Social Protection

A substantial part of the Afghan population includes vulnerable, disabled, widowed, and elderly citizens who need carefully managed assistance. Weak targeting systems, deeply embedded corruption, and poor management structures are problems that have crippled the government’s ability to effectively serve these communities.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees make up a large part of this demographic. Since 2002, Afghanistan has witnessed a massive influx of returnees and IDPs, reaching over an estimated 6 million – absorbing a new surge of returnees, with the annual number of returnees peaking in 2016 at 372,500 documented and 700,000 undocumented returnees, and another half-million returnees following them in 2017. About 6.5 percent of Afghanistan’s population are returnees, and on average, they have been situated in Afghanistan for 9 years. The migration situation in Afghanistan is challenging, as increased pressure on local absorption capacities results in serious gaps to the reintegration journey of returnees and IDPs, negating their ability to return to a sense of normalcy and security.

While faced with these challenges, resources are constricted. In May 2018, the National Statistics and Information Authority released the first data on the welfare of the Afghan people since the economic crisis of 2014 when international forces handed security responsibilities to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) confirmed the inevitable—the number of those living in poverty has increased, to 54.5%. A combination of factors has perpetuated poverty in Afghanistan for the past 17 years. The on-going conflict, and rampant and unchecked corruption, further perpetuate poverty as it hampers the government’s ability to deliver services and citizens’ ability to reach services.

For years, these perpetuating factors went unchecked. Afghan development policies were not focused on marginalized groups—women, poor, and youth—and there were insufficient invest- ments in the real economy to drive sustainable growth. Government investments were not focused on those living in poverty, and wealth growth and distribution over the past 17 years was grossly unbalanced.
When the National Unity Government took office in 2014, they took initial steps to chart the country on a path to self-reliance with policies, strategies and National Priority Programs (NPPs) that were inclusive and pro-poor. The goal is to address the direct needs of those living in poverty, while leveling economic growth across all sectors of society, ultimately reducing poverty and improving the welfare of the Afghan people. The government is not only targeting marginalized groups with specific programs, but also mainstreaming pro-poor approaches across all activities.

Goals for poverty reduction and social inclusion include achieving pro-poor spending, investing in more opportunities for young people, and ensuring a better future for refugees, returning migrants and internally displaced people.

Achieved (3/7): 43.0 Achieved (3/7): 43.0 %Partially achieved and ongoing (3/7): 43.0 %Partially achieved and ongoing (3/7): 43.0 %In process (1/7): 14.0 %In process (1/7): 14.0 %Partially achieved and ongoing (3/7)Percentage: 43.0

– Reduce poverty, primarily by helping the poor increase their skills, productivity, and access labor intensive paid employment through the Jobs for Peace program

 PROGRESS: – Partially achieved and on-going.
  • The Jobs for Peace program was launched in 2016 and has generated 22,000 rural jobs, mostly unskilled positions, and provided more than 2.6 million labor days, providing jobs for over half a million families living in rural areas to repair and maintain village infrastructure in 12 different provinces selected based on the extent of underemployment, seasonality, access to food and jobs during the winter months, and security. In its second phase, the program will scale-up to other provinces and introduce a labor-based clean-up program in Afghanistan’s five largest cities, with an initial target of 10,000 new jobs. An analysis is underway for creating a special program for job creation for for Kuchi nomads.
  • The Citizen’s Charter (Charter) is the key to national pro-poor development and is a whole-of- government effort that links rural communities, districts, provinces, and the central level in inclusive development, overcoming the fragmented development approaches of the past. Under the Charter, rural and urban communities are organized into Community Development Councils (CDCs) through elections, which make decisions about education, health, basic infrastructure and agricultural services delivered by the government. The aim of the Charter is to reduce poverty and break the cycle of fragility and violence. The Charter has exceeded the half-way mark in reaching this goal. The reach and impact of the Charter can be tracked online at This online tracker is updated almost daily and reflects the actual scope the program to date. As of October 2018, the Charter program has been rolled out in 9,587 communities in all 34 provinces, reaching over 8.3 million citizens, with 3,230 development projects financed. Close to 2,000 clean water points have been financed. Access to potable water has risen to 65.3%, a 19.3% increase since 2012.
  • Community Grain Banks are being set up in the communities for the most vulnerable and poorest families, with 1,377 currently established. Earlier this year, the government launched a new youth initiative via the Charter to reach 1.6 million children currently excluded from formal education.

