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Working Paper

Donor interventions in Afghanistan: a Lessons for Peace literature review

Leveraging specific lessons learned from past peace processes in Afghanistan, this paper considers how peace processes and associated programming might be designed to support sustainable peace that delivers for all Afghans. In a fragmented donor environment, it highlights the importance of joined-up humanitarian and development programming in a post-peace context, as well as of building inclusive and legitimate institutions.

Key lessons:

  • Following the Soviet troop withdrawal in the late-1980s, peace lapsed because the accord process took a top-down approach that neglected local perspectives. In recent years peace talks have been characterised by short-termism, conflicting international policies, an absence of oversight of implementation, as well as an assumed tabula rasa going into negotiations.
  • Existing institutions may not be fit-for-purpose in a post-conflict governance setting. Power-sharing, constitutional reform and integration of Taliban security forces must be sensitive to elite interests and the risk of further fragmenting the Afghan state and damaging already-weak capacity for service delivery. Tackling crime and corruption requires multifaceted and sustained approaches, owing not least to Afghanistan’s legal pluralism.
  • Local ownership and agency in directing and monitoring aid flows is essential to strengthening state legitimacy and capacity. The full breadth of National Priority Program policy proposals must receive donor support, not just the most appealing. Foreign troop withdrawal may remove harmful tensions between competing military and civilian-led development efforts.

This paper was published as an official ODI Working Paper, available to download from ODI's website here.

Published: 21 February 2020

Authors: Eliza Urwin

About the authors

Eliza Urwin

Research Consultant

Eliza is a research consultant and PhD candidate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, where her research focuses on processes of governance and statehood in contested spaces. From 2013 to 2017 Eliza lived in Afghanistan, working as a Senior Program Officer for the United States Institute of Peace. There, she managed a portfolio of peace and conflict research and programming, piloting projects and exploring research methods for evaluating program effectiveness. Since leaving Kabul, she has conducted research for the Norwegian Refugee Council and Overseas Development Institute on Taliban justice and the Afghan peace process. Her recent research focuses on participatory methods, in particular focusing on the measurement of subjective, difficult-to-measure concepts, using “Everyday Peace Indicators” to examine dynamics of security, resilience, and governance in Tunisia and Afghanistan.