The United Nations Role in Afghanistan

united-nations-afghanistanOne aspect of the United Nations mission has historically been to improve conditions in conflict zones. Efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, a nation plagued by three decades of war, an inefficient government, ineffective security and an abysmal record of human rights and corruption, is a daunting task.

Numerous UN aid relief programs exist in Afghanistan including the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Develop Program (UNDP) and the World Health Organization which have drastically helped Afghan society. However following 9/11 and the US-led NATO invasion, some Afghans have resisted the presence of foreigners on their soil which has inhibited the UN’s ability to administer aid. A decade after the invasion, the situation has begun to improve and UN staff have expanded programs throughout the country.

Specifically, the UN has been very effective in terms of supporting and funding education, health, environmental protection, agriculture development, employment, human resource development, reconstruction of public administration, technical cooperation, peace building and reintegration, economic revitalization, private sector development, women empowerment and humanitarian aid. This in turn has vastly reduced poverty, although poverty and illiteracy remain crucial challenges.

UN educational assistance has helped build and reform schools. Both boys and girls are now receiving the opportunity to get an education. While many challenges persist within the more rural and traditional Afghan families, the UN is helping the government make significant changes. For more details on the Afghan education process, please visit and

Health has also improved with UN assistance. In 2001, one quarter of all children born in Afghanistan were dying of preventable diseases before the age of five. Afghan women were nearly five times more likely to die in childbirth than in other developing countries. However UN efforts have dramatically enhanced Afghans by providing financial and technical support to the Ministry of Public Health to deliver the necessary health services to rural areas. For health system improvements and ongoing activities, please visit

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The UN has been successful in sharing agricultural techniques and educating Afghan farmers. Technical assistance has also helped teach and train Afghan youth to become productive members of society and assist the Afghan government. The UNDP has recruited nearly thirty percent of the managerial level labor force for the General Directorate of Budget, which is one of two general directorates within the Ministry of Finance, to contribute in the national budget planning, execution and reporting.

Therefore, Afghan society has benefited from UN aid and assistance. However, in spite of these accomplishments, several challenges remain including coping with a limited number of capable public servants, bypassing restrictions on freedom of movement for UN staff, overcoming the deficit in coordination between Afghan institutions and the UN, tackling corruption within the government and bridging the cultural gap between Western aid workers and Afghan civilians.

With continued UN assistance and a genuine commitment for realistic change and reform within the Afghan government, a positively profound impact will remain with the Afghan people.

Ehsan Ullah was educated at the IQRA University in Pakistan and has worked with many national and international organizations including Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), Ministry of Finance (UNDP) and BRAC Afghanistan.