December 19, 2007

Afghan Reconstruction Faces U.S. Budget Cuts

An innovative reconstruction program in Afghanistan has been praised for giving decision-making power to small villages and communities, but may be shuttered due to funding shortfalls.

Washington Monthly reports that Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program is a success across the country, even in unstable areas where the Taliban still holds sway.

Originally developed by a “maverick” World Bank officer in Indonesia, advocates say the NSP ensures a sense of ownership by involving all community members in public meetings to determine what local needs are, and allows their direct participation in subsequent construction and development.

It also enforces local accountability by requiring full, public disclosure of fund uses and project timelines by village leaders to their constituents.

The magazine reports that small public works projects in, such as hydropower and irrigation development, tend to stay intact in “low-security environments.”

Activists even noted that schools built under the program are less likely to be burned by the Taliban, and that NSP projects in general are less vulnerable to corrupt management, because individual community members are so intimately involved.

Although the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany have all pledged to boost their contributions to the program, the United States has cut back, from $74 million last year to $50 million in 2007.

The combined cash crunch has left the NSP unable to pay some bills, and is dousing hopes for bringing the program to 7,000 additional Afghan communities.

Source:

“The Schools the Taliban Won’t Torch”
Washington Monthly, December 2007

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