Switzerland and Netherlands to support safe and inclusive citiesKabul, 4 August 2015 – The Afghanistan Ministry of Urban Development (MUDA), the Independent Directorate of Local Government (IDLG)/ General Directorate of Municipal Affairs (DGMA), the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and UN-Habitat signed a protocol today which lays the foundation for the implementation of an innovative new urban programme.

The Afghanistan Urban Peacebuilding programme (AUPP) is a three-year programme to be implemented in the eight cities of Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kunduz, Farah, Bamyian and Nili.

The programme is generously supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and The Kingdom of the Netherlands with a budget of USD 14 million. It is the first time for both donors to support UN-Habitat Afghanistan to promote sustainable and inclusive urban development in Afghanistan, and the first time for direct support from The Netherlands in over one decade.

In the signing ceremony, Mansoor Naderi, Minister for Urban Development said: "We are pleased to launch this important programme that focuses on improving urban spaces for women, girls and youth. We particularly hope that it also addresses issues of integration of [internally displaced persons] in cities. We thank UN-Habitat for their strong support to the urban sector."

Strengthening public services, increasing trust

Ghulam Jilani Popal, Director for the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) said: "Municipalities are at the forefront of local governance and service delivery. The programme will strengthen the delivery of public services and increase trust between citizens and municipal officials."

Matthew French, acting UN-Habitat Country Representative, thanked Switzerland and The Netherlands for their valuable contribution and trust that UN-Habitat can deliver the innovative programme.

He noted that: "The programme will provide important and tangible improvements in the lives of urban citizens, particularly women, girls, and youth, as well as provide important lessons learned to the ongoing development of the Urban National Priority Programme".

Focussing on improving urban safety, the programme will improve local government responsiveness and accountability as well as strengthen partnerships between government, communities, civil society, and security providers in eight target cities through UN-Habitat's "People's Process".

IDPs, women, girls and youth most vulnerable and excluded

Afghanistan is one of the world’s fastest-urbanizing countries. Although the country’s population remains predominantly rural, the break-neck pace of urban growth means that the number of people living in cities will double in the next 15 years.

Every year, Afghan cities grow by over 320,000 people placing enormous pressure on local governments and security providers to provide services and achieve safe, peaceful, and inclusive cities. Cities concentrate the risks associated with insecurity and disorder, such as chronic poverty, steep inequality, and reduced solidarity compared to rural villages.

Afghanistan’s cities absorb vast displaced populations and confront urgent demands for basic services and infrastructure. Women and girls, young people, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and returnees are particularly marginalized and vulnerable, excluded from public space as well as public decision-making, and are disproportionately affected by urban insecurity and exclusion.

Through the programme, UN-Habitat will assist the target Municipalities and its communities to work together to create a better and safer living environment. It is crucial that the people have trust in the municipal government which is obtained through participatory planning, implementation of priority programmes, and continuous dialogue to increase access to basic infrastructure and services and through direct participation in the development process.