A Look at 7 UN Agencies Working in Afghanistan

Committed to building a stable, just, and prosperous future for Afghanistan, the World Food Programme, UNESCO, and the World Bank are a few of the UN agencies that are undertaking development efforts in the country. Through its “country team,” a diverse collection of affiliated or partner organizations, the UN works across a number of different areas and oversees an incredible variety of projects all over Afghanistan. No fewer than 27 UN-associated organizations are currently involved in the country’s development. Read on for a closer look at some of these agencies, who they are, and what they’re doing in Afghanistan.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Food and Agriculture Organization

A member of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since 1949, Afghanistan works closely with the organization via its Ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock; Energy and Water; Public Health; and Rural Rehabilitation and Development. Today, FAO maintains five regional and three provincial offices around the country and focuses on contributing to sustainable agricultural development. Some of the key strategic objectives of FAO’s work in Afghanistan include reducing rural poverty, eradicating hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition; and enabling local, national, and international food and agricultural systems that are more inclusive and efficient.

International Labour Organization (ILO)

International Labour Organization

A specialized agency of the UN, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year (Afghanistan joined the ILO in 1934, becoming the organization’s 60th member, and is considered today to be an original member state). Throughout its history, ILO has maintained that institution-building and local economic development are essential elements of social progress, particularly in nations like Afghanistan that are seriously affected by natural disasters and continuing conflicts. For this reason, ILO established a liaison office in Kabul in 2003 to provide resources, support, and guidance to Afghanistan in areas such as employment strategies, labor law reform, skills development, child labor, and social dialogue.

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

International Organization for Migration

Established in 1951, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the world’s leading intergovernmental organization in the field of migration based on its founding vision of humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. IOM established its mission in Afghanistan in 1992 and has maintained a continuing presence in the country ever since. In fact, IOM Afghanistan is one of the largest IOM missions in the world, comprised of close to 300 staff members working in nine regional offices. In cooperation with government and humanitarian partners and local communities, IOM Afghanistan oversees a range of programs and initiatives in areas such as humanitarian assistance, community stabilization, and migration management. For example, in recent years, one focus area of IOM has been on facilitating the return of skilled Afghan workers to their home country.

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT)

United Nations Human Settlements Programme

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT) is the UN agency mandated to promote towns and cities that are socially and environmentally sustainable, and that provide adequate shelter for all. In Afghanistan, UN HABITAT is working with many partners to address the increasingly urgent challenge of Afghanistan’s unprecedented urban growth rates. According to UN HABITAT, while urbanization does offer important new opportunities for social and economic development, it is essential that this kind of growth be accompanied by sound planning and innovative policy approaches if it is to benefit Afghanistan’s population and society as a whole.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

United Nations Environment Programme

Once pristine and rich in biological diversity, Afghanistan’s natural landscapes have been devastated by decades of conflict, severe natural disasters and, more recently, the impact of rapid and unplanned urban growth and development. Since 2002, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been working to mitigate these effects by establishing the environmental foundations for Afghanistan’s sustainable development. Today, the organization focuses on capacity building for environmental governance and natural resources management by providing government and non-governmental partners with training and technical assistance in fields ranging from environmental law and policy to climate change adaptation.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

United Nations Population Fund

Since 1976, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been working in Afghanistan to reduce infant, child, and maternal mortality; increase access to reproductive health services; and support universal primary education. The goal of the organization is to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, and that all children can be born safely and be able to fulfill their potential. In 2002, with the re-establishment of its country office in Afghanistan, UNFPA embarked on a new program of long-term support for women and young people, which has included the rehabilitation of three maternity hospitals in Kabul.

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

United Nations Office for Project Services

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has supported reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan since 1995, with a particular focus on the construction of sustainable infrastructure. To achieve this goal, the organization collaborates with various partners and stakeholders, and concentrates on the key priorities of national ownership and capacity development. Some successes that UNOPS has achieved in Afghanistan include the construction and rehabilitation of more than 10,000 kilometers of roads; enhanced electricity access to 1,500 households and 100 small businesses; and support for the National Emergency Employment Program, which improved rural livelihoods by creating 2.5 million labor days during which 20 bridges were rehabilitated.

