To celebrate the 'International Day of Living Together in Peace', a day committed to mobilising the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, we're taking a closer look at Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions in Afghanistan.

What is SDG 16?

Goal 16 - comprised of 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.

War, Afghanistan and SDG 16

With conflict enduring for over 40 years, there are few countries in the world where the realisation of SDG 16 has been more salient than in Afghanistan, where persistent violence has had a devastating, multifaceted impact on:

  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 Peoples (IDPs) in the country are displaced as a result of conflict. IDPs 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 IDPs, who tend to rely on the informal economy to get by, and has similarly considerably impeded the collection of displacement data.
  • There is no social safety net - as many as 74% of the Afghan population said that they had not received any government support during the pandemic;
  • Issues with resource scarcity have been exacerbated by pandemic-induced inflation and food shortages, with 13.15 million people  facing acute levels of food insecurity by the end of March 2021.

Conflict mitigation, peace building and community-led development

The cross-cutting impacts of conflict on the sustainable progress that can be achieved in Afghanistan emphasises the critical role Goal 16 plays in ensuring the wider delivery of other SDGs. In recognition of the fact that ongoing conflict is at the root of underdevelopment in the country, conflict mitigation and peace building 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 peace building, support the peaceful integration of different groups within communities, and support the formation and development of strong, trustworthy institutions and infrastructure.

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, IDPs and returnees, 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. For instance, through our partnership with the HALO Trustwe helped over 3,000 men and women through restoring previously dangerous, mine-contaminated land to productive use, or in our recently launched a Reforestation project, through which we will work with communities in Samangan 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 IDPs 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 UN OCHA.

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 locals, building trenches and setting 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 infrastructure and institutions, prepare and become resilient to climate change, and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic:


Did you like this post? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive stories like this every month.