UK aid to Afghanistan

This review examines the relevance, coherence and effectiveness of the UK’s aid investment in Afghanistan since 2014.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 24 November 2022
  3. Type: Country portfolio review
  4. Subject: Country focus, Fragile states, Humanitarian assistance, Women and girls
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Afghanistan
  7. Lead commissioner: Sir Hugh Bayley
  8. SDGs covered:No poverty, Peace, justice and strong institutions, Quality education, Gender equality

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Review

This review awards an amber-red score after finding that, while UK aid has provided valuable support to people in Afghanistan, it failed to achieve its core goal of promoting stability through building a viable Afghan state.

Findings

  • The UK approach to building the Afghan state contained key flaws and failed to adapt to a deteriorating situation.
  • Development objectives were subordinate to security interests and the need to prioritise the transatlantic relationship.
  • UK funding for Afghan police salaries did not lead to improvements in civilian policing or the rule of law.
  • The UK’s support for basic services and livelihoods through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund responded to Afghanistan’s acute development needs, but overloaded the capacity of the Afghan government.
  • The UK scaled up its humanitarian support as conditions deteriorated, but was slow to invest in building resilience to future crises and climate change.
  • UK aid helped empower Afghan women and girls, but progress on tackling gender inequality remained at an early stage.
  • The UK made effective use of multilateral delivery partners, but its oversight was not always sufficient.
  • The UK had an appropriately high risk appetite, but its risk management processes were not always robust enough.
  • It invested substantial effort into strengthening programme monitoring systems, but did not assess results at the strategic level.
  • While the UK commissioned high-quality analysis of the changing context, learning and knowledge management were not well institutionalised across the portfolio.
  • UK departments worked together well within Afghanistan, but there were some tensions at headquarters level.
  • The UK was well respected among international partners for its contribution to coordination and dialogue.
  • There was limited engagement with many Afghan actors in the review period.

Recommendations

  1. In complex stabilisation missions, large-scale financial support for the state should only be provided in the context of a viable and inclusive political settlement, when there are reasonable prospects of a sustained transition out of conflict.
  2. UK aid should not be used to fund police or other security agencies to engage in paramilitary operations, as this entails unacceptable risks of doing harm. Any support for civilian security agencies should focus on providing security and justice to the public.
  3. In highly fragile contexts, the UK should use scenario planning more systematically, to inform spending levels and programming choices.

 

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Timeline

Approach

Published 21 June 2022

Evidence gathering

Complete

Review publication

Published 24 November 2022

Government response

Expected January 2022

Parliamentary scrutiny

To be confirmed

Further scrutiny

To be confirmed