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Opinion Social

An Outlook on the Current Social Situation of Afghanistan

By: Mohammad Elias Samimi

The social situation refers to society’s overall condition. Currently, rapid negative changes have caused the breakdown of social cohesion and stability (G.A. Kreps, 2001). Natural disasters, human displacement, economic instability, demographic swings, and contentious policymaking create dilemmas for society; whereas, social cohesion results when citizens cooperate for survival and prosperity. When values are shared, disparities of income and living standards are reduced, and citizens are engaged, communities improve. Social cohesion is derived from the equality in distribution of resources and social outcomes, e.g. health, education, security, and economic well-being (Stanley, 2003). Citizens, therefore, must elect proficient government representatives who enable essential cooperation in the public, private, and social sectors. The government collects taxes and manages basic resources and must promote fair interaction and safeguard equal competition and social justice. It must act as a fair, impartial judge. The role of private sector and business enterprises is to stimulate the economy in order to maintain social stability. As well, community organizations and civil society maintain social justice by addressing social gaps and solving divisive social issues. If the three sectors check each other, they create a stable society where members of society enjoy prosperity and stable growth (Xingzui, 2014). Currently, unchecked sectors create social disruption in Afghanistan and negatively affect its cohesion and stability. As a result, insecurity, poverty, and displacement remain prominent.

Security remains the core challenge for Afghanistan. For the past four decades, war and conflict have led to misery and insecurity, which are obstacles for development and prosperity.  Based on reports by UNAMA (2019) in the first nine months of 2019 over 8,239 civilian casualties (2,563 killed and 5,676 injured) were documented. The consequences of insecurity are not limited to civilian causalities. Insecurity has led to underdevelopment. Afghanistan’s weak governance and administration has left a political power vacuum. A lack of power to manage resources has been filled by the emergence of Mafia groups and warlords who control resources and threaten social progress in the country. Insurgent groups and economic Mafias pilfered about $125 million from illegal extraction of lapis lazuli from only one site in the Keran-wa-Manjan district of Badakhshan in 2019 (Outlook Afghanistan, 2019).  Governmental instability and weakness cannot insure equal distribution of resources in society; instead, criminal groups reap the benefits.Besides Mafias, emergent warlords have taken advantage of feeble governance. They hold strong influence in their areas, rule on their terms, and commit crimes which also cause economic instability. Pajhwak Afghan News in 2018, reported that over 14,000 acres of private and state lands were usurped by warlords in Puli-Khumri (Muhammad, 2018). Land usurpation is not the only issue. Warlords control drug and narcotics trafficking. It is the largest source of income for armed groups, insurgents, and local warlords. According to the United Nations (2018), in 2017 the amount of narcotics produced in the country was worth $4.1- 6.6 billion. Corrupt warlords and local commanders take money by force, threaten people, and influence the actions and decisions of the state, adding to social injustice and corruption in the country.

Economic volatility results in continual poverty. The government has lacked proper planning to attract investments in the county. Investors are deterred and, instead, take the money out of the country. This deterrent impedes private investments in the country. Based on the Asian Development Bank (2018), private investment constituted only 8% of GDP in 2017, due to lack of confidence and instabilities in the country. After the international community provided aid, the country developed in terms of economy.  In fact, the U.S provided $52 billion to the country since 2001 (Tarnoff, 2010). Afghanistan received $3.789 billion in 2018 and continues to receive foreign aid (World Bank, 2018).  However, in the last six years since the massive withdrawal of American troops, the war has intensified and caused most investors to flee the country. Indeed, the lack of investment has caused economic stagnation, a declining GDP, and increased poverty.  GDP growth during 2003-2013 averaged 8.9%, while during 2014-2018 the average was 2.3%, and for 2019 remains 2.7% (ADB, 2019). The reduced GDP is evident in poverty and hunger for people in most households in the country. More than half of the population, 54.5%, live below the poverty line (ADB, 2019).

Poverty as a social challenge dominates Afghan society. Despite foreign aid and investments in the past two decades, poverty has not been significantly reduced. Based, on a report by the World Bank in 2008, more than 36% of the population was poor. That is to say, one in every three persons was unable to attain their basic needs (The World Bank, 2015). After a decade, the circumstances still have not changed. Based on Statista (2020), in 2019 the yearly income per capita in Afghanistan was $513, which is poverty level. Without investment and a growing economy, unemployment plagues the country. Past foreign aid created new job opportunities in the country. Based on 2015 World Bank data, between 2008 – 2012 over 490,000 job opportunities were created with funding from the international community. Recently, the unemployment rate was reported at 30% in the country (Tolo News, 2018). Today, staggering unemployment and rampant poverty is appalling.

Agricultural work, the main source of income for most rural families, has been badly affected by droughts. Based on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture and livestock constitute 78% of work in rural areas in the country. Thus, more than three-fourths of rural households derive income from this sector. Recently, due to droughts, 1.4 million people were affected, and 10.6 million people were labeled food insecure (FAO, 2018). As a result, people have moved from rural areas to big cities, which has led to social disorder in cities like Kabul. The city is grossly overpopulated, and the government is incapable of delivering social services.

Individual and families face social disruption from displacement in the country. Between 2019 – 2020, about 67, 598 families were internally displaced. Based on OCHA’s (2020) data, in the first three months of 2020 about 8,115 families were displaced internally which includes 57, 660 individuals. However, internal displacement is not the only dislocation issue. Unfortunately, refugees often have to return due to unemployment or poverty-level income. Based on The New Humanitarian (2020), in 2019 more than 900,000 Afghans returned to the country or were displaced at the border. They cannot return to their homes because of war, threats, or lack of resources. Currently, since March 2020 and the spread of COVID -19 in the country, 549,769 refugees have returned to the country from Iran and Pakistan (Reliefweb, 2020). While the country still faces food insecurity, and poor health-services, the compounded situation is not clear with the virus continuing to spread. War and conflict, moreover, have led people to migrate to neighboring countries. Few economic resources create a problem for the government and disrupt the social order. Based on Amiri and Lukumwena (2018), 82% of the Kabul city is considered an informal settlement. What is clear is that the government lacks the ability to provide services and design proper integration plans for the city. Displaced individuals and families in social chaos and misery disrupt social order in the country.

 

Afghanistan is in an uncertain situation. Frail infrastructure has led to political and economic instability and displacement. Weak government planning and administration has left a vacuum for the emergence of insurgent groups. These fighter groups fuel more insecurity and political and economic instability. Then, lack of investment and emergent economic Mafias have created social gaps and injustice in the country. Afghans have left their homes and shifted to big cities, especially Kabul, or migrated to foreign and neighboring countries.

All Afghan citizens are experiencing the effects of social disintegration and instability in the country. Nevertheless, hope for the future of Afghanistan exists. A joint effort of government and assistance of the international community is needed now more than at any time. The country needs strong, centralized government capable of proper planning and administration. To solve existing challenges, government must establish peace and maintain justice by rule of law. To bring social order, the government must subdue Mafias and decrease the power of warlords and local commanders. Second, the government must devise economic plans to attract investments and pave ground for the private sector to invest and improve. This, in turn, will create job opportunities and reduce unemployment and poverty. Finally, the government with the assistance of the international community and donors must properly plan together to relocate refugees and provide services for internally displaced people. Peace, security, and proper economic planning are the vital building blocks to a socially cohesive, prosperous Afghanistan.

References

 

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Afghanistan – gross domestic product (GDP) per capita from 2004 to 2024. (2020, April 21). Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/262052/gross-domestic-product-gdp-per-capita-in-afghanistan/

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