Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan

Afghanistan remains a country devastated by more than three decades of conflict. During the period from 2001 and 2016, the Government of Canada has invested approximately $2.8 billion in reconstruction and stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan, of which close to $2.2 billion has been disbursed for development assistance. Canada is also the 9th largest single-country donor providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. While important progress has been made on a number of social, development and economic indicators, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s least developed, poorest and most fragile states, and continues to be characterized by pervasive human rights abuses, conflict and violence. Canada recognizes that in Afghanistan, time is needed for societal changes that result in protecting and upholding human rights, particularly for women and girls, and understands that given Afghanistan’s low level of development and the ongoing conflict, realizing sustainable development results is a long-term endeavor.

In July 2016, at the NATO summit in Warsaw, the Prime Minister pledged $465 million to Afghanistan, including $270 million for development assistance and $195 million for security support from 2017-2020. This funding, referred to as the Warsaw commitment, will be used to sustain the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), to support women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment, and to help meet the basic needs of Afghans.

Security programming

Canada has invested in peace and security programming in Afghanistan through support for the sustainment of the ANDSF since 2005. This concerted investment has built the capacity of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police and supported complementary efforts in justice and corrections as part of Canada’s whole-of-government effort. The Warsaw commitment of $195 million for security will help to sustain the ANDSF and contribute to building its capacity, including the recruitment, training and retention of women in Afghanistan’s security sector, ensuring respect for international humanitarian law, and the better protection of civilians.

International development assistance

Canada has had an active development presence in Afghanistan for decades, and is committed to helping Afghanistan achieve its development goals, including building the self-reliance of the Afghan government to deliver basic services to its people and to empowering Afghan women and girls through targeted activities. Canada’s funding will be critical to sustaining the progress already made in the country and contributing to a secure and stable Afghanistan.

How does Women’s and Girls’ Rights First apply to Afghanistan?

Afghan women face huge challenges and violence against women is pervasive, yet men and women have equal rights under the Afghan constitution. For the vast majority of Afghan women, life is controlled under a strictly patriarchal society resulting in restricted freedom of movement, and limited access to education, healthcare, justice and employment. Achieving gender equality in Afghanistan will require a long-term response.

The overarching focus on women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment integrated in all Canadian programming in Afghanistan is in line with Canada’s position as a global champion for the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 5 which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Through a “Women’s and Girls’ Rights First” approach in its international assistance programming, Canada supports programming that empowers and promotes women’s rights; increases their economic opportunities; reduces their vulnerability to climate change; improves their health and that of their newborns and children; promotes reproductive rights and increases their access to quality basic education.

Humanitarian relief and recovery

Humanitarian assistance is an important component of Canada’s international assistance in Afghanistan. It helps to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain the human dignity of those affected by humanitarian crises. Our assistance is delivered on the basis of need, and targets the most vulnerable, including Afghan women, men, boys and girls affected by natural disasters and conflict.

Since 2014, Canada has provided $45 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, including $15 million in 2016/17. In addition to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, Canada also prioritizes bridging the humanitarian and development divide through discrete programming initiatives. Two main objectives of our humanitarian funding are to build the capacity of Afghan humanitarian actors to plan for and manage natural and conflict-related hazards and disasters, with a focus on the needs and priorities of women and girls; and to enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to protect themselves and recover from natural and man-made disasters and hazards, including mines and explosive remnants of war.

Supporting Afghanistan’s Transformation Decade

Canada is committed to working with the international community to help increase the ability of the Afghan government to deliver basic services to its people. At the London Conference in December 2014 the new Government of Afghanistan set out an ambitious reform agenda covering seven priorities: (i) improving security and political stability, (ii) tackling the underlying drivers of corruption, (iii) building better governance, (iv) restoring fiscal sustainability, (v) reforming development planning and management, (vi) bolstering private sector confidence, and (vii) ensuring citizen development and securing human rights. Underlying these priorities is a strong commitment to improve aid effectiveness in order to increase the impact of development programs on the lives of Afghans.

Canada supports this reform agenda by contributing around half of its bilateral development assistance to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and through targeted security support for the Law and Order Trust Fund of Afghanistan (LOTFA) and the Afghan National Army Trust Fund (ANA-TF). Through these trust funds, Canada and international donors work together to strengthen the Government of Afghanistan’s security and development objectives.

For more information on what Canada is doing to support development in Afghanistan, please search the Project Browser.

Examples of results to date

Canada has made substantial contributions through development and humanitarian assistance, military support, police training, rule of law reform, demining, public financial management and reform, human rights and diplomatic engagement with Afghan leaders and the international community. These contributions, along with those of other donors, have helped Afghanistan make significant achievements including the establishment of democratic institutions, improvements in health care and immunization, a major expansion of primary education, the construction of roads and infrastructure, and the formation and strengthening of state security forces. Canadian funds have supported polio vaccination campaigns, training of teachers and health professionals, and invested in the construction of schools and health facilities. With other donors, Canada has contributed to more health clinics and hospitals being available to Afghans, including the 2017-inaugurated Bamyan Provincial Hospital which is the provincial center for MNCH services. Donor-funded demining operations have uncovered and destroyed over 18 million unexploded ordnances, 1.2 million anti-personnel land mines and 60,000 anti-tank mines, resulting in clearing 2,200 square kilometers of hazardous areas which is approximately 78 percent of the total contaminated area in Afghanistan. And finally, Canada’s support to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has helped it to exercise its key functions to promote, protect and monitor human rights, especially by addressing violence against women and promoting their full participation in Afghan society.

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