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Aid in Contested Spaces: Afghanistan

A case study of the challenges to aid delivery and consequences in areas of ongoing violence.

The realities of armed conflict pose significant challenges to aid programs in countries such as Afghanistan. Traditional decision making about when to carry out emergency relief—as opposed to development or recovery aid—has become increasingly irrelevant, as ongoing political violence demands a far more nuanced understanding of the environment and the aid delivery systems best suited to each individual context. Results from Oxfam’s research in Kunduz, Nangarhar, and Kabul Provinces mirror the findings of other studies on aid effectiveness in Afghanistan. Aid programs are more likely to succeed when they foster connections among projects or actors; develop a thorough understanding of the context; and work on the priorities identified by beneficiary communities. When aid actors fail to do these things, they generate or exacerbate conflict; create risks for beneficiaries and project implementers; alienate the government and a range of other stakeholders; and undermine high-priority humanitarian and development objectives. With the international community poised to scale back its involvement in the country at the end of 2014, the research points to a dozen recommendations that, if implemented, have the capacity to improve the effectiveness and impact of aid programs across Afghanistan, as well as in  other conflict zones.


Erin Blankenship

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