, many CSOs remain squeezed between terrorist groups and antiterrorism laws that constrain their access to funds and resources. Often, CSOs, particularly those focusing on women and youth, for example, may not have the administrative infrastructure or expertise to access counterterrorism or CVE resources. As countries and communities struggle against violent extremism and work toward the goal of ensuring stable and peaceful societies, civil society and governments must make an effort to partner in achieving their common goals.

Afghanistan gender equality report card: evaluating the Government of Afghanistan’s committments to women and gender equality

05 Jun 2015 03:24:24 GMT

Since 2001, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) has made over 2,300 explicit commitments to the women of Afghanistan on gender equality in laws, treaties and agreements, policies, and strategic documents, a figure that does not even include the innumerable verbal commitments made over the past fourteen years. While much of the focus in discussions on government commitments to women’s rights center on the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), this document only encompasses a small fraction of the commitments that have been made.

This research reviews these commitments in a number of key areas: peace processes, security, health, education, access to justice, violence against women, access to resources and services, political participation, economic opportunity and employment, protection of vulnerable groups, and awareness-raising among the public. It assesses both progress and shortcomings in each of these areas from the perspectives of Afghan women, according to a survey completed with 154 members of EPD’s Provincial Women’s Network (PWN) in five provinces of Afghanistan, combined with desk research and stakeholder interviews. As a baseline for measuring progress regarding the government’s commitments, this report aims to take stock of how far the government has come since 2001, and which areas need more focus and improvement moving into the Transformation Decade. The indicators were selected to reflect both the most common commitments throughout policies and documents from the GIRoA and the most critical areas for improvement that would represent actual positive change in the daily lives of Afghan women. The Afghanistan Gender Equality Report Card will be conducted through EPD’s Provincial Women’s Network and a report card will be produced annually as a monitoring tool that enables civil society, the Afghan government, and the international community to hold the government accountable to its commitments to the women of Afghanistan and gender equality.

Scientific Framework for ICIMOD’s Regional Programme on Adaptation to Change

18 May 2015 04:22:41 GMT

This working paper attempts to improve the connections between science, policy, practice, and stakeholders and to tackle challenges at the intersection of local, national, regional, and global change processes in the context of the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH).

The scientific framework consists of three main components – science, policy, and practice. – and is guided by six cornerstones: historical and contextual complexities, consequences, conditions and vision for change, interpretation and subjective sense-making, responsibilities, and governance and decision making. It is argued that these cornerstones, along with the science-policy-practice nexus and the theoretical focus on linking adaptation to vulnerability and resilience, position efforts within a wider understanding of the drivers of social-ecological change and of the vulnerabilities and specificities of the HKH region. The framework provides guidance on to how to address challenges, where to make contributions, and how to direct efforts towards the ‘burning questions’ facing the region.

Lessons from Female Engagement Teams: What are the lessons on what worked well with the use of military Female Engagement Teams (both U.K. and U.S.) and what were the main challenges?

14 May 2015 12:23:43 GMT

This Helpdesk Report responds to the following query: Lessons from Female Engagement Teams: What are the lessons on what worked well with the use of military Female Engagement Teams (both U.K. and U.S.) and what were the main challenges?

Evaluations of Female Engagement Teams (FETs) used by the military to engage with women in Afghanistan that are available indicate that:
  • Female soldiers have had a deescalating effect as Afghan males generally accepted females being searched as long as it was done by other females.
  • FETs have had positive engagement with both women and men and were viewed as a kind of ‘third gender’. This gave them the advantages, rather than the disadvantages, of both genders: they are extended the respect shown to men, but are granted the access to home and family normally reserved to women.
  • The right training, support, and working conditions helped FET effectiveness.
However, very little independent analysis has been carried out. Unclear functions and a desire to be useful meant FETs engaged in a wide variety of disparate activities and there was a great pressure to report the activities of FETs as successful. This resulted in a tendency to cite everything FETs carried out as an achievement, without really understanding cultural dynamics.

The US Army Research Institute found that there is a lack of standardization of FET assessment, selection, training, integration, and employment procedures. FET soldiers and their officers identified a number of lessons from their experiences of deploying FETs. These include:
  • Assessment and selection: Rigorous assessment and selection procedures result in higher morale and greater mission success.
  • Training: Training in rapport building and influence, and language and cultural skills is useful. Physical fitness training helps FETs carry out their missions and integrate with other units.
  • Integration and employment: Emphasising the value and skills of FETs can help their integration. Units which recognised the value of FETs were more likely to include them in every mission. FETs who were used according to their training and had a clear purpose were motivated to deploy again.

Capacity building in the Ministry of Interior in Fragile and Post-conflict Countries

14 May 2015 12:14:33 GMT

This Helpdesk Report responds to the following query: Capacity building in the Ministry of Interior in fragile and post-conflict countries: Research and evidence on institutional capacity building in the Ministry of Interior in fragile and post-conflict countries.

This report reviews the literature engaging with a key issue, the reform of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in fragile and post-conflict countries.

While MoI reform is crucial to the success of Security Sector Reform (SSR), as it enables management and oversight of the internal security forces, it has often been neglected by international actors and by the SSR literature. The literature reviewed here mostly analyses case studies that include Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs).

The case studies highlight a range of challenges and problems in the international actors' action such as organisational and political resistance, a lack of adaptation to local circumstances and a lack of coordination. The literature consistently recommends that international donors and agency should work more politically and comprehensively to deal with the social and political embeddedness of the MoI.

