Appropriated Aid Not Reaching Afghans

Since 2002, foreign donors have allocated nearly $36 billion to Afghanistan in an effort to assist in reconstruction efforts. In that time, however, little has changed for the Afghan people, particularly in rural areas. Access to electricity is difficult to come by and is inconsistent in its operation. Clean water, though paramount to survival, is a struggle to find and often a luxury to keep. Roads are little more than dirt paths that are prone to flooding making them barely traversable. With such a large-scale international effort to rebuild Afghanistan, why has so little progress been achieved? According to Pino Arlacchi, a prominent EU parliamentarian, only 20 to 30 percent of the foreign assistance funding has reached the citizens of Afghanistan in the past eight years due to corruption and waste. Corruption in the Afghan government is coupled with a high level of corruption in international assistance projects, preventing aid from flowing freely to those who are most in need. International donors are also guilty of high levels of waste and unnecessarily high salaries for development workers. According to Matt Walden of Harvard University, 40 percent of aid money goes to the salaries of aid workers and contractors rather than directly to projects that would benefit the Afghan people. However, some of these facts and figures can be misleading. It is indisputable that the Afghan people do not receive some aid, but not all of the aid is meant to directly reach the hands of Afghan civilians. More than half of the funds appropriated by international donors are meant for security assistance, which does not have any direct development implications for the general population. Also, with decades of violence and political instability, the Afghan infrastructure has been severely weakened and many technically skilled workers have emigrated. As a result, foreign workers are necessary to work on development projects until enough Afghans are trained are ready to take over the projects. Nevertheless, significant reform is needed to curb corruption, cut waste, and reduce inflated wages in an effort to improve the quality of development projects. Much like the corruption seen in the construction of schools and hospitals in Herat province, development projects in all of Afghanistan suffer from a lack of regulation. With little oversight of public funds appropriated to these construction companies, the companies are able to use low quality materials and pocket the left over funds. Such a lack of oversight will only encourage corruption on a national scale. This phenomenon serves to show that more attention must be paid to strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems within the Afghan government and international donors. This lesson can also be applied to any development project, anywhere in the world. Such oversight will help to make development budgets and processes more transparent. As one of Global Washington’s four Principles of Aid Effectiveness, transparency serves to make donors more accountable for their actions, leading to more sustainable development projects. For more information on Global Washington’s four Principles of Aid Effectiveness, read our white paper.