Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan

Alert: Travel Advisory

Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to Afghanistan.

Since 2001, Canada has played an active role in Afghanistan and has remained steadfast in its commitment to help the Government of Afghanistan reduce poverty and build a more stable, secure and prosperous future for its people.

Important progress has been made on a number of social, development and economic indicators. However, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest and most fragile states and continues to be characterized by pervasive human rights abuses, conflict and violence.

Canada recognizes that realizing sustainable development results in Afghanistan is a long-term endeavor. More time is needed for social changes to take root and result in protecting and upholding human rights, particularly for women and girls.

From 2001 to 2018, the Government of Canada has invested approximately $3.24 billion in reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, of which close to $2.48 billion has been disbursed for development assistance. Canada is among the 10 largest single-country donors providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

In 2016, at the NATO summit in Warsaw, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed $465 million to Afghanistan, including $270 million for development assistance and $195 million for security support from 2017 to 2020. This funding is being used to sustain the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), to support women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment and to help the Afghan government provide basic services to its citizens.

Women’s and girls’ rights first

Although women’s rights have improved since 2001, Afghanistan remains one of the countries with the lowest levels of gender equality achievement, ranking 154 out of 159 countries in the United Nations Gender Inequality Index for 2016.

Contributing factors include:

  • insecurity due to conflict and limited access to justice
  • cultural practices that undermine women’s and girls’ rights
  • lack of enforcement of laws that protect women
  • poverty
  • inadequate access to education and low rates of female adult literacy and numeracy

These challenges are particularly felt in rural areas of Afghanistan.

In keeping with its Feminist International Assistance Policy, Canada’s overarching women’s and girls’ rights first approach in Afghanistan places gender equality and the empowerment of Afghan women and girls at the heart of all of its work in the country. Working together with the Afghan government, Afghan women and civil society, Canada is helping to ensure that women and girls are fully able to participate in all spheres of Afghan society. This is in line with Canada’s position as a global champion for the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 5, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

A women’s and girls’ rights first approach is integrated into all Canadian programming in Afghanistan. Canada supports programming that:

  • empowers and promotes women’s and girls’ rights
  • increases women’s economic opportunities
  • reduces women’s vulnerability to climate change
  • improves women’s health and that of their children
  • promotes reproductive rights
  • increases Afghans’ access to quality basic education

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. 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.

Supporting Afghanistan through its transformation decade (2015 to 2024)

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 on Afghanistan in 2014, the Government of Afghanistan set out an ambitious reform agenda to 2024, covering seven priorities:

  1. Improve security and political stability.
  2. Tackle the underlying drivers of corruption.
  3. Build better governance.
  4. Restore fiscal sustainability.
  5. Reform development planning and management.
  6. Bolster private sector confidence.
  7. Ensure citizen development and secure human rights.

This agenda was built upon at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in 2016, during which participants reaffirmed their commitment to three pillars:

  • Afghan-led state and institution building, as outlined by the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework and the Self-Reliance Through Mutual Accountability Framework
  • sustained international support and funding at or near current levels through 2020 with increased aid effectiveness
  • regional and international support for ending violence to foster economic development and improve regional economic cooperation, and for a political process towards lasting peace and reconciliation

Canada supports this reform agenda by targeting security support through the United Nations Development Programme’s Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) and NATO’s Afghanistan National Army Trust Fund and by contributing around half of its bilateral development assistance to the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). 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 Afghanistan, please search the Project Browser.

Security sector support

Canada has invested in peace and security programming in Afghanistan through support for sustaining the ANDSF since 2005. This concerted investment has built the capacity of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police and supported complementary efforts in justice and corrections as part of Canada’s whole-of-government effort. Canada’s commitment of $195 million for security support 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 improving the protection of civilians.

Canada is contributing to LOTFA, which supports the Afghan National Police through funding of police salaries, improving police capacity and developing systems within the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs. Canadian engagement has promoted the expansion of LOTFA’s mandate to include justice and rule of law in the 2018 to 2020 period.

Canada is also contributing to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund (ANATF), created in 2007, which supports the long-term sustainment of the ANA. Canada has funded initiatives under the ANATF such as the procurement of medical equipment, consumables and materials for use by ANA medical services; measures to support the recruitment and retention of women into the ANA; building a power grid to support ANA installations; and explosive ordnance disposal robots for the ANA and Afghan National Police.

International development assistance

Canada has had an active development presence in Afghanistan for decades and is committed to helping Afghanistan achieve its development goals. This includes building the capacity of the Afghan government to deliver basic health and education services to its people and empowering Afghan women and girls through targeted activities. Canada’s renewed $270-million contribution (2017 to 2020) is critical to sustaining the progress already made in the country and contributing to a more stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.

Canada’s development funds are channelled in two ways. The first is through the ARTF, a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank, which then distributes funds to Afghan government ministries fully aligned with Afghan national priorities. The second is through direct funding of projects led by Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international NGOs and multilateral organizations. These include CARE Canada, Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and others. This direct funding allows Canada to support projects that are innovative and able to reach communities that are otherwise inaccessible.

Humanitarian relief and recovery

Canada supports gender-responsive humanitarian action to help save lives, alleviate suffering and support the dignity of those affected by crises. Canada works with experienced partners, including the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and NGOs to help address the most urgent needs of conflict- and disaster-affected women, girls, men and boys.

In addition to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, 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, including mines and explosive remnants of war.

Examples of results to date

Canada’s contributions, along with those of other donors, have helped Afghanistan realize significant achievements, including establishing democratic institutions, improving health care and immunization, expanding primary education, constructing roads and infrastructure, and forming and strengthening state security forces.

Noteworthy achievements

Education

In the education sector, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of girls and boys enrolled in schools across the country. Reports from the Afghan Ministry of Education state that 8.9 million Afghan children, 3.4 million of whom are girls, are currently enrolled in formal and community-based schools. In 2001, there were fewer than 1 million children in school and most were boys. Canada is also supporting the community-based education initiative adopted by the Government of Afghanistan, which is an innovative education model that extends the reach of basic education services to rural and remote areas not yet served by government schools.

Business

During 2017 to 2018, Canada supported 3,452 women in establishing and managing businesses. As a result, their monthly incomes increased by an average of 302%. Of these women, 66% self-identified as survivors of violence.

Health

In the health sector, Canada supported the establishment of 58 family health houses in Daikundi province. These provide life-saving reproductive health services and information to women (pre/postnatal care, delivery, family planning, contraception, nutrition counselling and referral), as well as some essential health services to newborns and children under five.

Safety

Canada, in collaboration with other donors, has contributed to the removal of approximately 80% of known landmines, unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war across Afghanistan.

Related links