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Leveraging the urbanization dividend in Afghanistan

Sateh Chafic El-Arnaout's picture
With support provided by the KMDP, over one million people (about 73 percent women and children) have benefited from the construction of about 247 kilometers of neighborhood roads. Photo: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


Afghanistan is undergoing a rapid urban transition. While the current share of its population living in cities is comparatively low (25.8 percent in 2014 compared to 32.6 percent across South Asia), Afghanistan’s urbanization rate is among the highest in the region. Its urban population is growing at 5 percent annually, more than twice the regional average.

The country’s urbanization transition is impacted by Afghanistan’s history of conflict and fragility, which presents additional challenges for urban areas. Cities are struggling to accommodate increasing numbers of persons seeking security, shelter, and jobs. These newcomers include internally displaced persons, returning refugees, as well as those leaving rural agricultural employment and seeking service-based jobs in urban areas. This migration will continue for a generation; by 2060, half of all Afghans will live in cities, which means that roughly 15 million people will be moving to cities in the next 40 years.[1]

Over the same time period, the country will also see a substantial increase in demand for employment as slightly more than half of the current population is aged 15 or younger and will soon be entering the workforce for years to come.

Against this background, Afghanistan will have to leverage and manage its urban transition to ensure that cities can provide job opportunities, housing, and improved quality of life to their citizens. Recognizing the important challenges, the Afghan government introduced the Urban National Priority Program (U-NPP) in 2016. It provides policy guidance and investments in support of municipal governance, improved access to basic services, and vibrant urban economies for the next 10 years.

World Refugee Day: What you need to know about the displaced and their host communities

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Today is World Refugee Day, a day for us all to remember how many people are moved or displaced from their homes—either within their own country or across borders.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) just announced that there were 22.5 million refugees and 40 million displaced internally due to conflicts last year, as well as many more forced to move due to natural disasters.  
Forced displacement is a crisis centered in developing countries, which host 89% of refugees and 99% of internally displaced persons. Watch a video below and learn how the crisis affects the displaced and their host communities alike around the world.
 

 


A roadmap to reintegrate displaced and refugee Afghans

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture
A displaced family has taken shelter in a ruined house on the outskirts of Kabul. Photo: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


As the world marks World Refugee Day on June 20, we must remember that it is not only the refugee crisis that is hampering development efforts in many countries. There is also a silent emerging crisis of people driven from their homes to another part of their own country, people known as internally displaced persons (IDPs). It is a growing issue that several countries are facing, with enormous social and political pressures to address.

In Afghanistan, there are an estimated 1.2 million people who are internally displaced because of insecurity or are being forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters. This is in addition to the nearly 6 million people who have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, making one in five Afghans a returnee. In 2016, more than 620,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan alone.

The massive influx of returnees and IDPs is placing tremendous pressure on Afghanistan’s already fragile social and economic infrastructure and is a threat to regional stability.

When I first took up my position as Country Director of the World Bank for Afghanistan, I was struck by the plight of returnees and IDPs and by how hard-pressed the Afghan government was in dealing with them. During my first days in office, back in November 2016, I visited a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) center on the outskirts of Kabul. The center serves as the first entry point for returnees where they can receive assistance—including cash—and attend awareness and safety sessions to help them better integrate in their new communities.  

Achieving results against the odds in violent contexts

Richard Hogg's picture
Afghan children walk pass a bombed bus in 2016, Mohammad Ismael/ REUTERS


In Afghanistan violence is a daily fact of life. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan released their 2016 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Afghanistan in February, which documented 11,418 casualties in 2016, a 3% increase since 2015, including 3,498 deaths. Child casualties rose by almost a quarter (24%)—to 923 killed and 2,589 wounded. As a result, there are always lots of questions about how you deliver services in parts of the world like Afghanistan that are affected by ongoing, day to day violence.

