Building Trust in Government: Afghanistan's National Solidarity Program, 2002-2013

Rushda Majeed

In 2002, the interim administration of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan sought quick ways to expand economic opportunities for the country’s poorest rural communities and promote a sense of shared national citizenship. Afghanistan had just emerged from 30 years of devastating conflict. Standards of living were low. Younger Afghans had never lived and worked together as members of a shared political community, and some had spent most of their lives abroad as refugees. In response, a team of Afghan decision makers and international partners created a community-driven development initiative called the National Solidarity Program (NSP). The NSP provided block grants directly to poor communities and empowered villagers to use the funds for community-managed reconstruction and development. With the help of an elected village council and a civil society partner, a community chose, planned, implemented, and maintained its roads, bridges, schools, and health clinics. External evaluations found that NSP projects generally succeeded in improving villagers’ access to basic utilities and helped give a short-term economic boost to communities, although some of the other planned benefits did not materialize and project success rates varied across districts. During a period of low government capacity, the NSP was among the few programs that made a visible impact at the local level. However, the program's reliance on donor funds and outside partners raised doubts about its sustainability.

Year of publication: 
Princeton Innovations for Successful Societies
Themes and sectors: 
Civil society
Themes and sectors: 
Economic development
Themes and sectors: 
Public administration
Case story length: 
28 pages

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