The European Union's partnership with Afghanistan includes a results-oriented dialogue on human rights, especially the rights of women and children, as well as a dialogue on migration.
At the October 2016 Brussels Conference on Afghanistan co-chaired by the EU and Afghanistan, which confirmed sustained political and financial support to peace, state-building and development in Afghanistan by the international community, the European Union and its Member States pledged €5 billion (USD 5.6 billion) out of a total €13.6 billion (USD 15.2 billion) in support for the period 2016-2020. This now makes the European Union, as a whole, the largest development cooperation partner of Afghanistan. This is an exceptional level of funding which ensures that Afghanistan will remain on a firm path to political and economic stability, state-building and development.
Gender mainstreaming is a crucial component of the EU's assistance: 53% of EU programmes have gender equality as a significant objective. The European Union also strongly supports regional cooperation and economic integration as key elements of sustainable inclusive economic development, inter-connectivity and stability.
The EU believes that actions of all regional actors play a crucial role for lasting peace; without their active support neither Afghanistan nor the region will be able to stabilise. At the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan the EU joined regional stakeholders and the international community in reaffirming the commitment to a political process towards lasting peace and reconciliation. The emerging consensus can be further expanded together with key international and regional players. This consensus includes the conviction that the only way to a durable end to conflict in Afghanistan is through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive political process in respect of Afghanistan’s constitution. To achieve this, the Afghan Government needs to continue to be ready to engage with all armed groups, including the Taliban, in a political process without preconditions. The agreement signed in September 2016 between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami can foster this and sets an encouraging example (Statement of the High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini here).
The Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD), which has been signed in the margins of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday 18 February by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the Minister of Finance of Afghanistan, Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, in the presence of the President Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, formalised the existing cooperation between the EU and Afghanistan in a contractual relationship. The Agreement reflects the principles and conditions on which the EU-Afghanistan future partnership will be based. Emphasis will be placed on holding regular political dialogue, including on human rights issues, in particular the rights of women and children, which are defined as essential elements of this agreement. The Agreement will provide the basis for developing a mutually beneficial relationship in an increasing range of economic and political areas such as rule of law, health, rural development, education, science and technology, as well as actions to combat corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing, organised crime and narcotics. It also foresees cooperation on migration. The Cooperation Agreement will also enable the EU and Afghanistan to jointly address global questions of common concern, such as nuclear security, non-proliferation and climate change.
Today, Afghanistan is in far better shape in terms of human development than it was in 2001:
- Access to primary healthcare has increased from 9% of the population to more than 57%;
- Life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years;
- School enrolment has increased 10 times since 2001, with over 8 million students enrolled in schools, 39% of whom are girls.
- Women hold 27% of seats in parliament;
- The country's public financial management system is regarded as stronger than other fragile states and many low-income countries;
GDP per capita reached USD 590, from USD 120 in 2001, and current revenue represents 10.5% of GDP, from 3.3% in 2001, according to the World Bank (2016).
Many challenges, however, remain. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), GDP growth has declined from an average of 10,5% over the period 2002-2012 to an estimated 2.2% for 2016. Aid dependency has not reduced substantially. The Government's own revenues stand at around USD 2 billion per annum (10,5% of GDP), while international funding for the security sector remains at USD 5 billion per annum and development aid at around USD 4 billion per annum. In 2015, Afghans were the second largest group of migrants arriving in Europe (267,000 irregular arrivals). Poverty rates and unemployment have also risen recently, with more than 39% of the population living in poverty and unemployment standing at 39%.