International Assistance and Governance in Afghanistan

Volume 2

August 7, 2008
A Study by Hamish Nixon
The complete paper (40 p., 217 KB, PDF) can be downloaded from this page.


In commencing this study, the Heinrich Böll Foundation wants to contribute toward an understanding of governance processes in the post-conflict reconstruction project in Afghanistan. While focusing its work in Afghanistan on women’s rights, civic education and the support of the democratization process, the Heinrich Böll Foundation perceives the impact of the economic architecture and the influence of international aid on the processes of developing good governance as some of the key features for a sustainable governance process in the country.

The study provides the reader with background information on the aid economy and aid architecture in Afghanistan, and their impact on governance and development. It outlines some main features of the aid system governing assistance to the country. Moreover, the study provides an analysis of key issues that connect this system with the longer-term problems of governance, state-building, security and development in Afghanistan.

While in 2001 the situation in Afghanistan showed a good potential for stabilization through putting forward the process of development and governance, the situation in the year 2006 rather reflects people’s dissatisfaction with the newly emerging governmental structures and the international communities’ support of it; meanwhile there is a growing state of insurgency and the lack of options to reduce the production and trade of opium. Today there exists a lack of sustainable solutions that would contribute to an improvement of governance in Afghanistan. The study states that the aid architecture so far has failed to facilitate the important mechanisms of state-coordinated public-service delivery. While keeping statebuilding as a central concern, the study suggests that a newly established framework for national and international assistance through the Afghanistan Compact and the Afghanistan National Development Strategy should be utilized to facilitate changes and eliminate hindrances.

The author concludes with recommendations on the reframing of stabilization, political and technical agendas with a long as well as short-term perspective. This reframing should remain in line with an appropriate balance of on and off-budget resources. Overall, it is important to develop strategies for governance. Other measures to be carefully recognized are, for example, the further developments of subnational strategies for governance, domestic monitoring and evaluation of the process.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation would like to thank the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit and especially Mr. Hamish Nixon for conducting the study and therewith providing a valuable input toward the discussion of aid effectiveness in Afghanistan.

Marion J. R. Müller, Kabul
Gregor Enste, Lahore
Heinrich Böll Foundation


Afghanistan in 2006 faces an acute crisis with three inter-related dimensions: insurgency, opium, and dissatisfaction with the government and its international backers. Sustainable solutions to these challenges all require a long-term commitment to improved governance in Afghanistan.

Governance involves more than just government, and encompasses broad questions of how Afghan society and its international supporters may deliver public goods in the area of security, representation and welfare. Nevertheless, the state will have a central role in coordinating this delivery, and statebuilding is therefore the central concern for the country’s future.

The aid architecture to date has not been consistently oriented towards meeting this challenge, and changes are required both inside and outside the country to do so. The recent transition to an assistance framework based on the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and Afghanistan Compact presents opportunities to make these changes. However, this framework requires further elaboration to most effectively support governance-based solutions to the country’s challenges.



Afghanistan - Ziviler Aufbau und militärische Friedenssicherung

Die Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung ist seit Anfang 2002 in Afghanistan aktiv und fördert die zivile und demokratische Entwicklung des Landes. Afghanistan ist auch ein Prüfstein dafür, ob der Prozess des „state building“ und des friedlichen Wiederaufbaus in einem zerrütteten Land gelingt.