Aid Groups Weigh in: How to do Development Work in Afghanistan

    Afghan villagers pose in front of a truck carrying humanitarian aid. Consulting with local people and gaining their understanding and support are two pieces of advice for people working in Afghanistan. Photo by: Laura K. Smith / isafmedia / CC BY isafmediaCC BY

    Consulting with local people and gaining their understanding and support are two of the top pieces of advice that people working in Afghanistan should keep in mind, Nicholas Kristof writes in the New York Times.

    Kritof said he reached out to several non-governmental organizations to ask for advice on working in the conflict-afflicted Asian country. Delivering value, providing cost-effective service, working in a culturally sensitive way and building institutions that have staying power are some of the responses he got from the NGOs.

    “Care. Don’t be afraid. People one serves are one’s best protection,” Susan Davis of BRAC said as quoted by Kristof.

    It is also best to do away with armed guards or any sort of weapon, stick to local staff, and consult with elders of visited communities, another aid official shared.

    Meanwhile, Roger Hardister, of the Global Partnership of Afghanistan, said his organization’s strategies include providing services that translate to instant results, investing in long-term development projects, engaging in individuals and communities, and hiring and training Afghan nationals. He also noted that is advisable to work in small groups and emphasized the importance of consulting with Afghan elders.

    Working with locals was also the theme of the advice given by another aid worker.

    “You touched on rather a number of very important points, one of the ones that seems to be least understood by USAID and the military is that if local Afghans are in charge, development can happen virtually anywhere in Afghanistan,” the aid worker told Kristof. “It is extremely expensive and usually counterproductive to insist that foreigners supervise and in some measure take credit for development.”

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.