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Helping the Afghans achieve greater autonomy – a challenge for aid organisations.

While discussions are underway about the parameters of the international military withdrawal, including the French army, the challenge for aid organisations who have been present in the country for a long time is to ensure that the support to the Afghan people continues, notably through the reinforcement of national and local capacity to take charge of their country’s development. Our training programmes contribute to this effort and are evidence of our commitment to this country and its civil society.

We know Afghanistan well; some of us first went there more than twenty years ago. We witnessed the civil war, the Taliban period and the successes and errors of international policy. We have conducted many evaluations and research projects there. By car, on foot, on horseback, we have crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and the High Lek (highland pastures), the arid plains of the North and South or the irrigated plains of the West and East, the isolated villages of Badakhshan and the Kabul Informal Settlements, the areas of informal urbanization which plague the outskirts of the city. We have met Maleks (great worthies) and Kushis (nomadic people at the bottom of the social scale), ministers and street children, warlords and female heads of households… We have written a lot about this country which we have learned to love, on issues such as the involvement of Afghans in aid programmes, poverty, agriculture, cities and the health system.

We have also closely observed the way this crisis has been managed politically, with major reservations about the methods used. In a country where no foreign power has ever won a war and where a truly international military presence was needed, and if possible, including other Islamic countries, why was a mandate given to NATO which added to the perception that it was the Americans who were running operations? Though this allowed NATO’s new strategic concept to be tested, the results have not been very encouraging. From the beginning, we felt that French military engagement in this context was an ineffective and dangerous decision. Today, with the military withdrawal, there is a major risk that the world will lose interest in Afghanistan: once the troops have gone home, the Afghans will find themselves behind closed doors with an uncertain future.

Aid organizations need to remain mobilised to reinforce the capacity of Afghans to implement humanitarian and development programmes. Having already run training courses for Afghan managers from NGOs, UN agencies and ministries, we have taken up this activity again due to the increasing difficulty of gaining access to certain areas and their populations, international institutions’ need for skilled national managers and Afghan institutions’ desire for greater recognition in the humanitarian and development sectors.

Since 2010, in partnership with ACBAR – the Afghan NGO coordination agency – we have run an ambitious training programme [1]. This has included courses on humanitarian project management (collection and analysis of data, writing of initial assessment reports), project design and proposal writing, team management and training of trainers to allow Afghan managers to develop their teaching skills.

Two new modules – one on the Environment and the other on Humanitarian Principles – are currently being developed by Groupe URD. The subjects will be approached both from a general and local point of view as they will partly based on Afghan examples. We are also looking into the issue of Gender and its integration into humanitarian and development projects while, at the same time, respecting the local culture and religion.

In addition, to broaden access to the training courses, sessions are being planned in the provinces. Modules are being translated into Dari and Pashto, so that language is not a barrier. It is therefore planned that, by the end of 2012, these courses will be being given in the local language by ACBAR’s Afghan trainers.

With a dozen sessions having been run since the beginning of 2010, more than 230 Afghans have been trained. We hope to be able to continue to support them, while gradually handing over responsibility to our Afghan partner so that this project can be extended and this commitment pursued in the long term.

The next course will focus on humanitarian principles and will take place at the beginning of July 2012 (dates currently being validated).

For any more information, please contact Fadoi Chaouki

View our activities in Afghanistan.

[1] The training modules were developed with financial support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the French Embassy in Afghanistan. They are the fruit of an initial assessment – carried out during the first 6 months of 2010 – which aimed to improve understanding of the specific needs in the Afghan context and develop “made-to-measure” training courses.