Urban Improvement National Policy (AF0007)
Action Plan: Afghanistan Action Plan 2017-2019
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH)
Support Institution(s): Ministry of Public Work, Ministry of Transportation, Municipalities, Independent Directorate of Local Governance, Independent Land Authority and Capital Region Independent Development Authority, Social and civic Organizations
Policy AreasInfrastructure & Transport, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery
What is the public problem that the commitment will address?: Lack of public service delivery in informal and unplanned urban areas has led to increased vulnerability of citizens; their denial to basic rights; heightened urban poverty; lack of infrastructure; lapse in social status; formation of social identity crisis; and increased environmental risks, and incurred staggering expenditures on the government, urban administration and broader society.; What is the commitment?: In order to address the abovementioned challenges, Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH) decided to develop and approve national urban improvement and rehabilitation policy in consultation with social and civic organizations.
It is expected that development of this policy will provide grounds for recognizing unplanned areas by the government in collaboration with the public. Under this policy, measures will be taken to prevent the growth of unplanned areas, given the factors that are contributing to this growth. This will restore basic rights of citizens and reduce their vulnerability. In addition, development of this policy will pave the grounds for investment and job generation for residents of informal, unplanned areas.; How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?: Development of this policy in collaboration with the relevant public sector departments as well as social and civic organizations will highlight the need for the establishment of Citizens Empowerment Offices at provincial level. Once this policy is approved by the cabinet, then the MUDH will develop an action plan for the policy with inputs from social and civic organizations.
This policy and the consequent action plan will provide legitimacy to implementing a detailed adjustment plan for informal and unplanned areas, under which unplanned areas will be included in planned areas to benefit from public service delivery. It is expected that by formulating and implementing of this policy the basic rights of citizens will be restored and their vulnerabilities will be addressed.; Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?: Since the Urban Improvement and Rehabilitation Policy is to be developed and implemented with public participation, people will be able to effectively take part in good urban governance to identify their socio-economic challenges and suggest and implement alternative solutions in collaboration with the government.
As a result, this commitment has relevancy with public participation as one of values of Open Government Partnership, since CSOs and the related professionals will be involved in development of the mentioned policy. Municipalities, community-based councils, neighborhood representatives and influencers in unplanned areas will take an active role in urban improvement and rehabilitation.
This commitment is also relevant with the principle of accountability. In the current situation, the government fails to provide essential public services in unplanned, informal areas. Development of this policy will pave the ground for delivering urban basic services to all residents in unplanned areas. In addition, people will be able to hold government accountable through participating in urban improvement and rehabilitation processes.; Additional information: The necessary fund for implementing this commitment will be provided from MUDH’s budget. This commitment has relevancy with Urban National Priority Program.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:
“Lack of public service delivery in informal and unplanned urban areas has led to increased vulnerability of citizens; their denial to basic rights; heightened urban poverty; lack of infrastructure; lapse in social status; formation of social identity crisis; and increased environmental risks, and incurred staggering expenditures on the government, urban administration and broader society.
In order to address the abovementioned challenges, Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH) decided to develop and approve national urban improvement and rehabilitation policy in consultation with social and civic organizations.
It is expected that development of this policy will provide grounds for recognizing unplanned areas by the government in collaboration with the public. Under this policy, measures will be taken to prevent the growth of unplanned areas, given the factors that are contributing to this growth. This will restore basic rights of citizens and reduce their vulnerability. In addition, development of this policy will pave the grounds for investment and job generation for residents of informal, unplanned areas.Milestone activities and verifiable deliverables
- MUDH prepares the draft Urban Improvement and Rehabilitation National Policy
- MUDH holds a consultative meeting with the social and civic organizations to attain their inputs on the draft urban improvement and rehabilitation national policy.
- MUDH holds two inter-ministerial consultative meetings to attain their inputs on the draft urban improvement and rehabilitation national policy.
- MUDH incorporates the comments and recommendations obtained from the consultations with the public sector and the social and civic organizations in developing final version of the policy and submit it to High Council for Urban Development for the approval.
