Canada and Afghanistan
Canada enjoys strong bilateral relations with Afghanistan, founded on Canada’s early and steadfast support to Afghanistan on its path to stability, democracy and respect for human rights.
Since the early 1960s, Canada has provided humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, initially in response to a series of natural disasters. In 1968, Canada formally established diplomatic relations and, in 2003, opened its Embassy in Kabul and appointed its first resident ambassador. Afghanistan appointed its first resident ambassador to Canada in 2002.
Since 2001, Canada’s engagement has evolved with changing circumstances in Afghanistan. 40,000 Canadians served as part of the NATO mission from 2001 to 2014. Canada continues to support stabilization, development and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, providing a total of $3.3 billion in international assistance since 2001. Canada has focused its assistance on the security sector, education, health, as well as human rights and the rights of Afghan women and girls.
Canada’s programming adopts a women and girls-centered approach aligned with the Feminist International Assistance Policy. Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan contributes to Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, which recognizes and addresses the experience of women and girls in conflict-affected situations and supports Afghanistan’s own National Action Plan (PDF) in implementing the United Nations Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
Despite four decades of continuous conflict and significant challenges to advancing development outcomes, Afghanistan has seen important areas of progress in terms of access to health and education, women’s rights and governance capacity.
Canada’s investments, as part of a broader international effort, have resulted in incremental, tangible progress from a very low baseline, demonstrated by:
- all-time high education enrollment rate for girls
- a fourteen-year increase in life expectancy
- a vibrant and open media, which promotes a modern concept of citizenship
Canada has had an active development presence in Afghanistan for decades and remains steadfast in its commitment to help Afghanistan to achieve its development goals. At the July 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw, Canada committed $465 million to Afghanistan including $270 million in development assistance from 2017 to 2020. Canada’s development assistance pledge was reiterated at the October 2016 Brussels Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan. Canada works jointly with other leading international donors to ensure its aid is effective and aligned with Afghanistan’s priorities. The funding is critical to sustaining the progress already made in the country and contributes to security and stability in Afghanistan.
Canadian development initiatives in Afghanistan are largely directed toward improving health, education, empowerment of women and girls, inclusive governance, and advancement of human rights for the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable populations in Afghanistan. Canadian development initiatives are contributing to:
- greater access to economic opportunities for women and girls
- improved health services, especially for maternal, newborn, and child care, and reproductive health and rights
- access to safe, quality basic education for girls and boys
- safer and more secure conditions to promote and protect human rights
- better conditions for empowerment of women and girls
Canada’s development funds are channeled in two ways. The first is through the Afghanistan’s Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank, which supports national programs to achieve Afghan national priorities. The second is through direct funding of projects led by Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international NGOs and multilateral organizations. For more information, please visit our Project Browser.
In addition, Canada supports gender-responsive humanitarian action, based on needs, to help save lives, alleviate suffering and support the dignity of those affected by crises. Canada is helping to bridge the humanitarian and development divide through programming that aims to link relief and recovery to development. This includes support to help 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. Further, Canada supports the Government of Afghanistan in its efforts to eliminate all known landmines and other explosive remnants of war from Afghanistan by 2023. This is in line with commitments under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
Security sector support
At the NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016, Canada committed $195 million to help sustain financially the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) from 2018 to 2021. Canada provides this security sector support through NATO’s Afghan National Army Trust Fund (ANATF) and the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA).
Canada’s contributions to the ANATF continue to sustain and strengthen the Afghan National Army through training and operational support by providing technical assistance and professional development. This includes:
- targeted support to promote recruitment and professional development of women
- essential pharmaceutical supplies
- vital infrastructure construction
- enhancements for power generation, military bases, airfield and hospital improvements
- support to the construction of secure gender- integrated facilities
In keeping with Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security’s approach in Afghanistan, increasing the number of qualified women in the ANDSF is a priority for Canada.
Canadian support to the LOTFA has contributed to ensuring regular and timely payment of police salaries through a modernized pay system, in addition to assisting with the establishment of financial monitoring mechanisms for improved functioning police services. Forward-looking programming includes assisting the Afghan National Police in its future plans to transition from a counter-insurgency to a civilian force focused on providing community-oriented policing services and enforcing law and order in the country.
Additionally, Afghanistan has been a member of Canada’s Military Training and Cooperation Programme (MTCP) since 2005, which as of 2019 has trained 125 Afghan personnel in a variety of topics, including language training, staff training, and professional development.
Bilateral trade between Canada and Afghanistan totalled $31.25 million in 2018. Merchandise exports to Afghanistan (primarily machinery and parts) were $26.5 million, while Canadian merchandise imports from Afghanistan (led by fruits and nuts) stood at $4.8 million in 2018. A small number of Canadian companies are pursuing business opportunities in the country, including in mining, information and communication technologies, transport, engineering services and agriculture.
Trade and investment agreements
Trade and investment agreements involving Canada and Afghanistan:
- World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA)
- Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
- Agreement on Trade-related Investment Measures (TRIMS)
- General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (GATT)
- General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
- World Trade Organization Information Technology Agreement (ITA)
For more information, consult trade and investment agreements.
Partners and organizations
To develop effective responses to today’s most pressing global challenges, Canada and Afghanistan work closely in multilateral fora, such as:
- International Criminal Court (ICC)
- United Nations (UN)
- United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- The World Bank
- World Trade Organization (WTO)
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