– To improve efficiency and reduce corruption, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled (MoLSAMD) will establish an agency to manage cash transfers for pensions, disability, and other social protection entitlement

 PROGRESS: –Achieved.
  • In November 2018, a presidential decree established the National Support Authority for Persons with Disability and Heirs of Martyrs, an independent agency that is designed to better address the needs of persons living with disabilities and their families.
  • The following reforms have also been undertaken to improve efficiency and reduce corruption:
  • Reforms are underway at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD). In 2018, a comprehensive pension reform policy was approved by the Cabinet which makes pension administration more financially sustainable, administratively efficient, and improve adequacy of benefits for pensioners in the long run. The creation of a separate Pension Fund to ensure sustainability and greater independence of the public pension funds is one of the fundamental components of the ongoing pension reform.
  • To date, the pensions program for disabled citizens and retirees in Kabul is now being disbursed electronically via a biometric database system. Bank accounts have been opened for all retirees. Currently, there are over 392,000 people receiving regular benefits through the Pensions, and Martyrs and Disability cash assistance schemes. Biometric identification of over 80% of the pensioners have been completed, cutting opportunities for corruption and generating significant fiscal savings. Roll-out of the new pensions system to provinces is well underway. The nationwide, full implementation of biometric database system will be achieved by July 2019.
  • Policy and regulatory reforms
  • Consistent with the Labor Law, a comprehensive regulation on creating a private sector pension scheme has been drafted and will be approved by the end of 2018. Following the approval of the regulation, work on the private sector pension policy and organizational arrangements will begin.
  • The National Disability and Physical Empowerment Strategy is finalized and financial resources allocated to implementing the strategy.
  • Vulnerable populations, including war widows and disabled, are also being prioritized in the distribution of government housing.

– Launch ARAZI’s planned National Priority Program on land administration to incorporate ongoing multi-agency urban land certification programs that are providing legally recognized occupancy certificates to irregular urban settlements

 PROGRESS: – Achieved.
  • The High Council on Land and Water was established and meets regularly to decide on the allocation of state land assets.
  • The Land Management Law was revised and approved, which addresses issues such as land acquisition, distribution, maintenance, and management, as well as standardization and transparency processes. Chapters 11 and 12 of the law specifically discuss land encroachment and its penal codes. The new Penal Code (enacted in February 2018) criminalizes land encroachment and addresses the penalty for land encroachment and crimes committed under land encroachment. A new national land and resettlement/land allocation policy was approved.
  • The Afghanistan Land Authority (ARAZI) crafted a five-year land management program to develop a digital land ownership management system and land ownership rights system to protect customary ownership in Afghanistan. Transparent, prompt, and efficient leasing mechanisms are in place to prevent corruption. A full-scale cadastral survey and a comprehensive national land titling and registration program is underway. As of October 2018, a total of 240,000 hectares of state-owned land in 28 provinces of the country had been accounted for, and 60% of that land registered into the Land Information Bank with further registration on-going allowing the government to more effectively account for and utilize state-owned land.
  • As of October 2018, ARAZI had surveyed 500,000 informal residences in Kabul, Mazar, Jalalabad, Bamian, Nili, Farah and Kandahar, and had awarded 800 occupancy certificates to legitimize those families’ rights to reside there. The distribution of occupancy certificates continues.

– Fully respect and integrate the civil, political, social and economic rights of displaced and returning citizens

 PROGRESS: – In process.
  • Since 2002, Afghanistan has witnessed a massive influx of returnees and IDPs, reaching over an estimated 6 million – absorbing a new surge of returnees, with the annual number of returnees peaking in 2016 at 372,500 documented and 700,000 undocumented returnees, and another half-million returnees following them in 2017. About 6.5 percent of Afghanistan’s population are returnees, and on average, they have been situated in Afghanistan for 9 years.
  • A policy framework for returnees and IDPs was finalized in March 2017. The policy integrates programs across government and takes a ‘whole of community’ approach to mitigate political risks of re-allocating resources for returnee and IDP populations.
  • Oversight for policy implementation is with the following bodies:
    • The High Migration Council, chaired by the President of Afghanistan, is the main body for defining national policy and resolving issues of policy interpretation.
    • The Council of Ministers’ Sub-Committee on Migration Affairs is chaired by the Chief Executive and leads on short, medium and long-term response efforts on returnees and IDPs.
    • The Displacement and Return Executive Committee (DiREC) leads and oversees the implementation of policy, and is chaired jointly by nominated representatives from the Office of Chief Executive (OCE), Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations (MoRR), and the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

– Provide access to basic services, humanitarian relief, and development opportunities for refugees, IDPs, and returnees, while also integrating policies and programs into mainstream government development programs

