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State-building and Local Governance

Founder(s): DFID; World Bank; EC
Status: Completed

“The piecemeal state-building efforts of the past must be knitted together, and altered where necessary, into a fabric of subnational governance.”
Afghanistan’s local and regional governance structures have undergone rapid change and expansion. AREU’s subnational state-building research project examined newly-emerged structures such as Provincial Councils (PCs) and Community Development Councils (CDCs) with the aim of assessing their impact and charting paths for future policymakers. The project also drew on existing AREU research on governance and public administration reform (PAR).
The study found that initiatives such as the CDCs have produced significant gains in expanding the presence and effectiveness of the Afghan state at a local level. However, they had been pursued in the absence of an overarching strategy for developing the country’s subnational governance framework as a whole. The development of such structures was shown to be uneven across the country as a whole, with programmes working better in some contexts than others. As new institutions proliferated, the overlap between provincial governors, centralised ministries and nascent representative bodies increased, and it was often unclear who was accountable to whom, for what. All of these factors pointed to a need for a more coordinated, flexible and sequential approach to subnational governance to help the government expand its impact and legitimacy.
AREU is currently working on a study examining how local governance has changed since the Ministry of Interior ceded responsibility for overseeing local government to the newly-formed Independent Directorate of Local Government in 2007. Results are due for release in 2011.

Publications from this research project:

Proceedings of a Roundtable Discussion on Subnational Corruption

Proceedings of a roundtable discussion on subnational corruption, held in the library of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit on 8 June 2010 with approximately 25 participants. The event followed the release of an AREU paper on the subject, co-authored Read More

Corrupting the State or State-Crafted Corruption? Exploring the Nexus between Corruption and Subnational Governance

Corruption is a central concern of Afghan citizens and a major issue on the political agenda of and for Afghanistan. It has been identified as a major threat to stability, peace-building and state-building. Co-authored by three experts in the field, Read More

Subnational State-Building in Afghanistan

Since 2004, the Afghan government and its international partners have become increasingly aware that issues and challenges surrounding subnational governance in Afghanistan are crucial to national development, stability, and security. This period has also been a time of extraordinary change Read More

Aiding the State? International Assistance and the Statebuilding Paradox in Afghanistan

This briefing paper explores the relationship between foreign aid, statebuilding and the crisis currently facing Afghanistan. It analyses the effects of assistance to date, and presents a series of recommendations for future action by the Afghan government and donors.

Moving Forward? Assessing Public Administration Reform in Afghanistan

This briefing paper examines the successes and failures of the Afghan government’s public administration reform programme and makes recommendations for its improvement.

Provincial Governance Structures in Afghanistan: From Confusion to Vision?

This briefing paper examines the roles of provincial councils and provincial development committees in the context of the government’s vision for reforming subnational governance.

Key Issues in Local Governance (PowerPoint)

An AREU presentation by governance researcher Sarah Lister.

Caught in Confusion: Local Governance Structures in Afghanistan

In the context of a lack of strategic consensus, this briefing paper lays out the main issues around the structures and processes of local governance, particularly in relation to the role of provincial and district councils.