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Decentralization in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, decentralization reform is part of the reconstruction agenda since service delivery at the sub-national level is an urgent matter. As the reconstruction agenda evolves, decentralization issues have come up, particularly for service delivery. 

The political challenges, however, will probably further complicate any devolution below the national level. The functions at the sub-national level are unclear since the conflict. The relationship between local, provincial and central governments remains undeveloped.

Afghanistan’s decentralization challenges stem from some unique characteristics:

  • Most areas outside of the capital are dominated by regional and local commanders whose source of power is their financial and military resources, as well as historical and factional loyalties.
  • The centralized state structure coexisted with a decentralized traditional society.
  • The administrative structures and practices of the state have remained despite the many years of conflict.
  • The skills, experience and commitment to public service are still evident throughout the country.

Featured Study

A comprehensive study, Subnational Administration in Afghanistan, assesses constraints to key services such as primary health care, education, water and sanitation, and make recommendations for improvement. The focus of the study is sub-national administration and civil service management. The study proposes a two-pronged strategy of government action for subnational administration, which uses the structures  and discipline from the distinctive heritage of the Afghan state. The first one calls for the center to commit itself to deliver some basic support for provinces, districts, and provincial municipalities. The second strategy is to tailor incentives for subnational administrations that reflect their traditions and historical roots.

More analytical studies on Afghanistan

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Public Administration Capacity Building Project

Service Delivery and Governance at the Sub-national Level

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