A rapid desk study: Afghanistan – current status and future prospects for the construction sector

07 May 2015 02:11:25 GMT

The construction sector in Afghanistan has been one of the main beneficiaries of the huge investment made on civilian and military projects in the last decade by the international community. During this period, many military bases were constructed, thousands of kilometres of roads have been constructed and rehabilitated, numbers of schools and health
facilities have increased significantly and improvements have been made to all other infrastructures such water, power, irrigation schemes etc. The GDP of the country has quadrupled since 2002.

Currently, Afghanistan is in transition. Presence of foreign troops and international NGOs is decreasing. The decrease in foreign military presence and the transfer of responsibility for the security of the country to the Government is creating significant uncertainties in all sectors of the Afghan economy. This is true in the construction sector which is facing serious
problems as demand decreases resulting in significant layoffs and a downward decline of unit rates. To mitigate the situation, the construction sector has to shift from donor financed projects to more sustainable market based initiatives.

The purpose of this paper is to identify and propose market based sustainable schemes to lessen the impact of reduced demand for the sector. The proposed actions should also enable broad based and inclusive participation of the different parts of the society and creation of significant job opportunities.

Helpdesk Report: Contraceptive prevalence rate increases

24 Mar 2015 10:53:25 GMT

Based on UN MDG data for married women, countries that achieved a 3% or 5% increase in a year or a similar average over more years include The Gambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.  Statistics from other sources include increases shown in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Afghanistan. The report includes a table with current contraceptive use rates among married and unmarried women between 15-49 years old in Africa.

The report includes an overview of research on the following areas:

  • UN data
  • Data on contraception use for unmarried women
  • Country studies on contraceptive prevalence
  • Private-sector and family planning provision
  • Examples of increased contraceptive use

It is difficult to draw conclusions about private sector service provision as an enabling factor. There was little evidence of private sector impact found within the scope of this study. It is mentioned alongside other providers where countries have seen improvements in contraceptive prevalence but its contribution is not clear.



Helpdesk Report: Learning outcomes in Afghanistan

23 Mar 2015 04:27:04 GMT

Currently only an average of 26% of the Afghan population aged 15 or over can read or write. One of the first achievements of post-conflict Afghanistan was to bring almost 4 million children back to school. However, low primary enrolment especially for girls and in rural areas and very weak learning achievements remain.

This report includes the following sections:

  • overview texts (situation and response)
  • sector-wide analysis/studies
  • programme evaluations – sector-wide
  • programme evaluations – community and home-based

A study of learning outcomes in 2010, devised a curricula-based test for a small sample of male and female students in Grades 3 and 6. The study found low levels of average achievement (an average score of 52% for Grade 3 students, and 53% for Grade 6 students), though girls seemed to do slightly better than boys, and students in community-based schools scored higher (an average score of 68%) than students in other schools.

Efforts to improve literacy rates have focused on improving inputs to teacher qualifications and training as well as the curriculum, texts books and school conditions. There is less on how these and other efforts translate into learning outcomes for students.  There is a dearth of data on exam grades and school completion rates. What data does exist reveals that almost a fifth of primary students may be lost before the end of Grade 6 and only 64% of students passed exams at the end of Grade 4. This means that 65,000 Grade 4 children (36%) could not move on to Grade 5 plus the nearly quarter of a million children who were absent from the exam altogether.

Dialectics of the Afghanistan conflict how the country became a terrorist haven

13 Mar 2015 02:54:22 GMT

The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington were unparalleled by anything seen before in peace time. It led the Americans right back onto the Afghan trail, where they had fought a proxy war against the Soviet Union before the communist superpower disintegrated in 1991. For a decade, the United States had been indifferent to the growing anarchy and violence in post-communist Afghanistan. But the 9/11 incidents forced
the newly-elected President, George W Bush, to conclude that there was unfinished business in Afghanistan, belatedly realising that the country had become a sanctuary for violent groups who, he was convinced, were determined to destroy America.

The object of this paper is to determine how the American-led invasion of Afghanistan came about. It looks at the chain of events in Afghanistan during the Cold War and examines the impact of East-West rivalries on the internal politics of that country. The combined effect of the communist seizure of power and the Soviet invasion in the 1970s and the US-Soviet proxy war in the 1980s was profoundly destabilising. Even after the end of communist rule in Afghanistan and the collapse of the Soviet empire, the
conflict continued in Afghanistan and the country came to be identified with global terror in the 1990s. Thus, America’s ‘unfinished business’ there prompted Bush to intervene once again - this time to remove the Taliban from power.

Securing Afghanistan: historic sources of India's contemporary challenge

09 Mar 2015 11:37:34 GMT

Withdrawal of the Western security umbrella has problematised India's current development aid-led soft power approach in Afghanistan. This paper looks at the tensions that shape India's strategic thought in the region. The northwest frontier has traditionally defined India's territorial defence. In looking at historical debates regarding
this region, this paper will highlight the impact of India's territorial construct on its strategic outlook.

The Bombay and Ludhiana Schools of Indian Defence in the early nineteenth century respectively reflected advocacy of a muscular forward and a diplomatic passive policy. They formed the basis for the dual layered buffer defence system called the 'ring fence'. Developed to defend the Raj from external and internal threats, this defence system steered the transformation of frontiers into modern South Asian boundaries. India and Pakistan's inheritance of these
boundaries constructed by the Raj shape their strategic vision of the region. New Delhi's response to geopolitical developments such as the Soviet military intervention, rise of the Taliban and the US military intervention post 9/11 are rooted in tensions emanating from its political geography. Striking a balance between Islamabad-Rawalpindi and Kabul and choosing between hard and soft power options form the basis of India's Afghan dilemma.

