Strong Hubs for Afghan Hope and Resilience Program (Shahar)

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SHAHAR will help fully realize the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s vision for a nationwide municipal governance system that will support individual municipalities to develop standard policies and procedures, monitor municipal progress to improve performance, and provide technical assistance when progress lags. The project will link individual municipalities together for information and knowledge sharing and improve linkages with their provincial and national counterparts. SHAHAR will strengthen Municipal Advisory Boards, precursors to elected Municipal Councils, to register and respond to citizen needs and priorities. The lynchpin of this system is a central body, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance’s (IDLG) General Directorate for Municipal Affairs (GDMA), whose mandate is to oversee municipal governance nationwide.


The program will target up to 16 small- and medium-sized provincial capitals as well as the four regional hub provincial capitals of Kandahar City, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Jalalabad. Project sites will be selected jointly by IDLG/GDMA and USAID.


SHAHAR will strengthen the capacity of Afghan municipalities to meet citizen priorities and service delivery needs. This objective will be achieved through three components.

  • Assistance to GDMA: With GDMA at its center, the project will strengthen municipal governance in Afghanistan and build GDMA’s human and institutional capacity. As a result, GDMA will have the capacity to oversee the performance of all municipalities through a networked financial information system, formal standard operating procedures that set standards for municipal functioning nationwide, furnish training and technical assistance to municipalities, and properly fulfill its mandate under Afghan law.

  • Assistance to Mayors and Municipal Administrations: The project will build the institutional and human capacities of Afghan municipalities to enable them to participate in a linked municipal governance system held together by GDMA at the center. With SHAHAR support, municipalities will develop the institutional capacity to effectively meet citizen priorities and service delivery needs in a manner that is transparent, accountable, and fully representative of citizen interests. The municipalities will develop strategic plans in consultation with their citizens, a modern financial management system, and the tools, technologies, best practices, and professional networks that will strengthen municipal leadership and staff long after SHAHAR assistance has come to an end.

  • Assistance to Municipal Advisory Boards: The project will develop institutions that support an essential ingredient in municipal governance – the ability of citizens from all walks of life to collectively register their voices to municipal decision makers and to hold them accountable for their actions. By supporting Municipal Advisory Boards, SHAHAR will help lay the groundwork for elected Municipal Councils as permanent fixtures of municipal governance in Afghanistan.


USAID awarded the contract for SHAHAR on November 30, 2014 with initial activities started in March 2015. SHAHAR will place advisors within GDMA and target municipalities to complete several baseline assessments and surveys, the data from which will inform capacity building plans for GDMA, the target municipalities, and their respective Municipal Advisory Boards. Specific program activities include:

  • Program MOUs signed with GDMA and all 20 target municipalities.

  • GDMA rapid assessment and Municipal Advisory Board capacity gap assessments completed and capacity building plans prepared.

  • Municipal Governance Capacity Index assessment and baseline findings completed for all 20 municipalities.

  • GDMA and Municipal Advisors mobilized.

  • Rapid field assessments completed, including solid waste management.

  • Municipal Internet and Communication technology assessments completed.

Municipal gender and youth strategies developed and Youth Councils engaged.

  • Municipal communications strategies developed for all 20 municipalities.

  • Citizen Service Center Readiness Assessments completed and Advisory Boards established in all 20 municipalities.

  • Development of Charter for the Municipal Advisory Board Network.