Peace Day 2009: Building Peace mile by mile
KABUL - As Peace Day 21 September approaches UNAMA is featuring articles from UN agencies on the work the UN is doing for peace in Afghanistan. 9: UN Office for Project Services
Half of all conflicts relapse into violence in countries that are just emerging from conflict. The costs to the country itself, as well as its neighbouring countries, are incredibly high, creating great incentives to avoid such relapses.
Studies demonstrate that development aid to post-conflict countries within the first decade after the conflict ends significantly reduces this risk. The reason: Aid fosters economic growth; and economic growth is good for peace.
Since low income is statistically connected to the presence of conflicts, post-conflict aid has the dual benefit of increasing economic growth and incomes while decreasing the risk of renewed conflict.
Spending development dollars in post-conflict countries brings significant returns in the form of higher incomes and poverty reduction, as well as a reduced risk of renewed violence that could further damage the economy.
One of the most efficient ways of spending aid in post-conflict countries to ensure these benefits is to improve the country’s physical infrastructure. Evidence from infrastructure works in post-conflict Uganda in the 1980’s indicates an annual rate of return of 40 percent, according to research by Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University in the UK.
This is because improved infrastructure is an important foundation for economic integration.
With close to 10,000 kilometres of roads constructed or rehabilitated under the Government’s country-wide roads program – the National Rural Access Program (NRAP) – post-conflict Afghanistan is literally laying the foundation for a safer future.
Since June 2002, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) and the Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) have jointly implemented NRAP, with implementation support provided by UNOPS. Roads have been rehabilitated in all 34 provinces and the Government continues to enhance year-round access to basic services and facilities for target communities in rural Afghanistan.
The focus of the program on enhancing access for the rural poor helps bridge segregation along both ethnic lines and income groups.
The tangible benefits to the population take the form of an increased possibility for the population to bring their produce to the markets; reach health clinics and schools; and earn wages and support their families through direct employment in the works.
So far, NRAP has generated 12.4 million labour days and created critical livelihoods for Afghan people in need. The program has also constructed or rehabilitated 66 bridges, 14 airfields and 73,097 metres of road structures, such as culverts and protection walls.
As part of its employment-creation efforts, the program has also built essential community infrastructure, including irrigation schemes, water and sanitation facilities, and schools and clinics, using labour-based approaches.
These efforts support the restoration of Afghanistan’s historical role as a trading nation at the crossroads of great civilizations. The first step towards this has been to ensure that entrepreneurs, small businesses and farmers can reach market centres inside Afghanistan.
The next step is to further facilitate trade with the markets of neighbouring countries. Increasing trade within the region and beyond will be a key to increased economic growth and to fighting poverty in Afghanistan. And with an average growth rate of 13 per cent from 2002-2007, according to the Central Statistics Office, things are indeed looking brighter for sustained peace.
With International Peace Day approaching, we once again find ourselves compelled to answer the question: “What are you doing for Peace?”
Well, as Country Director for UNOPS in Afghanistan I am happy to say that I am supporting the Government of Afghanistan’s determined effort to build peace, mile by mile.
By Bruce McCarron, Country Director, UNOPS Afghanistan