Nationalism in Pakistan: dimensions of failure

09 Mar 2015 03:08:53 GMT

Pakistan has for long been grappling with several fundamental problems without any visible signs of overcoming them. Its economic, social and political indicators are amongst the lowest in the world. In its conflicts
with India, which it perceives as its sworn enemy, all its tactics have proven to be of insignificant success, as has its intrusive attempts to control Kabul so as to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan. The successive governments' much vaunted Islamisation agenda seems to have back-fired. All nations have their ups and downs, but Pakistan seems to have entered into a neverending downward spiral. As things stand, it would be difficult to deny that today, Pakistan is a fragmented nation at war with itself, with little or no hope of rising out of the quagmire, at least in the foreseeable future.

This paper argues that, though Pakistan was created with a vision of becoming a modern nation state, to date, it has failed to achieve that status—both in its own eyes and in the eyes of the world. The core reason for this failure was the inability of the leaders of the new country to chart an identity, or rather their distorted sense of identity that sent them on a desperate search and manoeuvrings for various alternative identities that had no credence in a modern world. It is this that has brought about Pakistan's current predicament wherein the socioeconomic and political development, the imperatives of any nation, have been sacrificed in the scramble to create a 'strong' nation—which itself was
never realised.

The Afghanistan factor in India's approach to central Asia

07 Mar 2015 11:50:09 GMT

Over the past decade, India has stepped up its efforts to reach out to the Central Asian Republics (CARs). New Delhi's approach to the region has been shaped, in part, by its interests in Afghanistan. Given the geographical location of the CARs (especially Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) and the convergence of objectives vis-à-vis Afghanistan, greater engagement with these countries is crucial to India's Afghan policy. India's 'Connect Central Asia' policy, announced in June 2012, can also be viewed in the context of the impending drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Given these strategic imperatives, a greater engagement with CARs is crucial for India's interests in Afghanistan.

This Issue Brief seeks to examine the Afghanistan factor in India-Central Asia relations.

This Issue Brief concludes that:

  • Afghanistan can be seen both as an enabler for India's objectives vis-a-vis Central Asia as well as an avenue for cooperation between India and the CARs
  • future uncertainties about the security and political transition in Afghanistan do impede its transit potential at the moment
  • notwithstanding the lack of political will among the CARs to increase their involvement with Afghanistan, given their strategic location, they cannot be completely immune to developments in Afghanistan

Post-election challenges for the new government in Kabul

06 Mar 2015 01:05:49 GMT

With a new President (Ashraf Ghani) finally in place in Kabul, attention can shift from the protracted electoral process to the challenges likely to confront the new government. The ability of this government to deal with various political and security challenges will depend to a large extent on how it manages its relations with a variety of stakeholders.

Reviving the peace process with the Taliban is likely to be among the top priorities of the new government. The need for a political settlement with the insurgents has become all the more important given the impending drawdown of foreign forces from the region by the end of 2014 and persisting doubts about the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The military drawdown, likely to be accompanied by a similar waning of interest and financial commitment, also makes it imperative for the new leaders in Kabul to persuade regional countries like India, Iran and China to increase their engagement with Afghanistan. Among the neighbours, dealing with Pakistan and its policy towards Afghanistan is likely to be a formidable challenge for the new government.

This Issue Brief seeks to explore the prospects and problems for the new government in Afghanistan with respect to managing three sets of relations. The first is between the two leaders and their respective positions: Navigating this dynamic is crucial for the smooth functioning, and the very existence, of the Government of National Unity. The second is with the Taliban, which continues to pose a serious security threat. The last set of relations concerns the regional countries China, India, Iran and Pakistan.

Prospects for regional cooperation on cross-border electricity trade in South Asia

05 Mar 2015 09:50:35 GMT

Energy remains one of the key inputs to socio-economic progress in developing societies. South Asian nations, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, have so far lagged far behind their developed counterparts in terms of access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy, especially electricity. The existing power shortages and growing import of fossil fuels impose a heavy cost of energy insecurity to the region. The energy endowments of South Asia are limited and dispersed across the region, with large unexploited hydroelectric potential in some parts and growing dependence on fossil fuels in other parts.

This paper highlights the role of electricity in socio-economic development and energy security, and the need for electrifying millions of unlit homes and to meet the future demand for electricity. The paper notes that the differences in resource basket, along with variation in the load curves across the nations, present gainful opportunities for regional-level coordination in electricity generation and its use and identifies the various technical, operational, economic, and environmental benefits of a regionally interconnected electricity market.

The author provides a brief discussion on international experience to regional power sector cooperation and highlights the major electricity supply issues in South Asia, including the current status of cross-border electricity trade as well as discussion on the process of reform undertaken.

Finally, the paper itemises various cross-border interconnections and electricity trade arrangements stating that to move towards a free, fair, and transparent regional power market key issues like adoption of complementary national energy policy by countries, harmonization of policies, legal, and regulatory issues, and harmonized framework for coordinated grid operation and operation protocols need to be addressed.

The geography of trade and the environment: the case of CO2 emissions

28 Feb 2015 10:16:53 GMT

According to recent theoretical developments, there are three key channels through which trade affects the environment: the first is via its effect on the scale of economic activity, the second is via a composition effect and the third is via a technical effect. This paper argues that, in addition to these traditional factors, the geography of international trade flows does matter.