Increasingly we live in a world where poverty and violence are deeply interconnected, and if we are to affect the former we have to deal with the latter. But both services and violence come in so many different forms that disentangling the relationship is tough. What works in one context may not work in another. It is too easy to say that nongovernmental organizations are best at delivering services in situations where state authority is contested, just as it may be false to suggest that state delivery of services is always likely to build state legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. The relationships between service delivery and violent conflict are more nuanced than this on the ground and require context-specific analyses that try to understand the nature of the political settlements around conflict, what drives violence and what is the nature of the bargains being struck by local and national elites that either allow or block service delivery.

Well, we have recently tried to do this in a new publication which has just come out, called “Social Service Delivery in Violent Contexts: Achieving Results Against the Odds”.  The report tries to disentangle what works and what doesn’t based on research in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal. It probes how social service delivery is affected by violent conflict and what the critical factors that make or break successful delivery are. 

Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan stays strong

Annette Dixon's picture
Despite government efforts with support from the international community, Afghanistan's development needs remain massive. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

I am still shaken and saddened by the many lives lost to the attacks in Kabul two weeks ago and since then there has been more violence. As we grieve these tragedies, now is the time to stand strong with the people of Afghanistan and renew our commitment to build a peaceful and prosperous country.

To that end, we announced this week a new financing package of more than half-a-billion dollars to help Afghanistan through its struggle to end poverty, increase opportunity to help stabilize the country, and ensure all its citizens can access basic services during a time of economic uncertainty.

Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and achieved much progress under extremely challenging circumstances. Life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and the country now boasts 18 million mobile phone subscribers, up from almost none in 2001.

Yet, the development needs in Afghanistan remain massive. Nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population are illiterate. The country needs to create new jobs for about 400,000 people entering the labor market each year. The situation is made more challenging by the return of around 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people.

Our new support is in line with our belief that Afghanistan’s economic and social progress can also help it address security challenges.  Our financing package meets the pressing needs of returning refugees, expands private-sector opportunities for the poor, boosts the development of five cities, expands electrification, improves food security, and builds rural roads.

Blog post of the month: Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries

Jing Guo's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For April 2017, the featured blog post is "Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries" by Jing Guo.

Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.  
 
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform.  In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
 
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
 
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
Chart 1

 

Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries

Jing Guo's picture
Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.  
 
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform.  In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
 
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
 
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
 
Chart 1

 

Charts: Where do Refugees Originate From and Where are they Hosted?

Tariq Khokhar's picture

"Forcibly Displaced" - a new report out today, offers a new perspective on the global crisis and how humanitarian and development actors can work together to support the individuals affected. The report draws on sources including the UNHCR's Global Trends 2015 which shows that 9 in 10 of the world's refugees originate from 20 countries, and 9 in 10 are hosted by about 40 countries.

Chart: Most Refugees Don't Live in Camps

Tariq Khokhar's picture

About a quarter of the world's refugees live in camps. They are largely concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most refugees in other regions live in individual accommodation. Forced displacement is largely and increasingly an urban phenomenon, with refugees living in cities and towns where they seek security, anonymity, better access to services, and job opportunities. Read more in the new report  "Forcibly Displaced: Toward a development approach supporting refugees, the internally displaced, and their hosts"
 

Helping civil society build peace and restore trust

Alua Kennedy's picture


I like entertaining my western friends with stories of growing up in the post-communist Kazakhstan limbo, when everything ended, but nothing had yet started. Stories of how my friends and I would collect old newspapers to trade for books and Moscow magazine subscriptions. ​And later on, selling empty milk bottles back for some cash to buy candy and chewing gum in the newly opened Chinese shops. The audience goes “oohh” and “ahh”, and oh do I feel like I’ve seen a lot and know what life is like!

I have to admit – attending the Fragility Conflict and Violence (FCV) Forum 2015 that took place at the World Bank HQ last week was an experience that changed my perspective on hardships of life in developing countries. There are developing countries and then there are fragile and conflict-affected countries.


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