Get to Know the ARTF with These 4 Important Questions

The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) is one of the most important funding entities supporting the ongoing rebuilding and development process in Afghanistan. Learn more about this critical organization with the following four frequently asked questions:

 

  1. What is the ARTF?

ARTFlogoEstablished in 2002, the ARTF is a multidonor trust fund that is managed by the World Bank and currently supported by 34 international donors. Since 2016, these donors have contributed more than US$9 billion for reconstruction projects and service delivery programs all across Afghanistan. The ARTF is the most important multidonor mechanism for nonsecurity, on-budget support in Afghanistan, and it is by far the preferred vehicle for pooled international funding. Its centrally administered structure allows for the well-coordinated and coherent channeling of funds, provides the Government of Afghanistan with funding predictability, and offers excellent transparency and high accountability for its donors, along with low overhead and transaction costs.

 

 

  1. How is the ARTF managed and governed?

There are three tiers of governance within the ARTF. Combined with three additional working groups, this management framework is both sound and flexible, allowing the ARTF to quickly and consistently adapt to changing circumstances and development priorities. The three-tiered governance framework includes the following entities:

The ARTF Steering Committee—This committee sets the strategic direction for the ARTF at quarterly meetings chaired by the World Bank and the Afghan Minister of Finance. Members of the committee are all either ARTF donors or representatives from the World Bank and the Afghan Ministry of Finance. To ensure transparency, the Steering Committee publicly posts full notes of its meetings on the ARTF website.

The ARTF Management Committee—The Management Committee is responsible for implementing the vision and direction set by the Steering Committee. This includes reviewing and approving funding proposals, reviewing ARTF finances, and making recommendations on ARTF management. Members of the Management Committee include the Afghan Ministry of Finance, the Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank, with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan taking part as an observer.

The ARTF Administrator—The World Bank serves as the Administrator for the ARTF. As such, it is responsible for monitoring and reporting on all aspects of ARTF performance. In particular, the World Bank ensures that the allocation of funds takes place in accordance with the Financing Strategy set and agreed upon by donors and the Government of Afghanistan, and in line with established fiduciary standards and performance measures.

The working groups that support the three tiers of governance are the Incentive Program Working Group, a donor group that works to set policy benchmarks for the ARTF with the Government of Afghanistan; the Strategy Group, which reviews the Financing Strategy and its implementation; and the Gender Working Group.

 

  1. How is the ARTF aligned with government priorities?

Working and collaborating closely with the Government of Afghanistan is a key priority for the ARTF; likewise, the government’s relationship with the ARTF is one of its most valued partnerships. Unlike some donor agencies that never give local governments the opportunity to work with funding directly, the ARTF channels all funds through government systems, and all projects are implemented by ministries and government agencies.

Naturally, such a close relationship means that ARTF’s work is closely aligned with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy outlined by the government. In 2010, the government established 22 National Priority Programs (NPPs) and reached an agreement with the ARTF that a minimum of 80% of donor assistance would go towards supporting these priorities. This has proved to be the most effective way for the international community to support Afghanistan’s own development goals. To date, the ARTF has been an instrumental player in many of Afghanistan’s biggest development achievements.

Beyond questions of funding, the ARTF is also a helpful resource for the Government of Afghanistan in that it provides the government with an important platform for dialogue around key policy reforms.

 

 

  1. How are ARTF funds allocated?

There are two different “windows” through which ARTF funds are allocated. The first is the Recurrent Cost window: under this funding avenue, the government receives an annual reimbursement for a predetermined portion of eligible and non-security-related operating expenditure. This recurrent cost funding is an important element of Afghanistan’s fiscal sustainability; while the government is progressively improving its own revenue base through activities like customs and taxation, it is not yet able to fully support its recurrent expenditures with domestic revenues alone. ARTF Recurrent Cost window funding helps provide consistency and stability as the government works to improve its own revenue collection processes. To date, nearly 75% of recurrent costs have fallen into the category of payroll expenses, including wages for teachers and health workers.

The second ARTF funding window is the Investment window: this funding avenue provides grant-based financing for investments that support the National Priority Programs described earlier.

