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Climate Resilience and Jobs: Afghanistan’s New Priorities

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Afghanistan faces a new chapter in its turbulent history, marked by the return of thousands of displaced families from Pakistan. These returnees, many of whom have never set foot in Afghanistan before, must now rebuild their lives from scratch amidst dire economic conditions. This demographic shift presents a significant challenge and an unprecedented opportunity for the country’s largest generation to shape a more resilient and prosperous future.

The Immediate Struggle: Basic Needs and Economic Survival

As trucks laden with the entire possessions of returning families arrive in Spin Boldak, these individuals receive some immediate assistance from humanitarian agencies, including medical care, food, and a small amount of cash. However, these temporary measures fall short of addressing the long-term needs of these families. The primary demand from these returnees is clear: jobs and start-up capital to ensure economic survival. Unfortunately, the current international aid framework remains predominantly focused on short-term survival rather than long-term resilience.

The Disconnect Between Aid and Needs

International aid strategies in Afghanistan have historically been influenced by the geopolitical and ideological conflicts of major donor countries, particularly from Europe and the United States. The fresh memories of conflict, combined with ideological clashes with Taliban authorities over women’s rights and access to education, create an environment where aid is heavily scrutinized and often limited. This focus on not aiding the Taliban directly results in a significant gap between the aid provided and the actual needs of the Afghan population, especially those facing climate and poverty-related challenges.

A Call for Positive Framing in Aid Strategies

To address Afghanistan’s pressing issues effectively, a shift in the framing of international assistance is necessary. This new approach should prioritize the well-being and development of the Afghan people over political and ideological constraints. Here are key components of a more positive and practical aid strategy:

Strengthening Institutional Capacity: Support should be directed towards enhancing the capabilities of national institutions like the Afghan Red Crescent, which play a critical role in providing social protection and opportunities for citizens.

Focusing on Long-Term Solutions: Aid should emphasize livelihood recovery and job creation for both men and women. This involves moving beyond emergency relief to support economic independence and resilience.

Investing in Climate Resilience: Given the increasing frequency of natural disasters, such as floods and heavy rains, investment in sustainable development projects like check dams and early warning systems is crucial. These measures can provide long-term protection and stability for vulnerable communities.

Enhancing Learning Opportunities: Despite restrictions on secondary education for girls, alternative education, vocational training, and skills development should be actively supported for all. This approach can address the mental health crisis stemming from trauma and lack of hope.

Engaging Without Endorsing: Engagement with Afghan authorities should be aimed at facilitating the right investments that benefit the Afghan people without necessarily endorsing the ruling regime.

Towards a Proactive Strategy

Since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, donor countries have struggled to adapt to the new reality. While some have continued to provide humanitarian aid, development financing has been largely withheld. As Afghanistan stabilizes under the new leadership, it is imperative for donors to transition from a reactive to a proactive strategy. This proactive approach should focus on laying the foundations for not just survival, but also for well-being and hope.

Afghanistan’s largest generation

Afghanistan’s largest generation stands at a crossroads, facing immense challenges but also holding the potential for significant positive change. By adopting a more positive and people-first approach to aid, the international community can help this generation build a future marked by resilience, prosperity, and hope. It is time for donors to move beyond short-term survival tactics and invest in the long-term development and stability of Afghanistan.

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