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Friday, September 19, 2008

Afghanistan: A Cost-Benefit Analysis with a Human Face

While the Canadian government continues to grapple with the financial and human cost of our military (and nominally reconstructive) commitment in Afghanistan, we are happy to note that HOPE International Development Agency’s investment into northern Afghani communities is making clear returns.

Regardless of whether one supports the NATO mission, bemoans it, or supports it while bemoaning it, few will suggest that the Afghani people are not worthy of assistance. But the question for the demonstrably compassionate Canadian public is always going to be: does our assistance work?

Humble though it may be when compared to the $100 million the Canadian government is spending on ‘development and reconstruction’ (and that number itself is humble compared to the yearly average of $1.3 billion expended on the military effort), HOPE International Development Agency's assistance is working for Aghanis.

We have clear goals that are connected the expressed desires of local people. The money is donated by discerning supporters who understand the projects. Our Afghani staff members are trusted friends. It’s easier to pull this sort of thing off when you’re working at the ‘grassroots’ level, as opposed to the incredibly ambitious scale of Canada’s current mission. But it’s still satisfying to see modest investments pay off rather richly. And we, unlike our beleaguered government, have a much easier time linking our efforts to the hope and happiness of our Afghani partners.

Here is a message from Gul Buhar, a young woman in a village where we are about to construct a secondary school when the funds become available through donations.

“During the war in Afghanistan my family moved to Pakistan and after the Taliban . We returned to our village which was completely destroyed and we had to rebuild our shelter again. I had chance to attend a school to 6 grades. I completed 6th grade last year and there is no school for higher grades. The school which has grades up to 12 is located 16 kilometers from our village and it is impossible for me to walk so long distance rough roads. Beside it girls are facing many limitations by community and families. So my best dream is having a school in my village.”

When the school is built, we’ll know what it means for Gul and other young men and women in the village. And we will have no trouble saying that money was well spent.

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