DDAs’ Development Role at Sub-national Governance Level in Afghanistan:
National Area-Based Development Programme (NABDP) commenced as a joint initiative of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2002.NABDP contributes towards an enabling environment in rural areas to provide equitable development and good governance through community empowerment at the district level.
District Development Assemblies (DDAs) are district level Shuras, which are democratically elected, represented by Community Development Councils (CDCs), which are mainly focused on planning, implementation and monitoring of rural development activities as local governance institutions at the district level, these local development institutions play an important role to minimize gap between the communities and provinces.
Moreover, the DDA is envisaged to play a crucial role in establishing linkages vertically with provincial authorities and horizontally with various line departments of GoA, private sectors and NGOs to promote local governance, assisting the government for stabilization of peace, thereby offering a multiplier effect of donor funding. In this nexus, it is very much important to analyse both the advantages and limitations of DDAs and the proposed alternative District Councils and to identify areas of collaboration and needs to advocate about the positive parts of the DDA and District Councils which could ultimately result in merger as a single entity
The programme has its major strategies decentralized to the provinces. One of the first successful models was ‘Kandahar Model’, with more physical, financial and administrative decentralization to the provinces. Decentralization of operations to the identified provinces will increase the efficiency significantly. Keeping the geo-political conditions and local context in the scenario, MRRD’s NABDP acknowledges the need for national presence. A package of integrated and inter-linked projects will be delivered to communities identified by the resource allocation criteria that comprise level of poverty, investment per capita, and local physical and institutional potential. With this, NABDP will significantly grow in size. This warrants that a robust accountability and transparency system is in place for both operations and programme management of NABDP.
The MRRD encourages the DDAs to share major progress, best practices and areas of collaborations among the various stakeholders and share their major constraints and challenges in the provincial Conferences. NABDP also encourages other stakeholders to work through the DDAs as the development gate way in the district level.
Moreover, the provincial resource mobilization conferences are proposed to conduct for providing detailed information about the opportunities to work with local development institutions and create conducive working environment at the district and community level through the DDAs and CDCs for the fulfilment of above objectives. The provincial resource mobilization Conferences will be conducted from October to mid December 2011 in the provincial headquarters.
Recent major achievements
NABDP established 388 DDAs out of 402 DDAs across the country. The 388 District Development Plans (DDP) were formulated. Out of the 388 DDAs which already completed three years, re-elections were carried out in 158 DDAs. The capacity development modules (training) were provided to the 290 DDAs. The modules on the training were 1- Good Governance, Conflict resolution and gender equity, 2- project planning, implementation and project management, 3- Procurement and financial management and 4- Disaster Management and Mitigation. The LIDD/NABDP has established 63 District Information Centres and 215 DDAs are receiving grant in aid. Additionally, project monitoring and special training was provided to 13 insecure provinces where DDA members are directly involved in the project monitoring process.
The programme has 96% coverage of Afghanistan where 11460 DDA members directly support the rural development and local governance process. Furthermore, 2,366 DDA members have been trained in different project management modules like local governance, gender, conflict resolutions, procurement & finance, project management & disaster management. These members are contributing in peace and stabilization process and completion of projects. 80% projects are getting implemented through communities with a tripartite agreement between DDA, CDCs, and MRRD. This agreement helped increase the employment, where 2,330,616 beneficiaries of 4,290 families of 461 villages are connected with 27 road projects with access to safe drinking water. In addition, 278 Jeribs of land is irrigated by the updated and newly completed irrigation projects and 13,438 Jeribs of land is protected from the natural disaster by supporting and construction of river control and retaining walls. Likewise, 181 KW of electricity is generated and 10,368 households are electrified from rural energy programme. Similarly, Biogas projects have provided 1,057 households with alternative cooking fuel. Additionally, many female DDA members are part of the Provincial Development Committee and two DDA male members were elected for the parliament.
Challenges and opportunities
Legitimacy of District Development Assemblies (DDAs) has been a key challenge. Without having a legal status, there is an issue of sustainability. Without a legal and legitimate status the donors, government institutions and civil society will hesitate to enter in any deal with the DDAs.
The District Development Plans are prepared and formulated by the DDA members based on their needs. These community plans needs should be reflected at the district level and reflected in Provincial Development Plans and National Plan of the GoIRA. In addition, various emerging Shuras at the district Level formed by other line ministries like, IDLG- USAID, DFID’s Community Councils (CCs) are being paid monthly salary, while the DDA members work voluntarily. The role of DDAs vs. CCs members and their overlapping roles are creating great challenges to the DDAs.
DDAs have been the exclusive responsibility of the MRRD; it must now implement its programmes and channelize its resources in the districts through DDAs. This helps to build DDAs’ capacity in development administration and will help transform them into institutions. Competent human Resource to manage these institutions at the district level is another great challenge. It requires additional commitment and capable human resource support for project implementation, institutionalization and capacity building support to individual DDAs.
DDAs have better opportunities to play an important role in development and governance at the district level. These local institutions are well capacitated for the project management, procurement and finance and monitoring process. These institutions have better coordination with district/provincial governor office and working relationship with Provincial Development Committees. These local institutions are carrying multi ministerial activities at the district level for the providing effective service delivery to the local communities. These institutions are effectively mobilizing internal and external physical and financial resources for the better management, implementation and monitoring the projects. Thus DDA should be converted as a District Council at the district level which can be most appropriate institution to provide effective service delivery in the better governance at the sub national level.