These 5 Organizations Want to Boost Literacy in Afghanistan

Development organizations all over the world point to literacy as one of the leading factors in helping individuals and societies build a better future. Improved literacy rates in emerging economies are linked to a broad range of other positive outcomes, including improved health, better earnings or economic progress, and increased political and civil society participation. Indeed, literacy is so important in the modern world that UNESCO has declared it to be a fundamental human right.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for nations to prioritize literacy in the face of significant obstacles. In Afghanistan, for example, decades of civil conflict have left the country with one of the world’s lowest literacy rates. According to current estimates, fewer than one in three adult Afghans (over the age of 15) can read and write.

In response to this, many organizations and individuals have launched initiatives, both large and small, aimed at boosting literacy rates in Afghanistan. Read on to learn about five of these projects.

  1. UNESCO – Enhancement of Literacy Afghanistan

UNESCO logoUNESCO is by far the largest organization focused on literacy in Afghanistan. Through its flagship literacy program, known as Enhancement of Literacy Afghanistan (ELA), UNESCO has partnered with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education to implement large-scale literacy, numeracy, and vocational skills development programs across all 34 Afghan provinces. ELA was first launched in 2008, and it has received financial support from a number of international sources including the Government of Japan, the Swedish International Cooperation Agency, and the Government of Finland.

To date, ELA has been implemented in three different phases. The first, which took place between 2008 and 2010, was a pilot program that was initiated in Bamiayan province’s capital city and then expanded to nine additional provinces. The second phase (2011-2013) included nine more provinces and added targeted market-demanded vocational skills training. The third phase (2014-2016) expanded the program’s offerings to reach a total of 600,000 individuals across Afghanistan.

  1. UNESCO – Literacy for Empowerment of Afghan Police (LEAP)

In addition to the large-scale ELA literacy program described above, UNESCO operates a number of targeted literacy initiatives. Among these is the Literacy for Empowerment of Afghan Police (LEAP) program. The LEAP program was launched in 2011 with the goal of using literacy training to help boost the quality of policing in Afghanistan.

The first phase of the program focused on developing and delivering literacy training materials for 500 police literacy facilitators. The second phase expanded the training to reach additional Afghan police officers. The LEAP program has also been working with the Ministry of the Interior’s Literacy Department to build long-term institutional capacity for creating, supporting, and enhancing police literacy through initiatives like training workshops and special literacy publications geared towards newly-literate members of the police force.

  1. Mercy Corps – Literacy and Math Education Program

mercycorpslogoLiteracy initiatives don’t always have to be big to be effective. The international humanitarian and development organization Mercy Corps has been working in Afghanistan since 1986, supporting projects in areas ranging from agricultural development to renewable energy.

In 2002, the organization made a new commitment: to provide literacy and math instruction to members of its own staff in northern Afghanistan. As senior program manager Joerg Denker explained at the time, in its ongoing mission to support Afghan citizens, it was important for Mercy Corps not to forget about its own employees.

The literacy and math classes proved tremendously successful, reaching dozens of Mercy Corps employees. The organization had plans to expand the program to include more people from the local community and to offer English classes in addition to the other subjects.

  1. The Institute for Cross-Cultural Exchange – Share Literacy Afghanistan

ICCElogoThe basis of literacy education is having appropriate materials for students to read. However, access to books can be a challenge in remote or rural Afghanistan. That’s where the Institute for Cross-Cultural Exchange (ICE) comes in. A Canadian charity dedicated to fostering learning and understanding among different cultures, ICE works with a number of groups in Afghanistan to distribute books to schools, orphanages, and libraries around the country.

The group doesn’t provide just any books: one of ICE’s partners is Hoopoe Books for Children. This is the educational non-profit publisher of (among many other titles) beautifully illustrated traditional Afghan children’s stories assembled by Afghan author Idries Shah. Through a special arrangement with Hoopoe Books, ICE is able to offer copies in the Dari and Pashto languages to children all over Afghanistan. For the vast majority of these young readers, this will be the first book they have ever owned.

  1. Captain Edward Zellem – Book of Afghan Proverbs

Like the Institute for Cross-Cultural Exchange, US Navy Captain Edward Zellem is also hoping that simple and relevant material will help give many Afghans their first taste of literacy. Zellem is the author of “Zarbul Masalha: 151 Dari Proverbs,” a collection of proverbs that he collected as a personal hobby during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011.

