Afghanistan has made remarkable progress since the demise of the Taliban government in late 2001, but the fragile nation could easily slip back into chaos and abject poverty, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) concludes in a report released today.
Without addressing basic human needs by providing jobs, health services and education, Afghanistan could once again become a failed State, posing a threat to its own people and the international community, the report warns.
“The National Human Development Report: Security With a Human Face,” marks the first time in modern history that objective observers were allowed to gather and tabulate hard data on living conditions among everyday Afghans. It concludes that human security and development, rather than military force and diplomacy alone, are key to resolving Afghanistan's complex problems.
“The international community is committed to fighting terrorism and drugs inside Afghanistan, but human security cannot take a back seat to the national and international security interests of other nations,” says Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, the report's editor.
Under the post-Taliban interim Government, Afghanistan's economy has recovered significantly. Non-drug gross domestic product (GDP) rose to about over $4 billion in 2002, and economic growth for 2003 was estimated at 16 per cent.
One in two Afghans can still be classified as poor, and about a fifth of the rural population consumes less than 2,070 calories per day, while over half the population is severely impacted by drought.
Considerable progress has been made on the education front. By 2004, 54.4 percent of primary age children were in school. Since 2002, a record four million high school students have enrolled. But Afghanistan still has “the worst education system in the world,” and one of the lowest adult literacy rates, at just 28.7 per cent of the population, according to the report.
While more schools and opportunities have been opened to women, years of discrimination and poverty have relegated them to some of the worst social conditions in the world, the report states.
It argues that humanitarian and reconstruction aid can be cost-effective compared with military aid. Foreign aid, the report says, can foster economic stability and trade with other countries, while diluting the appeal of political extremism.