- MUDH drafts an action plan for the implementation of the policy
- MUDH holds 2 consultative meetings with public sector departments and social and civic organizations on the draft action plan.
- MUDH incorporates the comments and recommendations obtained from the consultations with the public sector and the social and civic organizations in preparing the final version of the action plan.”
Start Date: January 2018 End Date: August 2019
Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Afghanistan National Action Plan see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/commitment/07-urban-improvement-national-policy
Context and Objectives
The aim of this commitment is to develop a National Urban and Rehabilitation Policy with the objective to provide and improve public services to citizens in informal and unplanned urban settlements.
Lack of public service delivery in informal and unplanned urban areas has denied citizens of their basic rights, has increased the social status gap and has further entrenched ethnic, religious and other differences in an already divisive society. 
Following the fall of the Taliban regime, a number of critical developments occurred in relation to land and urban development in major cities in Afghanistan, particularly Kabul, posing significant challenge for future urban planning efforts. First and foremost, between 2002 and 2013 close to five million Afghans repatriated to their country, mainly from Pakistan and Iran, assuming that war was over and they could settle back in their homeland.  However, following decades of war and continuous challenges, the government of Afghanistan was not fully prepared to provide its citizens with adequate access to land and property given the size of the returning population. As an example, the city of Kabul was built for 1.5 million people. Its current population, however, is estimated at six million.  Secondly, under the Karzai administration, land grabbing by the powerful warlords and some government officials became a scourge, with illegal construction sites and shahraks (little cities) emerging throughout the country.  Thirdly, due to continuous fighting and insurgents’ attacks in other provinces, particularly in the Southern region, many Afghans had to migrate to major urban areas as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).  All three of the above developments occurred simultaneously, substantially straining the government’s ability to respond to citizens’ housing needs. Under such circumstances, many residents felt compelled to provide shelter for themselves. As a result, 70% of urban centers in Afghanistan constitute informal settlements,  which refer to the “areas where people grabbed government and public land and sold it to others or build their houses without seeking official permission.”  Although the government had already taken some steps through an upgrading program, findings suggest that while prior interventions had led to some physical improvement in the settlements, they could not integrate other key factors such as social, economic and environmental issues. 
The Afghan government does not have the capacity to demolish informal settlements, some of which bearing as many as one million inhabitants, and build anew according to the city plan.  Following the development of the National Housing Policy,  the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MoUDH) committed to formulate the National Urban Upgrading Policy, in consultation with CSO’s and citizens, which will be followed by an action plan for the policy’s implementation. The aim of this policy is to provide public services such as paved roads, wall restoration, and water supply in informal settlements. Furthermore, the project aims to connect such settlements with public safety and security services (e.g. firemen, police, ambulances, and security forces) as well as access to potable water. 
Broadly, the commitment aims to engage with social and civic organizations in the process of developing and finalizing the draft Urban Improvement and Rehabilitation National Policy. As such, this commitment is relevant for the OGP value of civic participation.
The commitment’s proposed activities and milestones are specific enough to verify its completion. The IRM researcher nevertheless considers this commitment as having minor potential impact, as it will only develop a policy and a plan for its implementation. As such, during this OGP-A action plan the commitment has no actual policy implementation component to resolve the current problems faced by residents in informal settlements.
The IRM Researcher recommends that this commitment be continued to the next action plan cycle, but with a detailed implementation component, with clear targets and timelines. Specifically:
- Both the government and relevant CSO’s could develop an online platform where citizens could monitor implementation of the action plan for the Urban Improvement and Rehabilitation Policy and express their views and concerns on issues related to urban development. This could also serve as one means of informing site selection where the government could subsequently intervene.
- The next action plan could envisage a B-plan for those sites where they may face resistance by land grabbers. They could consider public outreach programs to convey the legal consequences of land-grabbing (as envisaged in the upgraded Afghanistan’s Penal Code) and define mechanisms of collaboration with a government body that builds an inventory of land grabbing.
- The next action plan could describe more precisely means and criteria of selecting CSOs for this action.
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