Spotlight on Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization

As Afghanistan works to rebuild after decades of unrest, it will have many challenges to face in the future. Fortunately, the country has access to an invaluable resource that will help it meet those challenges head on: its youth.

In Afghanistan, people under the age of 25 comprise nearly two-thirds of the country’s total population, according to the United Nations Population Fund. And despite—or perhaps because of—the difficult circumstances into which they were born, these youth are proving to be some of the most resilient, resourceful, and determined people on the planet.

As an example of what Afghanistan’s youth can and do achieve when they decide to take their future into their own hands, we should look no further than Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization. One of many Afghan organizations launched and led by young people, this Kabul-based NGO has grown from a movement of young activists in a single province to a country-wide network of passionate young change agents. Read on to learn more about the organization and how it is working to make the world a better place for all Afghans.

What is Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization, and how does it work?

Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization

Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization (ANGO) is a grassroots network that works across Afghanistan to encourage and inspire young people to take an active role in building a better future for themselves and their country. Through long-lasting programs and initiatives that are specifically tailored to youth, ANGO strives to mobilize and empower young people, encourage tolerance and acceptance, and create an engaged and hopeful young generation that is prepared to lead Afghanistan toward a peaceful and prosperous future.

What are ANGO’s beliefs?

A set of core beliefs and principles underlie all of ANGO’s work and activities. They include the following:

Nurturing hope—One perpetual consequence of unrest is a sense of hopelessness among individuals and communities. A desire to revive this lost hope is at the heart of ANGO’s work.

Empowerment—Empowering Afghanistan’s young people is a critical step in creating a future that will inspire pride among all Afghans.

Inclusiveness—A just society is one that listens to and brings together all of its people from all circumstances and walks of life.

Critical awareness—Information and resources are essential tools for analyzing and resolving issues in a peaceful way.

Accountability—ANGO holds itself accountable to its partners and beneficiaries, striving to ensure that projects are carried out to the highest professional standards.

What are the focus areas of ANGO?

ANGO’s activities and programs fall into four key focus areas, each of which is an important reflection of the organization’s beliefs as described above. These focus areas include the following:

Civic engagement and advocacy—ANGO’s civic engagement and advocacy unit works to engage both youth and adults in civic and volunteer programs and events. Engagement in public discourse is a key element of this focus area. By speaking with and to others about the issues that matter to them, young people will learn how to take ownership of them and effect change in a more impactful way.

Citizen journalism—There are many untold stories in Afghanistan, and ANGO is tapping into the power of citizen journalism to shine a light on those hidden tales. ANGO seeks to provide Afghan youth with the media and communications tools and skills that they need to express themselves, share their views and grievances, and make important contributions to public discourse around future development and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Social inclusion—Afghanistan is home to many different groups of people. ANGO’s social inclusion initiatives help people of diverse backgrounds come together, find common ground, and develop a foundation for long-lasting tolerance and peace.

Capacity building—Many Afghan youth have a desire and drive to change things, but need help when it comes to developing the skills and knowledge required for the work. ANGO’s capacity-building activities help to address this gap, providing training in key areas such as leadership, media literacy, civil rights and responsibilities, and the use of information technology.

What kinds of projects does ANGO undertake?

Some examples of specific projects that ANGO undertakes include:

Society of Youth—ANGO maintains Afghanistan’s largest network of volunteers and young leaders, more than 170 people strong. These volunteers take on a wide range of civic engagement projects that include clothing drives, emergency aid support, and tree planting.

Afghan Voices—Established in 2010, Afghan Voices offers key media skills training to the country’s young people. Alumni from the Afghan Voices program have produced media work for organizations such as Global Fund and National Geographic, and have received national and international awards for media, such as documentary films.

60 Second Film Festival—Centered on the theme of peaceful coexistence, the 60 Second Film Festival offers an important platform through which aspiring filmmakers and engaged audiences can come together to share ideas and spark dialogue.

Spotlight on the Bayat Foundation’s New Scholarship Program

Education has always been a top priority for the Bayat Foundation. As Afghanistan’s largest private philanthropic organization, the Bayat Foundation is keenly aware of the fact that years of conflict and instability have prevented many Afghans from pursuing any kind of formal education. As a result, the country is experiencing a serious education and skills gap that is limiting its ability to rebuild and move forward into the 21st century.

