Governor of Wardak Province, Afghanistan
March 12, 2010
Halim Fidai was appointed governor of Wardak Province in 2008. His previous professional experience with Creative Associates led to the creation of a nation-wide network of hundreds of local civil society organizations in Afghanistan.
Q: What are your priorities and challenges as the governor of an important province at this critical juncture in your country’s history?
A: My priorities are those of the central government.
To pursue peace and reconciliation. Reintegrating Afghan Taliban to mainstream government and politics – 95% of the population is not supporting insurgency and terrorism and most of the Taliban and insurgents are fighting for economic reasons and political freedom.
To bring security and stability. To strengthen the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army and National Department of Security and the Afghan Public Protection Program, train them, equip them and increase their institutional capacity.
To ensure better governance. To devise and implement programs that can increase the institutional and individual capacity of government institutions so that they can deliver services in a more effective and efficient way and to ensure transparency, accountability and peoples’ participation in programs and issues that affect their lives
To boost economic growth. To encourage private sector, government and NGOs and civil society to create programs and bring the type of investment that can lead to more sustainable development. Build infrastructure in agriculture, irrigation and livestock, water and energy, education and governance to generate more revenue from domestic products and resources.
To Promote Coordination and Partnership with key stakeholders. In the province, this includes the people through their district councils, provincial councils and community development councils and traditional jirgas (councils), donors, US forces, Turkish PRT, NGOs, UN and Government institutions and make sure that appropriate resources are allocated to work in partnership with each other. Through this we can gain the trust of the people.
Q: What advice would you offer from the perspective of one who has worked to implement U.S. foreign Assistance projects and had the responsibility for governing in Afghanistan?
A: I think civil society (NGOs) and contractors should play a middleman role between the government and the people. I believe that foreign assistance can create an environment conducive for Afghan NGOs, government and people to emerge, grow and sustain. Therefore, we should recognize the importance of foreign assistance. This assistance should be focused on—
Supporting state building compared to nation building. This means that foreign aid should be first used to strengthen civil and military institutions, technically, financially and institutionally so that they are able to deliver services in a sustainable way. A stronger government, a strong civil society and a strong private sector can sustain a strong partnership to fight poverty, corruption and ensure peace and security.
Promoting education for all in Afghanistan. Education is the building-block of sustainable development and prosperity in Afghanistan.
Building upon existing traditional structures to improve and reform them in a way which can respond to contemporary issues.
Eliminating parallel systems by focusing on improving existing laws, polices, and procedures.
Building governmental infrastructure to better serve the people by investing capital and designing programs that can create jobs for Afghans.
Designing integrated programs aimed at supporting agriculture and potable water resources including small dams, transportation and communication, and energy generation. They should develop a strategic plan for strengthening Afghanistan’s largest legal export: carpets and the wool from which they are made. Also for dried and fresh fruit, and mines and marble quarries.
Supporting the reintegration and reconciliation efforts that are aimed at bringing a lasting security to the country, the region and to save every individual on the globe from the notorious phenomena of international terrorism.
Q: What contributions do USAID projects make to Afghanistan’s progress? Are these lasting contributions?
A: In any society three sectors are playing a very vital role in its development: civil society, which includes Non-Governmental Organizations, the private sector and government. Afghanistan can achieve progress through a practical partnership between these three elements. I have worked with USAID-funded programs since 1994 and I have personally experienced that USAID projects promoted the partnership which will result in long term progress. These programs contributed to the growth of the civil society sector in Afghanistan, built the capacity of local Afghan employees, introduced new policies, concepts and modern technologies, and most importantly invested in human capital which is the cornerstone for sustainable development. Take, for example, the Turkish Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) which operates in Wardak since 2006. USAID invested millions of dollars in our region in the field of health, security, education, public works and infrastructure and security. They have immensely contributed to human development, capacity building and good governance, which gradually help a qualified and educated Afghan civil society to emerge. On contrary, Afghans also contributed to introducing the country, its culture and also helped international agencies adjust their visions, programs and policies to meet the needs of the Afghan people.
USAID and other donors have supported five major media organizations, nearly 500 radio stations, newspapers, satellite channels and television stations. They also support 2,300 NGOs including women’s organizations, over 22,000 community development councils, and community service organizations (CSOs) which collectively provide diverse and important benefits and employment to thousands of Afghans.
Q: What, have you gained professionally from working on such projects?
A: My work with USAID-sponsored projects was of great help professionally. I gained hands-on experience and my contributions also helped the NGOs to efficiently and effectively deliver services to the people. Many of my colleagues at the USAID-sponsored NGO community said that these programs were like a “practical university” for most of the young Afghans, because the Afghans had to develop and implement solutions to complex problems. I even saw many of the Afghan NGOs begin competing with the international NGOs. Such competition creates increased efficiency.
Q: If someone told you that foreign aid is a waste and its benefits ephemeral, how would you respond?
A: Foreign aid is necessary, its benefits are real, but working together we can make the need ephemeral. Our goal is to use the temporary help to build a sustainable Afghan solution to fill current gaps. The focus should be on how to use foreign aid wisely, fairly, and in a transparent and accountable way. The best use of foreign aid builds partnership among all three sectors: civil society, the private sector and government. I think foreign aid should be provided in partnership with the Afghan government, which is a strong partner working toward achieving a common goal – eventual self-sufficiency.
Q: How do you feel about working with contractors who help to implement donor’s projects?
A. I believe that in principle they must be part of the partnership and team. Contractors can contribute to the development of Afghanistan. However, the level of their contribution varies from contractor to contractor, some work very well and some need improvement. Most contractors focus their programs on public welfare and benefit to the people, but there are some who exploit the needs of the people and hoard needed goods. Gaining profit shouldn’t be the primary goal. The focus should be on the ability to provide for public needs.
I personally believe that no sectors can achieve their organizational goals without the assistance of the other two sectors and I also believe that each sector has a significant role to play in the development of Afghanistan.