The paper clarifies that since transport activity is a source of pollution, trading with close countries does not have the same implications as trading with distant ones. However, this geographical distance effect can be offset by a transport sector effect, i.e. the use of different modes, techniques and scale of transport. In this respect, when distances increase, it is expected that transport companies use less energy-intensive modes of transport.

The document tests these two opposite effects for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a set of 149 countries as well as for different economic groups over the period 1986 to 2003. The main findings show a U-shaped relation between distance and CO2 emissions: an increase in distance first decreases CO2 emissions but only up to a certain level; for long distances, the relation is reversed.

All things considered, the authors underline the possible high costs in terms of CO2 emissions of globalised trade as opposed to regionalised trade flows.

The political economy of public sector employment in resource dependent countries

16 Feb 2015 08:22:05 GMT

This paper proposes a political economic explanation for the well documented difference in labour market institutions between high natural resource per capita countries and those that are natural resource dependent but whose populations are large.

The paper clarifies that relative to the size of their populations, or scale of their economies, oil and other mineral endowed countries tend to have large governments, characterised by generous public sector wages and other compensations. However, the documents argues that the natural resource endowment influences the policy that a dictatorship chooses.

In this context, it finds that it is optimal for governments in resource-rich countries to employ a large proportion of the population in the public sector. Identically, it is optimal to set up a repressive security apparatus and employ a smaller proportion of the population when the natural resource endowment is small relative to the size of the population.

Equally important, the authors find that political repression is negatively associated with the probability of regime change. Yet, they find that regime change has negative and significant impacts on public wage, suggesting that public wages are likely to be smaller in resource-rich countries with extreme autocracy or when the ruling elites are faced with a high probability of regime change.

Healthcare in Afghanistan: scenario and perspectives

16 Feb 2015 01:37:24 GMT

Afghanistan continues to experience deep poverty and inequality as well as one of the weakest human development outcomes in the world, ranking 175 out of 187 countries in UNDP’s 2013 Human Development Report.

Decades of war has dilapidated Afghanistan’s health infrastructure and the country's capacity to deliver health services. This paper gives an overview of health service provision including a look at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), which is in charge of healthcare governance in the country and endeavors to improve the health and nutritional status of the people of in an equitable and sustainable manner through quality HCSs Provision (HCSP) and the promotion of a healthy environment and living conditions along with living healthy life styles.

Final report on expanding accessibility of affordable user-centric phototherapy devices for neonates with severe jaundice: D-Rev

12 Feb 2015 10:22:36 GMT

This report assesses the work of D-Rev a nonprofit product company that designs, and works with local partners to deliver products that improve the lives and increase the incomes of people living on less than 24.INR/2.5 GBP per day.

The report focuses on one of D-Rev's key objectives  -  reducing neonatal mortality and morbidity in developing countries by tackling one of its most persistent causes–neonatal jaundice or hyperbilirubinemia. Every year, extreme hyperbilirubinemia affects 23M infants globally, 90% from developing nations. If untreated, it can cause permanent brain damage (kernicterus) or death, making it the 5th leading cause of infant mortality worldwide. Phototherapy, exposing an afflicted newborn to intense blue light–in some cases, for as short as 24 hours–is a simple and effective treatment for neonatal jaundice.

The report puts forth the findings from the study on expanding accessibility of affordable, user-centric phototherapy devices for neonates with severe jaundice. The market study and due diligence for phototherapy have been done in east  Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and initial scoping in Afghanistan.

Doing business with Afghanistan

12 Feb 2015 02:10:48 GMT

India and Afghanistan enjoy a rich civilization and historical relationship that spans many millennia; a relationship that has gained strength from India’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The principal objective of India’s development partnership is to assist in building indigenous Afghan capacity and institutions and to ensure that development touches all the regions of Afghanistan and encompasses all the sectors of development.

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), in partnership with Governments of India and Afghanistan, organised an International Conference cum Exhibition on “Doing Business with Afghanistan” November 2013 in New Delhi attended by 400 participants. A paper on ‘Doing Business with Afghanistan’ was released by the Indian External Affairs Minister. Also, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed and exchanged between FICCI and Afghanistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry on the occasion. This was followed by panel discussions on thematic as well as sector specific issues.

Understanding Mountain Poverty in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas : Regional Report for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan

27 Jan 2015 06:14:52 GMT

Around 211 million people reside in the greater Himalayan region, but there is a lack of cohesive information on their socioeconomic status. In general, issues such as whether, how, and why mountain poverty differs from national poverty remain unaddressed. This report attempts to identify, understand, and statistically substantiate the specificity of mountain poverty. It presents poverty profiles and trends for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan based on analysis of nationally representative livelihood survey data, and for China and Myanmar based on assessment of secondary data. The findings establish the first empirical evidence across the eight Himalayan nations that poverty in the mountains is different from and (in all cases except India) higher than that in other geographic areas. The study demonstrates that, with the exception of the area investigated in India, poverty in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan mountain areas is high and persistent. Trend analysis was only possible in the case of Nepal, but this helped build the argument for persistent poverty. The study found that poor infrastructure, lack of access to basic facilities, and unfavourable household composition were key characteristics of the poorest mountain areas in the region. The research analyses the causes of poverty in the mountains and provides statistically significant results for policy makers and development planners, showing that in these countries there is a high concentration of poverty determinants in mountain areas compared to that in other geographic areas.

