Major Japanese funding for human settlements upgrading in Afghanistan

Nairobi, 18 July 2005 - The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security have announced that they will provide over 3 million US dollars towards upgrading homes and urban community facilities in informal settlements in the three Afghan cities of Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad.
The funding, amounting to a total of US$ 3,560,585 will be disbursed through the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security in support of a year-long project designed to provide basic urban services and shelter for more than 100,000 people in 48 settlements in the three cities. The project is scheduled to commence in August 2005 and completed by July 2006.

The primary objective of the project is to enhance human security and protection within these settlements. Because of the prolonged conflict, Afghan cities have lost much of their capacity to provide essential services to their population, which has grown rapidly because of the influx of the returnees.

For the returnees, many of whose households are headed by women, there is no choice other than to settle in informal settlements. However, the lack of basic services in the informal settlements creates a persistent uncertainty for the inhabitants, who face multifaceted human insecurity and threats: poverty, social exclusion and discrimination, exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous chieftains, and the fear that they will be forcefully evicted or their homes destroyed. Poor environmental conditions, increasing crime, poor employment opportunities and a rapidly rising population further exacerbate their conditions.

UN-HABITAT said the project will help communities living in designated settlements to improve basic services including waste collection and disposal and community infrastructure. This will be done through community mobilisation, enabling women to play their role in local development, and promoting inclusive community-level decision-making.

The project will pursue a strategy where most of the direct support will go towards creating livelihoods for the residents and the returnees. The outcomes of the project are empowered communities, better living environment, and local governance based on representation, transparency, accountability and participation. In addition, the project will help build a direct link between municipal planning and community-level development, in the process creating partnership between the municipalities and the citizens. These outcomes will have sustainable impact on improving human security in these settlements. About 11,650 families are expected to benefit from the project by way of gaining more secured ownership of the plots.

The project will be executed by UN-HABITAT in collaboration with the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, local municipalities, UNDP, the United Nations Mine Action Centre Afghanistan (UNMACA), UNHCR, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.