Several years on from their initial implementation, questions are being raised about the applicability of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in places of extreme poverty. We're reflecting on progress made towards mobilising the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, and how our projects contribute to conflict mitigation, peacebuilding and community-led development.

What is SDG 16?

Goal 16 - comprising ten targets and two sub-targets - recognises that efforts to advance sustainable development can only be effective when there are also efforts to promote global peace. The goal outlines that by 2030, there should be an international effort to end all forms of violence, to promote the rule of law, reduce corruption, and ensure equal access to justice, decision-making and institutions.

find out how we're working towards a more peaceful Afghanistan

How has conflict impacted Afghanistan?

With conflict enduring for over 40 years, there are few countries in the world where the realisation of SDG 16 is more salient than in Afghanistan. Persistent violence has huge impacts on all aspects of society, devastating economies as well as health and education systems, impeding human rights and gender equality, hindering climate resilience and causing poverty, displacement, and poor governance.

  1. Poverty

    Conflict both causes and compounds poverty: it destroys infrastructure, weakens institutions, causes the breakdown of community networks and damages economic growth, resulting in higher unemployment rates, inflation and a reduced capacity for investment in social welfare. Rural communities, many of which are already living below the poverty line, are typically hit the hardest, as goods, services, and justice and security provisions are diverted to urban areas as part of the war economy.

    In Afghanistan, it is estimated that in 2021, 72% of the population live below the poverty line, and 74% of the population live in rural areas.

  2. Displacement
    Conflict in Afghanistan causes millions of people to flee their homes each year: almost three of the four million internally displaced people in the country are displaced as a result of conflict. Displaced people are far more likely to fall into poverty as a result of conflict, due to their loss of networks, shelter and other basic needs.

  3. Governance
    Enduring conflict creates a dearth of accountability mechanisms which are vital for building good governance apparatus and institutions. Despite progress since 2001, widespread corruption ensures that there remains ample distrust of institutions and governance bodies among the population in Afghanistan.

  4. The climate-conflict relationship
    Developing robust community preparedness for natural disasters and extreme weather events is becoming increasingly vital in Afghanistan, where the devastating impact of rising global temperatures is already creating a volatile mix of extreme environmental conditions

    Afghanistan is ranked 176 out of 181 countries on the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative Index, which measures readiness and adaptability to climate change. Notably, 12 of the 20 countries lowest ranked on this ND-GAIN Index are in conflict - in other words, conflict increases vulnerability to the climate crisis. This is because land and ecosystems, as well as institutions, essential services, infrastructure and governance - which are key to helping people adapt to climate change - are weakened and destroyed in conflict situations. 

    Alongside this, emerging research indicates that extreme environmental conditions caused by the climate crisis may be acting as a "threat multiplier". Extreme conditions, such as drought or flash floods, damage and destroy essential resources (eg. food, water and plants) for livelihoods, and this resource scarcity may exacerbate existing factors that cause conflict.

The compounding impact of COVID-19

As well as the devastating public health impact, COVID-19 has inflicted significant harm on the myriad social and economic problems Afghanistan was already facing alongside, and as a result of, conflict. For instance:

  • Afghanistan's poverty level increased by as much as 17% during the pandemic, with projections estimating that the unemployment rate reached around 37% at the end of 2020;
  • Lockdown measures in the country have considerably reduced the resilience of people who have been displaced by conflict, who tend to rely on the informal economy to get by;
  • There is no social safety net - in October 2020, as many as 74% of the Afghan population said that they had not received any government support during the first wave of the pandemic;
  • The rising cost of basic essentials and food shortages have exacerbated pre-existing struggles with access to resources, with 13.15 million people facing acute levels of food insecurity by the end of March 2021.

Conflict mitigation, peacebuilding and community-led development

Conflict has a considerable impact on the sustainable progress that can be achieved in Afghanistan, emphasising the critical role Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions plays in delivering other SDGs. In recognition of the fact that ongoing violence is at the root of underdevelopment in the country, conflict mitigation underpins all of our work.

Our community-led approach, combined with our years of experience, our majority Afghan team, our deep understanding of local, cultural and ethnic issues, and our ever-growing expertise in natural resource management, ensures we are very well positioned to manage and reduce conflict and meaningfully contribute to peacebuilding, support the peaceful integration of different groups within communities, and support the formation and development of strong, trustworthy institutions.

Several men are pictured against the backdrop of stone-coloured mountains under blue skies in Chil Kapa village in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, walking towards the camera. The young man at the front on the right is smiling wearing a dark brown puffer jac

Strengthening institutions, infrastructure, and accountability

In 2017, we partnered with the Afghan Government's Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) to support the implementation of their Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Programme (CCAP). The CCAP was created to contribute to sustainable development, poverty reduction and a deepened relationship between citizens and state whilst promoting accountability, inclusion of vulnerable voices such as women, people uprooted by conflict, and people with disabilities.

Over 3 years, we worked alongside rural communities to strengthen local governance, establish and reinforce relationships between communities and local authorities, put citizens at the forefront of decisions over the development of their communities, and oversee the delivery of basic services, such as access to clean water, electricity, roads and irrigation, healthcare, and education.

Last year alone, we worked with over 1,430 Community Development Councils to this end, reaching around 1,486,760 people.


Building community capacity for natural resource management

We work to mitigate the impacts of the climate-conflict relationship with a two-pronged approach:

  1. By restoring degraded land, revitalising ecosystems, and strengthening livelihoods. Through our partnership with the HALO Trustwe helped over 3,000 men and women through restoring previously dangerous, mine-contaminated land to productive use. Similarly, we have recently launched a reforestation project, through which we're working with communities in rural Afghanistan where there is no remaining forest. Projects like these build communities' resilience and repair conflict- and poverty-induced destruction in a climate-smart way, decreasing community exposure to natural hazards whilst offering families new livelihood options.
  2. Through establishing community based Natural Resource Management Associations, our projects reduce conflict over resource scarcity - such as limited access to water, rangeland, and forests - and foster collaboration with relevant governmental ministries. In a recently completed project, these associations helped 13,500 families gain more equal access to better managed natural resources, reduce the incidence of landslides and flash floods and increase household income.

Employment opportunities and emergency support

We offer employment opportunities for rural men and women, supporting livelihood diversification and helping Displaced people to integrate into their communities, strengthening cohesion through interaction and collaboration.

Moreover, our emergency response programming directly aids populations affected by disasters as they occur, and the possible spill-over into injustice, violence and conflict. To respond to the devastating secondary impacts of the pandemic, we've been supporting families to fulfil their basic needs in partnership with the World Food Programme and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Success in action

Qiam Rahmani (pictured) never planned to leave his home, but when violence erupted in his village, the 27-year-old was forced to flee with his family. “We lived in a war zone. I couldn’t bear for my children to hear the gunfire and I was worried that one day it would take our lives. It’s hard to start over again, but at least we are safe," he said. Then, as the family were beginning to adjust to their new circumstances, the pandemic hit, meaning Qiam was out of work for weeks and was starting to feel desperate. 

Qiam then found out about our cash-for-work scheme, through which he has been working alongside other people in his community to build trenches and set up what will be almond tree plantations and irrigation systems that are vital for bolstering the climate resilience of the entire community.


People in Afghanistan need your support

Now more than ever, men, women and children across Afghanistan need your support to build lasting peace. Do something amazing today and set up a monthly gift so that communities across the country can lift themselves out of poverty, develop strong institutions, prepare for and become resilient to climate change, and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic:


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