Bayat Foundation

Like many other charitable organizations, the Bayat Foundation is deeply committed to reducing this education gap. Over the years, the Foundation has launched and supported a wide variety of educational initiatives, many aimed at Afghanistan’s most vulnerable and underserved populations. The Foundation has also worked to build a legacy of educational redevelopment through a long-term partnership with the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), the country’s leading private nonprofit university. Recently, the Foundation announced the creation of the Bayat Scholars Program, a new scholarship initiative that will provide key educational opportunities for Afghan youth at AUAF. Read on to learn more.

Building the next generation of IT professionals

The aim of the Bayat Scholars Program is to build and develop a new generation of skilled and experienced Afghan IT professionals. Many organizations, including the Bayat Foundation, agree that a vibrant and innovative tech sector will be a vital element of Afghanistan’s rebuilding process. But before young and aspiring entrepreneurs can revitalize the country’s tech scene, they need the opportunity to gain critical skills and knowledge in their field—the kind of opportunity that a first-class post-secondary institution like AUAF is well placed to provide.

Through the Bayat Scholars Program, 15 scholarships will be awarded each year to qualified candidates, allowing them to pursue a bachelor’s degree at AUAF in either information communication technology or computer science. To be eligible for a scholarship, candidates must be Afghan citizens with a high school diploma, a strong academic record, and excellent English skills. In addition, candidates must be committed to using the opportunity of the scholarship program to help build a better future not only for themselves but for Afghanistan. Ultimately, the aim of the Bayat Scholars Program is to help create and support an exceptional Afghan-based technology sector that will drive economic growth and create job opportunities for the entire country.

computer

A thriving partnership

The Bayat Scholars Program is the latest step forward on the journey that the Bayat Foundation and AUAF have taken together over the years. The Bayat Foundation has been one of AUAF’s biggest supporters from the university’s early days, backing many of its programs and initiatives.

Perhaps the largest and most impressive testament to the thriving partnership between the Bayat Foundation and AUAF is the Bayat Institute of Technology (BIT), a 32,000-square-foot science and technology teaching and research center that was completed and opened in 2018. Located at the heart of AUAF’s flagship campus in Kabul, BIT offers students, faculty, and visiting scholars and researchers a host of world-class amenities, including media and technology labs, IT labs, fully equipped lecture halls, a rooftop leisure center, and two prayer halls. Developed and built by Afghans, the facility is a distinguished example of Afghan skill, craftsmanship, and determination, as well as an important hub for technological education and innovation in Afghanistan.

More about the American University of Afghanistan

The only private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, and coeducational university in Afghanistan, AUAF is dedicated to providing its students with the quality education they need to help meet the needs of their country and become future leaders in their communities and on the world stage.

AUAF first opened its doors in 2006, and since that time, it has grown into one of Afghanistan’s premier educational institutions, with 29 Fulbright Scholars among its graduates as well as ongoing partnerships with such prestigious international universities as Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of California network. The following are some of the most important highlights of AUAF’s history:

2002—Minister of Higher Education Dr. Sharif Fayez proposes that Afghanistan establishes its first independent university. In a public speech, President Hamid Karzai emphasizes how important education is to Afghanistan’s future.

2003—The Afghanistan High Commission for Private Investments offers two large tracts of land in southwest Kabul, under a 99-year lease, for the development of a private university. To receive these leases, the American University of Afghanistan is chartered as a nonprofit philanthropic organization in Delaware.

2004—Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education grants AUAF a charter under the Afghan Constitution and the Civil Code. A feasibility study is initiated to identify an institutional framework for the new university.

2005—Laura Bush, the US First Lady, visits the site of the new university and announces that the US will provide financial support for its launch.

2006—AUAF welcomes its first cohort of 53 students.

2007—AUAF develops and implements its first strategic vision and academic plans.

2009—Dr. C. Michael Smith is appointed AUAF’s president by the board of trustees. A grant from the US allows the university to establish an e-learning facility so that students can benefit from collaborations with institutions in other regions.

2010—Enrollment reaches 550 students, and a number of new programs, including bachelor’s degrees in computer science and business administration, are approved by the board of trustees.

2011—AUAF celebrates its first convocation.

2018—AUAF is granted accreditation status from the Ministry of Higher Education.