Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Afghanistan’s Governance Challenges

Governance has been defined as the provision of the political, social and economic goods that a citizen has the right to expect from his or her state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens.  Good governance encompasses state-society relations that are democratic, including respect for human rights and the rule of law. They are developmental and allow for the management of the economy in a way that enables economic growth, structural change, and the judicious use of available resources in a sustainable manner; they are socially inclusive, in particular of minorities and ethnic or religious diversity.
Embodied in effective governance are the processes, mechanisms, and policies that deliver essential public goods and services that citizens have come to expect. These public goods and services range from safety and security to political participation, the rule of law, and human development, among others.
At National and Sub-national levels, numerous norms and frameworks have been
adopted to promote democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan. However, a persistent delivery deficit prevents these norms from being transformed into reality. While all governance challenges in Afghanistan do not originate uniquely from the country, the reality is that ongoing Afghan initiatives to address these crises have often been insufficient.
Five challenges to effective governance in Afghanistan stand out: diversity and the current identity crises; service delivery; management of natural resources; citizen engagement and the participation of women and youth; and coordination and accountability
Building on ethnic rule’s multilayered identities of first-, second-, and third-class citizens,   Afghanistan regarded ethno linguistic diversities as challenge to national unity and contrary to the nation-building project. It sought to dilute them in various systems of common-identity, single-nation projects and one-party systems. The failure to accommodate multiple community identities in a society constitutes a critical challenge that poses severe threats to lasting peace, stability, and development, with particular importance in fragile and conflict-affected contexts of the relevant country.
Public service delivery and social protection are increasingly seen as critical components of development strategies to tackle poverty and build more stable societies. The delivery of basic
services is considered a tangible and important source of the state’s performance legitimacy, and an opportunity for a government to establish its credibility. Lack of equal service delivery has been one of the main causes of the ethnic conflicts in the country.
Afghanistan is rich with valuable natural resources. While these economic opportunities present exciting possibilities for development and growth, history has shown that natural resources can be catastrophic for democratic governance and peace. Referred to as the “resource curse,” many countries in Asia including Afghanistan have found that resource wealth manipulate incentives, causing corruption and competition for resources, which leads to a breakdown in governance structures and can cause conflict.
Citizen participation is an essential element of democratic governance. It allows populations to stay informed and express their views about the challenges they face. Citizen participation can take the form of institutionalized information sharing, consultation, dialogue, representation, volunteering, or questioning and monitoring. Sadly, the gaps between citizens and their elected leaders appear to be widening, often stemming from governments’ inability to deliver expected goods and services to populations combined with exclusionary governance practices. Distrust, and in some cases outright rejection, of organized politics—especially among the youth of Afghanistan, who constitute a significant proportion of Afghanistan’s population—is a challenge that impacts social cohesion and is at the root of social unrest in various parts of the continent. This further contributes to emerging threats such as radicalization and religious extremism in Afghanistan. 
As countries emerge from violent conflict, one of the critical questions is how to address issues of accountability, reconciliation, and justice in the face of mass atrocities. Addressing impunity on the country demands national, regional, and international coordination and innovation. Justice should not be limited to prosecutorial and punitive justice; it must also be geared toward national healing, reconciliation, and reintegration of perpetrators and victims, with a view to national unity and reconstruction. Transitional justice processes can combine accountability with community-based and traditional justice, truth telling, reconciliation, reparations, institutional and legal reforms, memorialization, and socioeconomic and gender justice.
Building on efforts undertaken by International, national and Sub-national actors, concrete and innovative strategies are needed to enhance democratic and accountable governance in Afghanistan. Afghanistan at peace with itself requires more than the absence of war: it requires accountable governance that includes effective service delivery, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and transparent management of natural resources.