Regional cooperation for regional infrastructure development: challenges and policy options for South Asia

18 Jan 2015 01:50:46 GMT

Regional infrastructure is one of the major determinants of economic integration process. It enhances international and regional connectivity through the free flow of goods and factors across borders, allowing countries to benefit from a better relocation of resources. Efficient transportation networks linking neighbouring countries enlarge market size and help national economies to grow further through higher trade and production. The South Asian merchandise trade due to South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) is expected to increase by manifolds in coming years. Accompanying this growth will be an increase in demand of both national and regional infrastructure services, for both production and consumption, and international trade purposes. A failure to respond to this demand will slow down South Asia’s trade and hamper the growth process. Thus, the infrastructure challenges, both hardware and software, before the South Asian countries, particularly for those are land-locked and island, require better understanding and adequate support. This paper discusses the emerging scenario in regional infrastructure development in South Asia, identifies the infrastructure challenges for the future, and provides some policy options in order to better integrate the South Asian region.

[Adapted from author] 

Restoring Afghanistan- Pakistan-India-Bangladesh- Myanmar (APIBM) corridor: towards a new silk road in Asia

16 Jan 2015 11:33:26 GMT

One of the impediments to deeper regional cooperation in South Asia is the lack of integrated transportation linkages in the region. Absence of adequate and active overland official trade outlets and associated facilities coupled with lack of trade facilitation policy measures. An uninterrupted
transportation network in South Asia would pave the way for faster movement of goods and services thereby saving ‘time value of goods and services’, on one hand, and assuring ‘Just-in-Time’ delivery, on the other.
When South Asia has been witnessing rising production and trade networks across borders, efficient and integrated transport and logistics network across the region is essential to enhance movement of factors of
productions and services. The regional connectivity of the transport system needs to be re-established and their capacities augmented to cater to the increased traffic that is anticipated to move along intra-regional corridors.

Development of APIBM Corridor along with adoption of transport and transit agreements in South Asia to allow through movement of vehicles, along with development or construction of modern border crossings in South Asia in order to facilitate transit of both passengers and freight, and adoption of facilitation measures and simplified customs procedures
for efficient clearance of goods across the border points, could be important priorities for South Asian Association for Regional Coperation (SAARC) to consider to not only facilitate the intra-regional trade in the region but to also emerge as a hub of pan-Asian trade. APIBM corridor with appropriate interconnections with Nepal and Bhutan, could over time become an important ‘arc of advantage and shared prosperity’ in South Asia and broader Asia.

India and Central Asia: trade routes and trade potential

15 Jan 2015 04:35:58 GMT

Given the prolonged recession in Europe and the USA, South–South bilateral trading relationships are gaining importance, and nations would be prudent to diversify trading partners and increase trading opportunities with emerging market economies. The problem of how to improve bilateral trade between any two nations is neither merely economic nor bilateral but entwined with the geopolitical relationships in the entire region in question. Trade between India and Central Asia is hindered by regional politics that involves countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This paper assesses the potential for increasing trade between India and Central Asian nations using a gravity model of trade framework and attempts to identify feasible alternative trade routes that can bypass politically unstable areas in the region. It discusses the historical growth patterns and the current state of the economies of Central Asian nations using the gravity model of trade to understand bilateral trade between India and Central Asia.

Based on the analysis, the author asserts that the trade between India and Central

Asia could be ten times as high as it is now if the shortest trade route through Afghanistan and Pakistan were not rendered impassable by the insecurity and political instability there.

Consequently, the paper concludes that India should encourage trade with Central Asia which he describes as resource-rich and strategically located, and should welcome bilateral or regional trade agreements to facilitate it. He concludes by suggesting three ways to improve trade and economic relations with Central Asia. These are:

  • Enhanced trading in high-value, low-volume commodities via air cargo.
  • Expanded Foreign Direct Investment (DI) ties with countries in the Central Asian region
  • Enhancing trade in services, which largely eliminates the need for physical transportation.

Women’s rights and political representation: past achievements and future challenges

08 Jan 2015 05:04:53 GMT

This paper summarises the main achievements and challenges for Afghan women’s participation in politics and their access to justice. It also presents the most important reflections amongst key stakeholders about possible ways forward, with the aim of facilitating further discussions in these areas.

The paper outlines that aided by the quota system, women have made significant headway in Afghan politics. However, their political participation remains tenuous, with parts of the general public as well as many male parliamentarians viewing women politicians to be mere ‘quota holders’ at best and completely unwelcome at worst. From civil society and international groups, the main criticism against female politicians has been that their increased participation in politics has not translated into sufficient gains for women as a gender group.

Even if more women in politics do not automatically translate into the promotion of a pro-women agenda, the former should nonetheless be a goal in itself. Yet the two objectives are not entirely disconnected. Women continue to be structurally disadvantaged as long as the electorate and political landscape favours localised ‘patrons’ over politicians campaigning across communities on specific issues. Female politicians often lack the resources and connections to compete in such a field.

The paper outlines the following questions for further debate:

  • Increasing female representation: What are the best ways to enhance female political participation and representation in the up-coming parliamentary elections and beyond?
  • Promoting gender equality through politics: If women and gender equality are becoming more significant as electoral issues, how can women and their allies capitalise on this? What can be the core issues for women to mobilise around and put forward as political demands in future elections? Are there is-sues that might resonate with women across rural/urban and class divides? How can Afghan men be mobilised around gender equality?
  • Prosecution of violence against women: Can low conviction rates be addressed by targeted initiatives such as special prosecution units and courts or is it more helpful to focus on reforms of the justice system as a whole? Is it meaningful to press for the imprisonment of male relatives if women risk losing the family support and subsistence that they depend on?
  • Family legislation: What is the political space for changes to the family and civil law, for instance regarding marriage, divorce, custody or inheritance? Are revisions of such provisions the right priority at the moment? Would any such revisions to family legislation make an actual difference to women’s lives?