After compiling the proverbs, Zellem approached art students from a high school in Kabul to illustrate them. The volume was later published by Karwan Press in Kabul through a grant from the US State Department. Today, the books are distributed to rural communities and high schools as part of several programs that aim to preserve and promote Afghan culture.

Spotlight on The Asia Foundation – Supporting Education for Afghans

As part of its mission to improve lives across the diverse regions of a dynamic and rapidly developing Asia, The Asia Foundation works hard to improve the quality of local education and expand access to educational opportunities in all areas where it operates. In Afghanistan, The Asia Foundation works closely with local NGO partners, as well as all levels of the formal education system, to strengthen all areas of Afghanistan’s education system, including student enrolment and achievement, teaching quality, curriculum development, and school infrastructure.

The educational programs supported by The Asia Foundation—all of which are carefully aligned with the strategies and priorities of Afghanistan’s ministries of Education and Higher Education—focus on boosting primary school literacy, improving teacher training, facilitating civil society and government agency participation in the educational sector, as well as developing employment-oriented educational initiatives. Read on to learn more about some of The Asia Foundation’s most recent work in the world of Afghan education.

Programs to enhance numeracy and literacy skills

school childrenBooks for Asia—Established nearly 15 years ago, the foundation’s Books for Asia program has delivered millions of books and educational materials to provincial schools, universities, public libraries, NGOs, and government ministries in all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces. One of the Books for Asia program’s biggest achievements in Afghanistan has been the distribution of a special collection of traditional Afghan folktales to schools across the country. Published by Hoopee Books, the collection was written in English, Pashto, and Dari. Since 2012, more than 1.2 million of these books have been donated to nearly 600 schools.

Primary school programs—Children who learn literacy and numeracy skills at a young age are much more likely to go on to pursue higher education. This is the reason why The Asia Foundation supports a number of local organizations, such as the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU) and the IT company Liwal, Ltd., in building a strong culture of reading for primary school children in Afghanistan. Through initiatives such as increased library access and the publication of easy-to-read books, these partners are working to make reading easy and fun for young Afghan students, as well as their parents and adult family members. Liwal, Ltd. is also developing an innovative new mobile app for primary school literacy in collaboration with The Asia Foundation. The app, which will initially be available to 2,000 Kabul children from grades one to three, will help them to read books in Dari and Pashto.

Libraries—The Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU), the only library in Afghanistan to house a comprehensive collection of research materials, has been visited by over 61,000 users since 2015. In addition to providing technical support and fiduciary oversight to ACKU, The Asia Foundation supports the Center’s Afghanistan Box Library Extension program (ABLE). Created in an effort to help provide remote communities with much-needed educational materials, ABLE creates new “box libraries” (which are basically conveniently located depositories of books) in isolated areas, and expands the collections of existing libraries. In the past year alone, 17 new box libraries have been created and more than 20,000 books and learning materials have been sent to libraries.

Programs for curriculum development

Given the significant percentage of students who do not pass the math and science sections of Afghanistan’s national public university entrance exam, known as the Kankor exam, it is clear that the math and science curriculum in Afghanistan’s public school system is in need of improvement. To this end, The Asia Foundation has formed a close partnership with the General Directorate of Science and Education Technology, the Ministry of Education department that oversees both curriculum development and teacher training.

Together with the Directorate, The Asia Foundation is supporting the training of 900 math and science teachers, as well as 65 lab technicians, in Badakhshan, Kandahar, and Khost. The goal is not only to create a more relevant and comprehensive curriculum, but to ensure that the teachers themselves are more comfortable with the material and thus better able to support their students. Up-to-date equipment can also make a big difference in students’ learning experience. The Asia Foundation has helped to distribute 300 pieces of laboratory equipment to 54 of those schools involved in the curriculum development program.

Programs for organizational capacity building

While Afghan-led programming makes the most sense for an effective Afghan school system, many educational organizations that would normally take the lead in this area lack the capacity, resources, or organizational governance to do so. To help address this discrepancy, The Asia Foundation conducts an organizational capacity development assessment—a participatory tool that provides a complete overview of an organization—for each of its local education partners in order to evaluate organizational stability and sustainability. When deficiencies or challenges are identified, the foundation provides training sessions to help the organization bridge the gap. Sessions can cover topics such as human resources, financial sustainability, strategic planning, and finance and administration. The overall goal is to help local organizations build their own effective governance structures and reduce dependence on funding from international donors.