Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Asia Foundation's Survey of Afghanistan: Generally positive news

The Asia Foundation “Survey of the Afghan People” has been published and has a bundle of surprises. [Click on the title above for a link to the source.] Most of us are discouraged these days, but the survey, done in summer, 2010 before the elections, presents an image of a people who are more positive than they have been for years. Here are some specifics.

In 2010, 47% of respondents say that the country is moving in the right direction. This figure has been increasing since 2008 (38%) and 2009 (42%).

In 2010, Afghans give a more optimistic assessment of their economic situation than in 2009. More Afghans say they are better off now than a year ago in all domains, particularly in terms of the financial wellbeing of their household. However, the benefits of increased financial well-being are not evenly shared, with those in the highest income bracket significantly more likely to report an improvement in their financial well-being in the past year than those in the lowest income category.

The majority of respondents are also aware of development projects in their local area relating to education and the same is true for projects targeting the reconstruction or building of roads and bridges.

[R]espondents are positive about the level of reconstruction and rebuilding, which remains the second most important reason for optimism cited by respondents who say the country is moving in the right direction. As in previous years, respondents are most satisfied with the availability of education for children in their local area, and the opening of schools for girls continues to be mentioned as a reason for optimism in the country, although to a lesser degree than in 2009.

Satisfaction with the performance of the national government has risen steadily over the last three years and 2010 records the highest levels of positive assessments of national government performance since 2007 in almost all regions.

In terms of local government, respondents give the most positive assessment of the performance of Provincial Councils, followed by district authorities and municipalities.

Confidence in both formal and informal representative bodies, including community shura and jirga, Provincial Councils, Community Development Councils (CDC) and Parliament remains relatively high.

Support for the application of democratic principles of governance remains high.
But of course not everything is sweetness and light in a place like Afghanistan:

Good security is identified as the most important reason for optimism, although it is mentioned by fewer respondents this year than in 2009. … [I]nsecurity is also cited as the main reason for pessimism, and by slightly more respondents in 2010 than in 2009.

In 2010, the only activity in which a majority of people say they can participate without fear is resolving problems in their community.

Actual experience of crime and violence remains relatively low, although there has been a significant rise in reported criminal victimization amongst respondents in the North East and South East.

Support for the government’s approach to negotiation and reintegration of armed opposition groups is significantly higher in 2010 than in 2009, suggesting that an increasing proportion of the Afghan public is in favor of a political solution to the ongoing conflict in the country, rather than a purely military one.

In 2010, there has been a significant fall in confidence in both national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) compared to previous years.

The majority of Afghans continue to say that corruption is a major problem in all facets of life and at all levels of government. In 2010, there has been a sharp increase since 2009 in the proportion of respondents who identify corruption as one of Afghanistan’s major problems, and as a main reason for pessimism amongst respondents who say that the country is moving in the wrong direction.

So, at a time when on this side of the globe hope has been waning it seems to be slowly gaining strength inside Afghanistan itself.

Of course we know better than to take these things too literally, too confidently. But it is news worth perking up about.

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