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. This month we're taking a closer look at SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals, examining why our partnerships with the communities we work with, as well as other high-performing development organisations are central to our way of working, particularly as COVID-19 takes its grip on the country.

The escalation of COVID-19 in Afghanistan is causing particularly pervasive consequences on a country already struggling with deeply entrenched poverty, enduring conflict and an extremely fragile health system. Daily challenges that many families face are only exacerbated by the pandemic. Here at Afghanaid, as we actively battle the virus, we're ever-more conscious of the vital role partnerships play in challenging circumstances.

With that in mind, join us as we take a closer look at how our projects, both past and present, have put SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals at the forefront of what we do.

What is SDG 17?

SDG 17: Partnerships for Goals recognises that for development initiatives to be sustainable, they must be multifaceted and inclusive. This requires collaboration at global, national, regional and local levels, where people and organisations are united through shared principles, values, and a vision that ensures the people and planet are at the centre.

Comprised of 19 targets, SDG 17 focuses on the way partnerships can be used to revitalise and strengthen development through partnerships in Finance, Technology, Capacity Building, Trade, and other systems.

SDG 17 has frequently been referred to as the most vital and widely applicable goal, as it lays out the means by which all other goals can be achieved.

How does this apply to Afghanistan?

The conception of the SDGs arrived conjoined with the pledge that they must be realised in all countries everywhere, regardless of their individual context, by 2030.

Responding to the complex challenges faced by people in Afghanistan makes this directive challenging: the volatility of conflict, deep-seated poverty, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters makes Afghanistan a particularly difficult place to work. Effectively responding to these challenges demands close collaboration and coordination among international development and non-governmental organisations, branches of national and local government, as well as the local Afghan people we serve.

In order to achieve any of the SDGs in such a challenging environment, we know that SDG 17 must inform and shape all aspects of our work.

Afghanaid and SDG 17: Collaborating for a Prosperous Future

Despite the size of the task at hand, our projects work to:

Collaborate at the local level

"Thanks to our training, we knew how to come together as a council and discuss these issues and find the best solution for us. We identified that we needed to rebuild a road and Afghanaid supported us to do so. Now we can easily reach the hospital when women are in labour or if someone is sick, and we can go to the market to buy food or sell the blankets and mats which we make here in the village." Malika, pictured.

All of our projects put the power in the hands of the local people, strengthening their involvement in local decision making to ensure they are in control of their country's future.

We work with villages to create democratically elected, inclusive Community Development Councils, working in partnership with them to identify how we can assist the most pressing needs of the Community and ensure that they make the most of their resources.

Collaborate at the provincial and national level

We work with key ministries at the provincial and national level to build government staff capacity, particularly in agricultural and livestock extension and natural resource management at the Ministry for Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock; in disaster risk reduction at the Ministry for Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and at the Afghan National Disaster Management Agency; and the Ministry Labour and the Ministry for Women’s Affairs on women’s economic empowerment.

Share expertise for multifaceted responses

We collaborate with other international NGOs to ensure that our projects are as wide-reaching, comprehensive and multifaceted as they can be.

For instance, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Enduring conflict has left the country littered with unexploded ordnance, and when land is contaminated with these landmines, farmers are unable to grow sufficient crops or graze their animals, trapping whole communities in poverty.

Since 2016, we've worked with the HALO Trust to restore previously mine-contaminated land back to productive use whilst revitalising local livelihoods. Following the clearance of land by the HALO trust, we step in, training local Afghan people in areas such as updated and improved agriculture techniques, orchard management, poultry rearing, and greenhouse management, diversifying incomes to enable them to lift themselves out of poverty. 

Read more about our work with the HALO Trust 

Zamarai is a 29-year-old farmer living in Sarqia Afghania village in Samangan. “There were a lot of hidden mines left in and around our village, including in my land,” he said, “the mines injured many people and killed our animals. We realised we could not access this land and considered it lost.” 

“Two years ago The HALO Trust checked the area surrounding our village and cleared the mines and my land was suddenly cleared of danger!” Zamarai laughs, “I was so happy that I could start working on my land and Afghanaid helped me to turn it into an orchard,” he continues, “Afghanaid provided me with 80 saplings to get me going, and I attended a training course on orchard management.”

Through focusing on partnerships for the goals, our projects:

  • Play to the unique strengths of each individual, organisation, and government organ;
  • Deliver sustainable development at a much faster pace;
  • Respond more cohesively when disasters like Coronavirus strike.

What challenges are there for realising SDG 17 by 2030?

Recent reports have concluded that the impact of COVID-19 is threatening the realisation of all of the SDGs, as the spread of the virus and ensuing lockdowns reverse decades of progress in poverty, healthcare and education. The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres similarly emphasised that the impact of the pandemic is disproportionately affecting already vulnerable communities, exacerbating existing inequalities and injustices: an estimated 71 million people are anticipated to be forced back into conditions of extreme poverty in 2020.

The principles of cooperative thinking that shaped SDG 17 remain as important as ever - certainly, the need for cooperation and collaborative use of knowledge and resources is vital to both recover from the pandemic and get back on track with the realisation of the SDGs. But in this time, when they are needed the most, the political tensions arising amid Coronavirus response and the hardening of national borders is seriously threatening essential international partnerships.

What can you do to help?

The partnership most crucial in ensuring that we can continue to deliver life-saving support on the frontlines of this crisis is our one with you - our supporters.

Thank you for your generosity and support, thank you for raising awareness of the situation in Afghanistan, and thank you for providing a life line to vulnerable families - because of your help, we can deliver emergency support to those who need it the most during this pandemic.