[Summary adapted from source]

At home or in the grave: Afghan women and the reproduction of patriarchy

27 Dec 2014 03:57:08 GMT

Afghan women have been active interlocutors in the ethnic and sectarian struggles, especially by being the most vociferous champions of peace, democracy and justice. This paper is to explore issues of identity, nationhood, state, belonging, home, family and location in the context of the prolonged Afghan conflict and its impact upon women’s lives.

The research study revealed several aspects of the situation of women in Afghanistan and in the refugee camps. Some of the main findings include the following: the prolonged Afghan war which has lasted over 22 years, has led to a situation of statelessness in Afghanistan with the result that there are hardly any modern administrative, justice and penal systems in place. The result of state absence is that women have been rendered more completely at the mercy of local tribal jirgas and shuras, which reflect and promote patriarchal values and norms detrimental to women’s rights and well being. The persistent condition of conflict among various factions has led to increased levels of violence against women including rape, murder and mutilation. One effect of the perpetual threat from other factions is that increased controls on women’s movement, behaviour and freedom have been placed as a way of ‘protecting’ them from the ‘enemy’. The frustration resulting from injury and maiming, and the perceived threat to women from opposing groups, has led men of the group to commit acts of violence against their own women. Added to the increased pressure to preserve the group’s moral purity, are economic burdens upon women who now go out in search of cheaply paid domestic labour in order to survive. The conflict decomposes, and simultaneously recomposes patriarchies.

Well-meaning scholars and aid officials have reinforced conservative and traditional patriarchal values, especially with regard to education, as a way of ‘helping’ Afghan women by reaching them only via their men. This has led to a further disempowering of women by reinforcing male control over the direction and flow of aid. However, Afghan women have not passively accepted patriarchal practices and control over their lives. Resistance by women has been evident in cultural as well as political forms, and at the individual as well as collective levels.

My rights, my voice: annual progress report 2013

10 Dec 2014 11:54:52 GMT

My Rights, My Voice (MRMV) engages marginalized children and youth in their rights to health and education services in eight countries. The 2013 Annual Progress Report provides an overview of the second year of this innovative three year programme and of the MRMV Global Programme Framework.

In 2013 the Annual Learning Event, Mid-Term Review process, Strategic Gender Review and Global Advocacy Workshop were important moments of reflection, review, alteration and innovation. These events and processes also highlighted programme challenges, especially in relation to strengthening the gender analysis.

There was significant progress against the four key objectives:

  • To increase children and youth's awareness of their rights to health and education services.
  • To strengthen children and youth's and their allies' skills and capacity to claim these rights.
  • To facilitate opportunities for children and youth to engage with duty bearers (e.g. health and education ministries, teaching and medical professionals, religious leaders) which lead to specific actions delivering better access to and quality of health and education services. 
  • To strengthen Oxfam and partners' capacity to work on youth agency and support the global campaigning force to facilitate youth claiming and accessing better health and education.

The number of young people and their allies reached through awareness-raising messages in 2013 more than trebled to over 207,000 children, youth and their allies (47 per cent girls and young women). Young people also took greater responsibility for awareness-raising activities, educating their peers and allies using a variety of methods and channels, including social media and popular culture.

MRMV-supported groups’ organisational skills and ability to develop shared agendas increased. Critically the number of meetings between organised youth groups and duty-bearers doubled to 113. All projects cited examples of duty-bearers recognising child and youth groups as valid bodies to engage, discuss and consult with about health and education services, listening to them and taking initial action as a result of MRMV lobbying and advocacy activities.

[Summary adapted from source]

Working with Gender in Rural Afghanistan: Experiences from Norwegian-funded NGO projects -

27 Nov 2014 09:52:34 GMT

Gender equality and women’s rights is a key priority for Norway’s foreign and development policy in general and in Afghanistan in particular. Gender considerations are included in most of Norway’s development cooperation in the country but the substance and scale of it varies from agreement to agreement and from the different channels of funding. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) constitute an important development cooperation channel for the Norwegian Embassy in Kabul. This study was commissioned by Norad upon request of the Embassy in order to review the gender aspects of six large rural development projects in Afghanistan, implemented by six NGOs. Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Danish Committee for Aid to Afghanistan (DACAAR), the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee (NAC), Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). The projects were supported by Norway between 2010 and 2013. The study provides a light review of current literature on gender and development in Afghanistan, a discussion of how the six organisations conceptualised and prioritised gender and organised their interventions in order to achieve gender-related objectives, and an assessment of the relevance, sustainability and results of the NGOs’ gender work. The study pays particular attention to women’s income generation projects as a way of examining the relevance, sustainability, results and promising practices of gender related activities. The review found interesting differences in how projects were conceived and implemented; to what extent they aimed and succeeded in expanding women’s control over the value chain, whether it was possible to mobilize women in small collectives with regular meetings and to what extent women were able to obtain a sustainable income. Often, working through religious idioms and local leaders has been presented as one panacea, counterposed to an ‘externally imposed’ or culturally insensitive intervention. However, as illustrated by the case study of women’s income generation projects, it is the specifics of how and whether an intervention is informed by and adjusted to the particular constraints facing women in a particular area- and has a realistic strategy for how to overcome them- that is the key to success. Key recommendations The report provides recommendations at two levels. Internal: The organizations should find a way to share best practices when it comes to supporting female staff, by for example lessons learned of providing child care, but also in terms of implementing more systematic ways of measuring change and impact in their gender programmes. Programme cycle: Organisations should consider whether they could be more strategic, focused and pro-active in their work with women’s economic empowerment. When it comes to income generating programmes specifically the organisations should consider a horizontal,[...]

