Estonia's contribution to rebuilding Afghanistan
The civilian component
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries on earth and its human development statistics are among the world’s lowest. A large part of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty, especially widowed women and their children. Close to 70% of the people are illiterate and 46% of Afghan children lack access to education.
The biggest development challenges are prolonged instability and a lack of security. Achieving stability is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Yet the challenges Afghanistan and the entire international community are facing cannot be solved by military means alone. For rebuilding a state, close co-operation between civilian and military actors is crucial. Estonia considers close co-operation between international organisations (including the UN, the European Union and the NATO) to be very important.
Afghanistan needs a great deal of aid and Estonia’s contributions to helping one of the world’s poorest countries are very welcome. Estonia’s activities in Afghanistan are based on an Afghanistan plan that is also reflected by the development co-operation action plan approved by the Estonian government. The development co-operation action plan covers the period from 2011 to 2015, and in it Afghanistan is named as one of the priority partners for development co-operation.
In 2016 the Foreign Ministry has allocated 1 250 000 euros for carrying out development co-operation projects. The support Estonia has given to Afghanistan between the years 2002 and 2016 totals over 9 million euros in value.
The three biggest ongoing development projects are:
- Tallinn University is consulting Kabul University to implement three Masters courses in the field of IT and is teaching doctoral students who will become teachers for these courses.
- Estonian School of Diplomacy is offering annual short courses in Tallinn for diplomats from Afghanistan
- NGO Mondo with local partner TOLO is carrying out a project of Improving the quality and access to reproductive health services and girls´ education in Northern and Eastern Afganistan.
In addition to development projects, Estonia has sent experts to the EUPOL and NTM-A missions.
A more detailed overview about all the support that Estonia has given to Afghanistan can be found from the Estonian Development Database.
Estonia’s contribution to strengthening Afghanistan’s central government
At the Kabul Conference held in 2010, Estonia accepted the obligation to direct at least 50% of its development aid through Afghanistan’s central government by the year 2012. In connection with this commitment, Estonia supports annually Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) managed by the World Bank. Various different sectors throughout Afghanistan are funded through the ARTF, including areas that are prioritised in Estonia’s development co-operation like health care and education. For example, with the support of the ARTF over 800 new schools have been built and over 45,000 teachers have received training. More than 3,000 km of roads have been repaired in rural areas and great emphasis has been placed on renovating the country’s energy supply system. The ARTF also contributes directly to the development of the health care sector in Helmand Province, which is a priority for Estonia, through the ARTF Strengthening Health Activities for Rural Poor project (SHARP) – more specifically through the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) and Essential Package of Hospital Service (EPHS) programmes.
Estonia's special mission and civil officials in Afghanistan
In 2006 Estonia sent its first civil expert and diplomat to Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, to be a part of the international Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). The goal of this official was to participate in the PRT’s work as well as fulfil the role of Estonia’s diplomatic representative in Afghanistan. Since the fall of 2007, Estonian special mission was located in Kabul. Through this mission Estonia was able to receive information, analyses and proposals on-site regarding how and through which projects can Estonia continue to contribute to supporting Afghanistan’s development in the best way possible. The mission was ended in February 2014.
Estonia’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is Väino Reinart.
In addition to a diplomatic representative in Kabul, Estonia has also filled (2008-2012) the position of Health Thematic Head for the British-led Helmand Province Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) located in Lashkar Gah. The role of the Estonian health care expert was to co-ordinate the development co-operation projects of Estonia and other countries and advise the Helmand Province local government on developing its health care system. Argo Parts, Anu Raisma, Priit Paju and Siim Nemvalts have all served as the Health Thematic Head.