Afghanistan: our work is making a big difference to everyone we reach

15.08.2016 – Country Director Robert Kressirer talks about the challenges of working in Afghanistan. GIZ is still operating throughout the country with the aim of improving the living conditions of the local population.

Whereabouts in Afghanistan is GIZ currently working?
GIZ continues to operate throughout Afghanistan. We have around 100 German and international staff and over 1,400 local staff working in some 60 projects in the country, which remains very poor and faces challenges on numerous fronts. Our projects focus on a range of areas, from school and vocational education to legal advisory services and economic development and employment. Around 30 professionals from the Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) are working directly in Afghan partner-institutions.

On the basis of our commissions from the German Government, our work centres mainly on the five northern provinces of Balkh, Samangan, Baghlan, Takhar und Badakhshan. However, we continue to operate in Kunduz, which has been in the headlines on several occasions due to its unstable situation. Our work is proceeding normally for the most part, with the assistance of freelance experts, consulting companies and non-governmental organisations.

What has changed?
We are constantly adapting the way we live and work to the security situation, and we are gaining new knowledge each day. It is now no longer possible to offer GIZ’s German and international staff individual private accommodation, but simple and secure accommodation is provided for everyone. This way of living and working presents a constant challenge to our staff in their private and professional lives. The experience they are gaining as a result could be useful for our locations in other countries.

Project visits are still conducted on a regular basis, though clearly only once a review of the security situation has been conducted. The safety of all colleagues is our top priority. In addition, support for national personnel is being stepped up so that they can be deployed in a wider range of positions of responsibility. We are benefiting in this context from the ever growing expertise of our national colleagues after more than a decade working together, and we know we all can rely on our strict compliance rules. In general, we are helped by the fact that over the years we have built up a comprehensive security system. This keeps all our staff up to date with important developments and enables us to function under these circumstances. We are working to exacting professional standards in this area.

Can you achieve your goals in this way?
Yes we can, even though not every day is easy. People sometimes forget that Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries, where 70% of the population is illiterate. The work we do locally in cooperation with our Afghan partners is making a big difference to the people we reach. The achievements of German development cooperation are recognised and visible. It is important that millions more children now attend school, that health care has improved, that people have access to electricity and drinking water, and that projects are being carried out to foster economic development. This is something that the Afghan people recognise, and it gives us the strength and confidence we need to do our work.