Global Monitoring Checklist on Women Peace and Security: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nepal, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.

19 Nov 2014 05:13:48 GMT

The Global Monitoring Checklist is a pilot research project designed to contribute towards international understanding on women, peace and security efforts. It highlights relevant activities at the local and national level by women, civil society, national governments and the international community. It is not a comprehensive survey of all initiatives relating to women, peace and security; rather, it is a first step in gathering and collating information that links directly to UNSCR 1325 implementation. In support of work already carried out by women’s organisations, governments and multilateral agencies, this checklist provides country-specific information that identifies achievements, good practice and obstacles to the implementation of UNSCR 1325. It has been compiled in order to monitor progress in advancing the women, peace and security agenda in five conflict-affected regions: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nepal, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka. The overall aims of the project are to: contribute towards a deeper understanding of the substantive issues covered in the resolution; to provide practical information to assist a variety of stakeholders in their fulfillment of their commitments on UNSCR 1325; and to present this information in a clear, usable format that will be accessible to policymakers, civil society activists and other stakeholders. The research has been carried out by Gender Action for Peace and Security UK (GAPS). GAPS is the expert UK civil society group working to promote, facilitate and monitor the meaningful inclusion of gender perspectives into UK policy and practice on peace and security.

Afghan values or women’s rights? gendered narratives about continuity and change in urban Afghanistan

12 Nov 2014 10:16:01 GMT

There is considerable debate about the extent to which gender equality and womens’ rights are universal values. This debate has been particularly heated in Afghanistan where the violation of women’s rights by the Taliban regime was one justification used by the US and its allies for their invasion of the country. There is, however, very little research on how ordinary Afghan women view their lives and their place within a highly patriarchal society and how their views might fit into these debates. This paper uses detailed qualitative research to explore the empowerment potential of microfinance and paid work on the lives of 12 women and their families in the specific context of urban Afghanistan. Given the turbulence of the country’s recent history, access to microfinance is clearly likely to represent only one of the many changes that the women in our sample have experienced. Nor is there any a priori reason to expect it to be the most significant. At the same time, it holds out the promise of expanding economic opportunities for women in a context in which powerful patriarchal constraints have long restricted their ability to take up paid work. One of the factors motivating this study is a survey of 1500 women in different parts of Afghanistan by Women for Women International (WfW). The report found marked differences in the views and attitudes reported by women who were, or had been, associated with WfW compared to the rest. They were more likely to know about their rights, to believe that women had fewer rights than men in Afghanistan, to work outside the home and to express willingness to work outside the home. And while a remarkable 85 per cent of the sample were optimistic about the future of Afghanistan, 90 per cent of WfW associates expressed this view. We were interested in exploring in greater detail what this finding might mean. The women in our sample did not experience ‘Afghan culture’ as a monolithic and internally coherent system that lay outside the realm of contestation but as the lived relationships of everyday life which had to be negotiated on a daily basis from highly unequal positions. There was no reason for these women to regard culture as this monolithic presence since culture has certainly not been static in Afghanistan. Successive efforts to modify and reinforce gender inequalities in the country – most recently, the manufacture of the culture of jihad during the resistance to the Soviet invasion to galvanise fighters and win the support of Afghan society and the counter-efforts of the international community to promote universalist ideas about gender equality – provide the backdrop against ordinary men and women’s continued struggle to earn a living and bring up their children. The narratives that inform our analysis can therefore be read as the views of women participating in a larger societal transition from &lsq[...]

Violence and sexual abuse in schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan

07 Oct 2014 02:35:11 GMT

This Helpdesk report includes statistics and reports on sexual abuse and violence in schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The first section of the report covers UN Security Council Reports including statistics on attacks. The next two sections cover incidents. The section on attacks on schools in Afghanistan includes information on common types of attacks and the prevalence in different areas and the Pakistan section includes data by region.

A section of the report deals with the issue of mitigating attacks including strategies such a building a boundary wall, setting up a school defence committee and hiring guards. Furthermore, corporal punishment in schools is covered. This section presents evidence showing that half of all interviewed teachers believe that they have a right to beat children. Although laws now prohibit corporal punishment in school (implemented in 2008), it is still a daily reality for many school students. A vast majority of teachers believe that physical punishment is an essential and unavoidable practice to maintain discipline in the school.

Research is limited on sexual abuse in schools, as asking questions about this can raise suspicions and even create anger. However, reports on the situation indicate that it remains a serious problem. Over and above the ordeal itself, the stigmatization and social taboos associated with rape result in many girls being abandoned by their families, and women by their husbands.

Fear of physical attacks and sexual violence is likely to hinder the ability of children, particularly although not exclusively girls, to enrol in schools. This may result in households attempting to protect vulnerable members by keeping them at home or sending them away to relatives and friends in more secure locations. Fear is central in household decisions on whether to send children to school.

Proceedings of a roundtable discussion on planning new Afghan cities: can urban planning promote equitable growth and democratic governance?

03 Oct 2014 10:15:11 GMT

The scoping and preliminary phase of an AREU urban governance research project was conducted in the cities of Herat, Charikar and Jalalabad between September 2010 and April 2011. This roundtable presented findings and discussed key issues in urban governance that arose from the study.

