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FEATURE STORY February 24, 2021

Inclusive, Community-Driven Solutions Steer Afghanistan's Development


Members of Salih Khan CDC in Kandahar province discussing their community's priorities and wellbeing of their community members.

Photo Credit: World Bank


  • Over 13,000 Community Development Councils across Afghanistan use participatory exercises to better assist vulnerable and poor households
  • Women, young people, and community elders work together to better understand their community’s economic and social relations and the underlying causes of poverty.
  • Formed under the flagship Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project, councils have spearheaded local development in Afghanistan, benefiting over 13 million Afghans.

Whereas traditional structures placed decision-making power in the hands of a community’s male elders, Half of CDC members in rural areas are women.

Recognizing that Afghanistan has suffered from chronic instability and conflict during its modern history, leaving the country’s economy and infrastructure in ruin, the government’s flagship development program, the Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (CCAP) provides innovative pathways for communities, through the CDCs, to promote inclusive development on their own terms. 

Using modern participatory development planning tools, the CDCs are developing multifaceted community development plans.

These exercises are meant to provide a nuanced understanding of each community’s economic and social relations from the bottom-up, with a focus on seasonal hunger, indebtedness, poor wages, lack of access to health services and education, among others. The sequential exercises and analyses not only emphasize understanding the key dimensions of poverty, but also how poor families experience poverty in each community.

Identifying Vulnerable Households

The Well-Being Analysis, for example, helps communities understand underlying socioeconomic dynamics.

During the analysis, participants systematically explore each household’s economic and social conditions, thereby promoting a greater understanding of the specific hardships that poor and very poor households face. Community members gather to sort and place all village households in a list from wealthiest to those with the lowest income to identify the community’s income distribution and socioeconomic needs.

A Succesful Example in the Salih Khan Community in the Kandahar Province

An example of the successful impact of this analysis is seen in the Salih Khan community in Kandahar province, where residents were initially reluctant to recognize the social and economic differences in their community.

According to the participants, there were no differences as community members stood together in times of need; however, following the Well-Being Analysis, participants realized the level of need of the “poor” and “very poor” households. The community further realized that government support was distributed evenly among all households, including those identified as “rich” and “middle income” through the Well-Being Analysis.

Based on this information, community members agreed to differentially invest future resources in the households identified as “poor” and “very poor.”

As a result, the analysis not only elucidates economic relationships between wealthier and poorer community members (e.g., taking loans or advance wages), but also provides important data for the government to identify vulnerable populations and target them for investment. In most communities, this is the first opportunity members have had to identify and understand the needs of these vulnerable populations with respect to their own position in the community.


"Through [Citizens’ Charter] we were able to identify and better understand the underlying causes of poverty and hunger in our community."
Loye Kali community, Panjwai district, Kandahar province


Through innovative approaches the ARTF supported Afghanistan Citizen's Charter Project aims to help rural Afghans understand the causes of poverty in their communities and identify steps that they can take to fight it.

Photo Credit: World Bank

Mapping Resources Improves Transparency

Complementing the Well-Being Analysis, the Public Resources Map increases a community’s collective understanding of development investment and the existing power structures throughout each neighborhood.

In this exercise, (e.g., schools, clinics, irrigation canals) and CDC-led investments, as well as the location of CDC leaders’ homes.

The findings are then transposed onto a large permanent map for their future reference. The final product shows visually the existing relationship between the allocation of public resources and the residences of community leaders versus those of other members. In some communities, this work illustrates the stark contrast of inequality in resource distribution in public investment, especially related to the elite capture of public resources.

For many participants, the Public Resources Map is their first experience of this level of financial information sharing on CDC activities, and a tool to promote improved transparency, allowing them to make better decisions regarding community leadership in the future.

“We learned about the whole geography of our village, identified what public resources exist in this village and how we can use them” said Nasrullah, a resident of CharSang village in Balkh district of Balkh province. “Through the Public Resources Map, we found that there are 560 households in CharSang village… We also identified the gaps and shortages, which will help us to find [ways] to work with the government, donor agencies, and NGOs to address these gaps as part of our community development plans.”

Under the World Bank supported CCAP project 13,005 CDCs take part in participatory community-driven exercises, such as the Well-Being Analysis to help their communities distribute resources better. Photo credit: World Bank

Building Support and Trust

through their local CDC on public works and infrastructure projects, and foster a greater sense of solidarity among community members and greater trust in the government.

An elder from the Loye Kali community in Panjwai district in Kandahar province succinctly summarized the impact of the CCAP work: “In my 65 years of life, no one came to our community to ask us about what we have or need in our community, and we did not understand the real causes of our problems. Until now, no one had asked us about seasonal unemployment or our community’s resources. Through [Citizens’ Charter] we were able to identify and better understand the underlying causes of poverty and hunger in our community.”

Moreover, in light of the current peace talks in Qatar, one of the greatest opportunities to promote buy-in and greater cohesion is the continued technical and financial support provided by CCAP and other community-driven efforts that allow for broad participation in Taliban-controlled, contested, and government-controlled areas.

CCAP plays a pivotal role in building support and trust in Afghanistan’s conflict-affected context, whereby local communities are often isolated and perceive a lack of support by the central government. Abdul Qadir, a participant of the Well-Being Analysis and a CDC chairperson in Mazar-i-Sharif, provincial capital of Balkh province, explained the situation: “To say honestly, we had lost hope of the government and national and local institutions, which was the main reason for taking distance from them and hating them, but the Citizens’ Charter built our trust and belief in the government since the program began its activities and fulfilled its promises. Now we consider ourselves part of the government and we work together with the government through the Citizens’ Charter to upgrade our roads… If the government takes one step to get closer to us, we will take 10 steps toward the government.”

CCAP is implemented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in rural areas, while the Independent Directorate of Local Governance is responsible for implementation in urban areas.