Finland’s development cooperation in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a poor and fragile country, which is dependent on the support of the international community. Finland's development cooperation in Afghanistan was suspended in mid-August 2021.
Finland has supported Afghanistan by approximately EUR 30 million per year, which makes the country Finland’s biggest partner country for development cooperation. The support has been used, among other things, for improving opportunities for children to attend school, supporting the supply of basic services, promoting equality, and strengthening Afghan people’s rights and opportunities to do family planning.
The ODA administered by the Foreign Ministry supports Afghanistan's own development objectives and programmes. The priorities of Finland’s support are outlined in the government report on overall support for Afghanistan, submitted to Parliament in 2018. Funding is allocated to three main sectors, which are directly linked with Afghanistan’s national objectives:
- justice and security, focusing on human rights questions and good governance, including the development of civilian police activities.
- the development of basic services, with a special focus on education, including safeguarding of girls’ access to education and the availability of clean water.
- the development of the economic base, focusing on support for rural trades and improved preconditions for the sustainable use of Afghanistan’s natural resources.
Finland has channeled its development cooperation funding to Afghanistan mainly via such multilateral actors as the UN agencies and the World Bank. The funding includes humanitarian assistance and support to Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs) as well as support of civilian crisis management that meets the OECD criteria for development cooperation.
Afghanistan's weak internal security is a major problem and an obstacle to the country's development. Poverty and unemployment have increased despite efforts to reduce them. One of the key challenges in Afghanistan is to achieve improved rural development.
Maternal and child mortality rates in Afghanistan are still among the highest in the world, and the position of women is among the weakest in the world. Children, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, such as prisoners, are also susceptible to human rights violations and abuse. Citizens have a poor knowledge of their rights, and shortcomings in the legal system are a serious problem.
Cooperation with civil society organisations
In 2021, three Finnish civil society organisations are working in Afghanistan:
Fida International, the Finnish Red Cross and the Family Federation of Finland. In 2020. Finland supported civil society organisations’ development cooperation projects in Afghanistan with a total of approximately EUR 800,000.
In their activities, the organisations focus on promoting the health and wellbeing of people in a vulnerable position.
Afghanistan has been Finland's partner country since 2002. According to Afghanistan’s development statistics, considerable progress has been achieved, for example, in basic education and healthcare, but development has not been as positive in all sectors.
- The health of mothers and children has improved and maternal mortality has declined. Sexual and reproductive health services are provided in difficult circumstances at mobile clinics and via a helpline, for example. Finland supports MSI Reproductive Choices, which has succeeded in raising awareness of and in promoting family planning. Since 2016, MSI Reproductive Choices has offered sexual and reproductive health services to more than 2.1 million Afghans and prevented over 2,000 maternal deaths.
- The literacy rate for women and girls has improved and an increasing number of girls attend school. Today, more than 3.5 million girls attend school while, in the early 21st century, most girls were not able to go to school at all. Attention has been paid to the training of female teachers and now 37% of teachers in basic education are women, which increases girls’ opportunities to study.
- Projects funded through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) have improved the living conditions of people living in tens of thousands of villages. Health stations, schools and roads have been constructed to meet peoples’ most important needs.
- UNICEF WASH programme in Afghanistan has increased access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. More than 200,000 people in 123 communities in 21 provinces have now access to clean drinking water and 526,000 beneficiaries enjoy the results of improved sanitation.
The risks associated with development cooperation are reduced by channelling the majority of funding via UN agencies and the World Bank. Additionally, projects and programmes are monitored as closely as possible, and collaboration with partners of cooperation and the country’s administration is active.
Each project funded by Finland has a risk management system aimed at identifying and minimising risks. It is important to prepare projects carefully before they are launched and to take into account the experiences gained during past projects.
Programmes in Afghanistan have been suspended
Supporting the economy and economic growth
- The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) is the most important development instrument for Afghanistan. It supports the country's key state-funded investment programmes, especially those that develop the economic base and basic services. Finland’s assistance to ARTF has stabilised at around EUR 10 million per year.
- The Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (CCAP) supports the development of local government institutions and the recovery of economic activity, particularly in poor remote areas. The project is funded via the ARTF, which is administered by the World Bank, and implemented by the Government of Afghanistan. One quarter of Finland’s assistance to the ARTF, approximately EUR 2.5 million per year, goes to the CCAP.
- The Geological Survey of Finland is conducting a project that aims at enhancing the skills and knowledge of geophysicists working in the Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) and improving the capacity of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum to prospect minerals and manage the country’s mineral resources. The project's main objective is to promote cooperation between the authorities, educational institutions, and businesses. Finland's support to the project in 2018–2021 is somewhat over EUR 3 million.
Good governance, democracy and the promotion of the rule of law
- Finland supports a regional project of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which aims to increase cooperation between the countries in the region in fighting counter-narcotic activities. In 2020–2021, Finland allocates EUR 3.5 million to the project.
Human rights and gender equality
- By supporting MSI Reproductive Choices’ reproductive health project, Finland seeks to reduce maternal and child mortality and to curb the rapid population growth in Afghanistan. MSI Reproductive Choices offers reproductive health services and trains midwives and doctors as well as women in village communities to be able to give advice in health questions. It also works as an advocate for change. In 2017–2020, Finland contributed EUR 5 million to MSI’s work.
- The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), mandated by the country’s constitution, is the most important human rights actor in Afghanistan. The AIHRC’s main tasks are to promote the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities, and to monitor the human rights situation and provide related training. In its advisory capacity, the AIHRC supports the Government of Afghanistan in human rights questions. It also gives direct support to citizens. Finland has supported the AIHRC since 2003. In 2019–2021, Finland’s support to the AIHRC is EUR 1.5 million.
- Finland supports UN Women’s efforts to promote equality in Afghanistan. UN Women aims to strengthen women’s political participation and economic empowerment as well as to end violence against women. In addition, UN Women works to improve women’s opportunities of participation in peacebuilding, reconstruction and conflict prevention. Finland has played a key role in the preparation of Afghanistan's National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325). In 2020–2021, Finland supports UN Women by EUR 6 million.
- The Education Quality Reform in Afghanistan (EQRA) is a World Bank programme that aims to increase children’s access to education, particularly for girls, and to improve learning conditions in Afghanistan. Children’s opportunities to attend school are improved by constructing school buildings where girls can attend school and by training teachers. Finland’s contributes EUR 2.5 million to the EQRA programme as part of the funding of the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.
- Finland supports a UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project, which builds water systems and school toilets, and promotes hygiene, including menstrual hygiene. In 2019 and 2021, Finland supported the project by EUR 7.3 million.