Afghanistan: New World Bank Grants Worth US$90 Million Reach Out Across Afghanistan

Washington, The World Bank today approved grants for three development projects in Afghanistan, bringing the institution's support for the war-ravaged country to a total of US$100 million in grant funding for the fiscal year ending June 30.

"The three projects approved by our board today are aligned fully with the development vision of the Afghanistan Interim Administration," said Country Director Alastair McKechnie. "The projects are embedded in the National Development Framework which the administration shared with donors at a meeting in Kabul in April. This has helped us design these projects to reach out as far as possible across the country and to put the capacity for development into the hands of local communities."

The projects are Emergency Education Rehabilitation and Development (US$15 million), Emergency Community Empowerment and Public Works (US$42 million) and Emergency Infrastructure Reconstruction (US$33 million). In April, the Emergency Public Administration Project to assist Afghanistan's authorities with the establishment of accountable and transparent financial management, procurement and auditing, was approved with grant funding of US$10 million, bringing the total Bank commitment to Afghanistan for the fiscal year ending June 30 to US$100 million.

At an international pledging conference in Tokyo in January, the Bank initially envisaged between US$50 and US$70 million for this first year, coinciding with the duration of the Afghanistan Interim Administration. An additional US$500 million was pledged over the following two years, coinciding with the planned duration of the Transitional Government due to be established by the Loya Jirga beginning in Afghanistan next week.

"We have managed to make more grant funds available in this first year principally because the development vision has been there," said McKechnie. "The Bank has said all along that Afghanistan's reconstruction and development can only be realized if Afghans themselves take the lead in this process. It is critical that the emerging state of Afghanistan has the wherewithal to deliver this vision as this will determine its security and its sustainability. That is why it is so important that the government's operating budget be supported and that the implementation of development projects is placed into the hands of Afghans, with external support where necessary. We urge fellow donors to make good on pledges made in Tokyo. We have already indicated that, in addition to the US$90 million approved today, we could make up to US$100 million more available in direct budget support in the months immediately ahead."

Education in Afghanistan is recognized as an enormous challenge. The Emergency Education Rehabilitation and Development Project focuses on those areas of this task not covered by other donors. This includes a countrywide plan for learning and skill development for ex combatants, war widows and women excluded from education. The project will also support rehabilitation of university faculties and colleges, education policy and planning and the establishment of a distance learning center.

The Community Empowerment and Public Works Project underpins the government's National Solidarity Program in bringing assistance to communities across Afghanistan. It focuses on employment creation in rural areas for, among others, ex-combatants and Afghans returning home having fled drought, conflict, or both. The project will also deliver grants directly to communities for small rehabilitation works and development of community assets aimed at kick starting economic activities.

The Emergency Infrastructure Reconstruction Project will support rehabilitation of urgently-needed water supply and sanitation in secondary cities, sanitation in Kabul, and basic electricity for all cities including Kabul. Urban public works will also generate short-term employment opportunities.

The US$90 million in grant support for these three projects comes from the International Development Association, the concessionary lending arm of the World Bank.
World Bank Increases Support for Afghanistan's National Solidarity Program (press release)

Washington, December 23, 2003, The World Bank today approved a US$95 million IDA grant to support Afghanistan's National Solidarity Program (NSP), which is strengthening local governance and providing resources for communities to undertake reconstruction and development activities. The grant provides funding to continue and expand the NSP which was launched in 2002 with support from the World Bank.

The World Bank-funded project, called the Emergency National Solidarity Project, will support rural reconstruction with grants to rural communities for reconstruction or development activities planned and managed by the communities themselves. Communities will either do the work themselves or subcontract to the private sector.

Critical to the project is the process of decision making around the use of the grants. In an effort to build solid local governance, consultation, and the legitimacy of local leadership, Community Development Councils are elected through secret ballot. These councils then lead a participatory process in the community to decide how the grant money will be spent. It is anticipated that this process will form the basis for cooperation within and among communities, and between the communities and the local government apparatus and with other assistance programs.

The project will also enhance government effectiveness by supporting the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. It will help develop the ministry's capacity to set and supervise standards and procedures for financial management, disbursement, and implementation of community projects.

More than two decades of conflict have resulted in extensive destruction of infrastructure and massive population displacements in Afghanistan. A severe drought lasting from 1999 to 2002 has further increased rural poverty, depleted available assets, and led to further displacement of people. In June 2002, a component of the World Bank-financed Emergency Community Empowerment and Public Works Project provided support for the government to launch its National Solidarity Program, which is currently under implementation in 87 districts in 31 of the country's 32 provinces. The target for the first year of implementation (July 03 to July 04) is to reach 4,500 villages. By December 2003, implementation was ongoing in 3,082 villages, of which 1,358 had elected Community Development Councils, and had prepared 720 subproject proposals. The first block grant disbursements to villages took place on December 9-10, 2003 in Kandahar, Farah, Herat, and Parwan. By March 2004, it is estimated that block grant disbursements will amount to around US$11 million. The current NSP project has demonstrated, that despite a volatile security situation in much of the rural areas, it has been possible to launch a large scale project across the country.

"The National Solidarity Program, initiated by the Government of Afghanistan, has proven very successful in brining local communities together to build consensus on common needs," said William Byrd, World Bank Country Manager for Afghanistan. "It has became a practical instrument for resolving local problems of reconstruction and development. Through this grant, the World Bank is endorsing the government's efforts to develop a program which gives a sense of power and purpose to local communities, providing them with a chance to lift themselves out of poverty."

The goal of the government is to scale up the National Solidarity Program to reach all the estimated 20,000 villages in the country within a four-year timeframe. The funding required for the first year of the program is estimated to be around US$160 million, and the new IDA grant of US$95 million will support this requirement if the program can be scaled up as rapidly as envisaged. Additional co-financing will be sought from other donors including funding through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.

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