The Aspen Institute Market Building Initiative hosted Minister Mohammed Ehsan Zia, Afghanistan’s Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to discuss Afghanistan’s successful National Solidarity Program (NSP).
In a roundtable event held on February 23, 2009, Minister Zia discussed the National Solidarity Program and the role it plays in Afghanistan’s rural development efforts. The National Solidarity Program is a government-led national program providing block grants to villages across Afghanistan, empowering communities to identify reconstruction and development priorities and implement projects in response. To be eligible for an NSP grant, villages must fulfill three basic criteria: the women and men of the village must elect a village Community Development Council, a quorum of the village must meet to reach consensus on priority projects and accounts must be posted in a public place. To date, NSP has helped finance more than 35,000 projects, touching the lives of 2 out of 3 rural people. NSP has reached every province and 346 of the 398 districts in Afghanistan, employing some 4,000 Afghan nationals and developing the skills of over 600,000 local council members.
Minister Zia spoke frankly about the current realities of Afghan reconstruction as well as NSP successes and limitations. A video highlighting the importance of the NSP program was followed by an engaging question and answer session that focused on topics ranging from the role NSP can play in counter-insurgency efforts to lessons that can be learned from the program and applied in other similar developing country contexts.