Years of violence, instability and corruption have crippled Afghanistan's economy, making it difficult for businesses to flourish and keeping much of the population impoverished .
Afghanistan currently faces many challenges that are exacerbated by environmental degradation and climate change. It is one of the countries most impacted by climate change. Only 12% of the land is arable, making this a scarce resource in high demand. Most Afghans also lack access to other vital resources such as clean water. Even citizens in Kabul, the most developed Afghan city, struggle with water shortages due to war, widespread mismanagement and corruption. Additionally, the effects of climate change have influenced Afghanistan’s overall stability. Statistics show that approximately 90% of internal conflicts in Afghanistan are caused by disputes over limited land and water resources. Unfortunately ongoing conflict over a number of decades has also contributed to a significant increase in poverty .
The challenges that face Afghanistan require proper stewardship of nature, proper inclusion, fair and equitable access to resources, reformed financial systems that invest in a green economy, sustainable production and consumption and governance that measures what matters .
Key policies and governance approach
Afghanistan launched its second National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDFII) in July 2020, with a focus for the next five years on peace-building, state-building, and market-building. It seeks to eradicate poverty and develop the country into a self-reliant and broad-based, job-creating economy. It further seeks to establish rule of law, build resilient institutions and establish stronger connections within the region and to the world .
In 2014, the UNITAR Hiroshima Office completed training on the adoption of a Green Economy to 20 representatives of the Government of Afghanistan, from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Economy. The participants represented both Kabul based civil servants, as well as provincial directors. The programme focused not only on the theories and benefits of a Green Economy to sustainable development, but also on methodologies for stakeholder awareness raising and programmatic implementation. Participants examined different concepts and facets of the green economy, as well as global, national and sector-specific challenges and opportunities to advance low-carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive development .
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
According to a UNEP report, investment in a green economy can boost economic growth and therefore lessen poverty in Afghanistan . However, there is little information available regarding the implementation of green economy related initiatives and development plans in the country. For successful green economy establishment, a concrete national policy with a definite timeline is expected. Moreover, political will, positive gestures on adoption of a green economy, resource utilization, sufficient training provided to stakeholders at all levels and awareness raising are key requirements for an effective green economy approach in Afghanistan.
Initiatives and Development Plans
The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP) funds environmental projects that promote biodiversity and combat issues such as climate change, land degradation, and the elimination of harmful chemicals in Afghanistan. In addition to the creation of various sustainable systems (e.g. wind turbines) and providing better access to clean energy and water, the establishment of these projects also create new job opportunities (e.g. Afghanistan’s first female rangers) .
Recent projects have involved partnerships between GEF-SGP, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The “Strengthening the Resilience of Rural Livelihood Options for Afghan Communities” initiative (CCAP) from 2014-2018 advocated for policies to mitigate and raise public awareness about climate change. CCAP funded a number of small infrastructure improvements (e.g., greenhouses, food processing centers, rain harvested reservoirs, and flood protection walls) to help communities live more sustainably. For example, in Herat, the establishment of rehabilitated rangelands stabilized shifting sand, unblocking and improving access to water sources. Furthermore, improved irrigation infrastructure allowed farmers to increase productivity and income by enhancing livestock and crop quality, leading to a stronger and healthier economy .
- It is important for Afghanistan to recognize the value of, and invest in, its natural capital.
- Investment can include encouraging sustainable green agriculture practices, promoting the use of renewable energy and working for energy efficiency.
- Strengthening the institutional capacity in green economy policy and environmentally sustainable development should also be a priority.
 Tom Arnold and Krisztian Sandor, REUTERS (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/crisis-pushes-afghanistans-economy-closer-brink-2021-08-20/.
 Emily H. Kim, GRC Insights (2021). [Online]. Available: https://insights.grcglobalgroup.com/supporting-sustainability-in-afghanistan/.
 Stuart Worsley, Green Economy Coalition (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.greeneconomycoalition.org/news-and-resources/what-next-for-afghanistan.
 switchasia (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.switch-asia.eu/countries/south-asia/afghanistan/.
 UNITAR (2014). [Online]. Available: https://unitar.org/about/news-stories/news/training-adoption-green-economy-afghanistan-concludes-successfully-hiroshima.
 UNAMA (2011). [Online]. Available: https://unama.unmissions.org/investing-green-economy-can-boost-growth-reduce-poverty-afghanistan-%E2%80%93-un-report.