The research undertaken rested on a hypothesis that urban transition in Afghanistan is unfolding in the context of a crisis of current local governance arrangements. Rapid urbanisation triggers a crisis of representation that involves new and old urban groups and interests. An important manifestation of the urban governance crisis is the incapacity of pre-existing regulatory mechanisms to address the new challenges associated with the urban expansion.

The fieldwork as well as previous research shows that expectations on access to services and livelihoods opportunities are behind most decisions by landless households, especially in areas affected by recurrent droughts, to resettle from provincial districts to urban areas. The new urban constituencies created by rapid urbanisation are particularly mobile, at provincial, national and international scales.

How these new mobile constituencies can represent their expectations on access to services and livelihoods opportunities is a policy issue for future research.

Governance and representation in the Afghan urban transition

03 Oct 2014 10:08:02 GMT

Between September 2010 and April 2011, AREU conducted the scoping and preliminary phase of a research project on urban governance in the Afghan cities of Herat, Charikar and Jalalabad. The research was designed to test the hypothesis that Afghanistan’s urban transition is precipitating a crisis in existing local governance arrangements, stifling representation of new and old urban groups and interests, and leaving current regulatory mechanisms incapable of addressing the challenges of city growth. Specifically, the study focused on how this crisis is affecting land use regulatory mechanisms, such as city plans, and the processes of implementing urban planning provisions by local administrations.

Supported by existing research, the fieldwork shows that expectations of access to services and livelihoods opportunities are behind most decisions by landless households - especially those affected by recurrent droughts—to resettle from provincial districts to urban areas. The new urban constituencies created by fast-paced urbanisation are particularly mobile at both provincial, national and international scales. How to represent these constituencies’ expectations of access to services and livelihoods opportunities constitutes a significant policy issue.

Women, peace and security in Afghanistan: looking back to move forward

08 Sep 2014 08:48:53 GMT

As Afghanistan enters the Transformation Decade, progress in the areas of peace, reconciliation, and security is tenuous and dormant. This project revisits the Peace Process Roadmap to 2015 from the High Peace Council as a means of looking back in order to determine how to move forward as Afghanistan undertakes critical political and security transitions.

EPD’s consultations found that participants engaged positively with the challenging issues in Roadmap 2015 but their contributions also highlighted the disconnect between the political level process of the peace and reconciliation process and the needs and capacities of communities. In particular given that women’s concerns and perspectives are marginalized in Roadmap 2015, this project used the discussions to outline the ways that women’s voices can contribute. The discussions highlighted women’s perspectives on the peace process as well as traditional and more context-specific security obstacles faced by Afghan women.

The paper outlines the major challenges to women’s involvement in and attainment of peace and security, the areas where there is room for positive capacity-building and provides actionable recommendations for key stakeholders. Fundamentally EPD recommends that political, international and civil society actors focus on mechanisms that allow for a greater grassroots contribution to the peace process. The overall trend of the consultations suggests that there is an urgent need to enhance and refine the inclusion of women and their communities to achieve sustainable peace in Afghanistan moving forward.



Child Marriage in South Asia

31 Aug 2014 07:14:45 GMT

Child marriage is a human rights crisis occurring on an alarming scale in South Asia. South Asia accounts for almost half of all child marriages that occur globally. Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation; rather, every instance of it triggers a continuum of violations that continues throughout a girl’s life.

Governments in South Asia have an absolute legal obligation to eliminate child marriage. The extensive repercussions of child marriage violate the international and constitutional obligations of states to protect children's rights. The persistence of child marriage in South Asia indicates the widespread failure of governments to address one of the most critical human rights issues facing women and girls in the region.

This briefing paper primarily focuses on violations of women’s and girls’ reproductive rights and right to be free from sexual violence arising from child marriage in six South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. This publication is intended to serve as a resource for those interested in using international and constitutional legal norms to establish government accountability for child marriage through human rights advocacy and litigation. It is also meant to serve as a critical resource for government officials.

The most important finding identified in this briefing paper is that, by failing to enact and enforce laws that clearly and consistently prohibit child marriage, governments in the region are complicit in the grave violations of human and constitutional rights experienced by married girls. These governments are responsible for perpetuating legal and practical barriers that make girls vulnerable to child marriage, and deny effective legal remedies to those trapped in such marriages.

Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: Gender, Society, and the State

24 Aug 2014 11:11:34 GMT

Conflict-related sexual violence, once invisible due to patriarchal disregard for women’s experiences in war, has become a central focus for ending violence against women worldwide. This has far-reaching consequences in humanitarian and international criminal law.

In this special issue of Wagadu, a journal of transnational women's and gender studies, social scientists and practitioners investigate the current state of justice for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) during armed conflict and post-hostility transition.

This publication covers a range of cases from across the globe. These include the on-going challenges faced by war babies from Bosnia, who live in the shadows of past atrocities; and the struggles faced by Afghan, Congolese and Rwandese victims of sexual violence. Among other contents is a review of GBV on the US-Mexico border, highlighting the media and public responses.

Stoning in Iran, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Sudan

24 Aug 2014 10:45:21 GMT

The practice of stoning is closely associated with religious laws and observances. In ancient times, many communities used the practice to punish those who were deemed to have gone against God, challenged existing norms or threatened established social order. While most countries have since adopted modern laws grounded in protecting human rights, and have outlawed this practice, some nations continue to permit it. In this awareness report, Human Rights Without Frontiers International (HRWF) traces the legal evolution of stoning over time particularly in the countries of Iran, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. In so doing, it highlights recent individual cases of women who were convicted of adultery and consequently stoned to death.