Summary of publication
Overall, Australia’s aid program in Afghanistan has retained a good level of performance, despite the challenges inherent in Afghanistan’s security environment. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) considers Afghanistan to have returned to active conflict. Insecurity threatens to erode progress on institution building and stall reforms. The humanitarian situation has become more acute with increasing numbers of Afghans returning from neighbouring countries, putting pressure on host communities and government services, and a drought affecting a large proportion of the country and its agriculture-dependent population. The Afghan government, at the same time, has become more assertive on how aid is given — particularly with a strong preference for support for the National Priority Programs (NPPs) and on-budget contributions, which reinforce national planning and budget mechanisms.
Two out of three objectives are on track for achievement by this final year of the 2015-2018 AIP. Objective 1, relating to growth and better governance, is not on track to be achieved. While the aid program is structured in a way that makes it adaptable to contextual challenges, the underlying conflict has taken its toll on economic and institutional development and there are ongoing governance and reporting improvement required in the large trust funds supporting this objective (ARTF and LOTFA). We have responded to the security situation by returning program management to Canberra, and are working through options for identifying and supporting policy, performance management and diplomatic advocacy remotely.
A new AIP, for 2018-2020, is being drafted which will recalibrate the program to the current operational context. As Afghanistan moves into a politically significant period — with elections, a potential peace process, and the lead-up to the Bonn conference in 2020 — we are keeping expectations of the aid program realistic, and remaining focussed on the effectiveness of programs. Gender will be a cross-cutting focus for the new AIP, this will involve a continued effort to improve investment performance, alongside broader advocacy.