 PROGRESS: – Partially achieved and on-going.
  • Through the Government’s Citizens’ Charter National Priority Program, covered 14 high return districts to ensure returnees and IDPs have access to basic services and are represented at the Community Development Councils. As of September 2018, 155,682 IDPs and Returnees were covered in urban areas via the Citizen’s Charter, and 38,353 were covered in rural areas of all 34 provinces.
  • The DIREC 2018 national action plan  allocated $11 million to the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to improve and expand delivery of health and education services across 12 high-returnee provinces, including Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Kabul, Herat, Ghor, Baghlan, Kunduz, Kandahar, Takhar, Faryab and Khost.
  • The UNHCR, in partnership with the Afghan government via the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation and relevant provincial departments of the ministry, manages four Encashment Centers (ECs) located in Herat, Jalalabad, Kabul and Kandahar. In addition to cash grants, a wide range of inter-agency services including basic health care, referrals of emergency health cases to hospitals and vaccinations for children (implemented by Ministry of Public Health with support from WHO and UNICEF), mine risk awareness (coordinated by UN Mine Action Service)and implemented by the Danish Demining Group), back to school campaign (provided by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF), referral for information and legal assistance to obtain civil documentation (tazkira) through Norwegian Refugee Council’s Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA programme), child friendly spaces (provided by UNICEF) and a transit facility for overnight accommodation. As of April 2018, 4,040 returnees had received UNHCR’s cash grant.
  • The Afghan Red Crescent (ARCS) has been supplementing government programs to provide humanitarian relief to returnees and refugees, including to thousands of returnees in Herat. The ARCS is planning to expand the non-food assistance program to reach 12,000 returnees and displaced families across Badhghis, Farah, Faryab, Ghor and Herat provinces in 2019.                                
  • To use art and culture to help integrate IDP communities, a pilot project in two camps for IDPs in Herat to conduct participatory theatres for IDP youths was successfully implemented in 2017, at the request of the Herat local government. 20 IDP youths were trained to create two plays on their experience of displacement, and the performances were staged in over 10 public and private schools in the host community. A short documentary entitled “Home: A Story of Displacement” was made to show the impact of the pilot project.  The project is planned to continue in late 2018.

– Invest in the human capital of IDPs and returnees, and allocate land for permanent resettlement

 PROGRESS: –Partially achieved and on-going.
  • Investment in human capital
  • The Citizen’s Charter program is complementing large-scale projects such as EZ-Kar (Eshitighal Zaiee – Karmondana Project), a $250 million World Bank fund which is funded by the World Bank, to create jobs and livelihood projects for returnees and IDPs. The Project concept has been approved and the program is expected to start in November 2018.
  • Land allocation:
  • The President issued an Executive Decree for the Identification and Allocation of Suitable Land for Resettlement to Returnees, IDPs and Families of Martyred ANSF, which was signed on August 29th, 2018.
  • The Land Authority (ARAZI) created land banks and identified state land for resettlement in the 12 priority provinces. As of October 2018, ARAZI had surveyed 500,000 informal residences in Kabul, Mazar, Jalalabad, Bamian, Nili, Farah and Kandahar, and had awarded 800 occupancy certificates to legitimize those families’ rights to reside there. The distribution of occupancy certificates continues.
  • The DIREC 2018 national action plan also prioritizes housing allocation, with the completion of 4,000 houses for IDPS and returnees in Herat, Qasemabad township slated for 2018.

– Support voluntary returns in conditions of safety and dignity

 PROGRESS: – Achieved.
  • The Comprehensive Voluntary Repatriation and Reintegration Strategy was approved by the government in 2015.
  • Currently, UNHCR, in partnership with the government, facilitates voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan, Iran and other countries in conditions of safety and dignity via the UNHCR-Facilitated Voluntary Repatriation (VolRep) Programme. As of June 2018, the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan with UN counterparts, issued proof of registration cards to 1.4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. In February 2018, the Afghan government and UNHCR began the issuance of Afghan Citizenship Cards for more than 850,000 undocumented Afghans.
  • The VolRep of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran takes place under tripartite agreements with the respective governments and UNHCR. More than 5.2 million Afghan refugees have been repatriated with UNHCR assistance since 2002. In 2017, the program facilitated the voluntary return of 58,817 refugees (98% from Pakistan, 2% from Iran and other countries). In 2018, the main areas of return have been Kabul, Nangarhar, Kunduz, Kandahar, and Sar-e-Pul.
  • Monitor and assess expansion of Citizens’ Charter in the high return areas, including patterns of movement, access to basic services and social conflict mitigation measures taken by the communities.
  • Finalize Executive Decree to be signed by the President to enforce technical procedure for the identification and allocation of suitable land for returnees, IDPs and families of martyred.
  • Create databank for eligible beneficiaries and provide housing support to those vulnerable. The target for 2018 is 4,000 beneficiaries.
  • Launch EZ-Kar program in the 12 high-returnee provinces.
  • Expand health and education services to the high return areas.