April 16, 2014
On April 5, 2014, Afghanistan marked its presidential election day. For the first time since the Taliban administration collapsed in November 2001, the Afghan people had the chance to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who for thirteen years served as the chairman of the Afghan Interim Administration and the president. Karzai, having served the maximum two terms allowed by the constitution, will retire and hand over power to the next administration.
While there is new development from the influx of many products in the towns, many challenges remain, including public safety and women's rights.
Modern Afghanistan's independence came on Aug. 19, 1919. It goes back to Afghanistan restoring its diplomatic rights and gaining complete independence from England as a result of the Third Anglo-Afghan War. This is also shown by the date "1298" (1919 in the Western calendar) under the mosque in the center of the coat of arms on the modern Afghanistan flag. During the ensuing 100 years, as Afghanistan was changing from a monarchy to a republic to a socialist state and then to a democracy, the head of state also changed from king to president to secretary-general and then back to president. In the 20th century, Afghanistan was known as the country with the most frequent changes (22) to its national flag. Since 1919, just three of the 12 successive Afghan heads of state have been able to die a natural death: Amanullah Khan (deposed), President Babrak Karmal (exiled) and “Father of the Nation” Mohammed Zahir Shah. Seven lost their lives through assassination or execution. The only two still alive are former President Sibghatullah Mojaddedi and current President Hamid Karzai.
This presidential election for Afghanistan, which has been knocked about by the waves of history, was an historic one, marking the first democratic transition of power in the country's history.
In December 1979, the army of the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In 1992, the pro-Soviet government of Afghanistan collapsed, and the country fell into civil war. The people of Afghanistan were driven to an existence of carving shoes from wood, making clothes from sheepskin and living without electricity or schools. This was a life of an Afghan agricultural village a mere 20 years ago.
Thereafter, in 2002, after the establishment of a new government receiving assistance from the international community, Afghanistan achieved economic growth of around 10 percent per year. Cell phones spread and televisions became fixtures in many homes. Schools and hospitals were built and the lives of the Afghan people greatly improved.
Students who completed graduate studies in Japan in the Project for the Promotion and Enhancement of the Afghan Capacity for Effective Development(PEACE)
JICA began cooperation in 2002, immediately after the start of the Karzai administration. With the collapse of governmental institutions during the period of civil war, human resource development for governmental organizations and the strengthening of their organizational capacity became pressing tasks. JICA took up the task of human resource development by dispatching Japanese experts to Afghanistan to give government workers on-the-job training and by bringing government workers to Japan for training. For example, aiming to train key individuals in various Afghan government agencies who had lost the opportunity to partake of higher education during the civil war period, JICA is carrying out a project to support their acquisition of master's and doctorate degrees in Japan. By means of assistance provided through such individuals, the Afghan people are acquiring new knowledge and those individuals are serving as a bridge between Japan and Afghanistan.
A hospital was completed in Kabul with 80 beds as a measure to help fight the three major infectious diseases.
Together with the Afghan government, JICA is carrying out assistance useful in improving the daily lives of people. This includes urban planning and implementation, airport repairs, improving agricultural productivity, anti-tuberculosis measures and improving the quality of teachers. For example, by constructing a trunk roadway in Kabul in recent years, JICA contributed to transportation in the city, where people could only drive slowly because of road damage, and by paving the roads people use on a daily basis, it has assisted with the creation of a living environment that allows people to easily make trips even in the snow or rain.
What's more, as a countermeasure to the three major infectious diseases of tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria, the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, which offers inpatient treatment, was completed in August 2013 with JICA's assistance. Patients who had to undergo outpatient treatment because there were no inpatient facilities were forced to scrape together transportation and living expenses while undergoing treatment and were often impeded from continuing their treatment. The hospital is helping improve this situation.
The Japanese flag is flown at the departures and arrivals gate at Kabul International Airport as an expression of gratitude for Japanese assistance with the construction of the airport.
2014 is a year of deciding, by means of a presidential election, which path the Afghan people should take. Many challenges remain, such as corruption and achieving peace, but in the future, as it heads toward self-sufficiency, it will become important for the Afghan government to independently perform such functions as maintaining and administering roads and offering basic services to the Afghan people, without depending on the international community and NGOs.
In the past 10 years, we have seen the international community assist with offering educational and health services to the people of Afghanistan, bypassing the Afghan government, which has tended toward immaturity in administrative capacity. Through assistance to the government, JICA is paving the way for the government to itself offer services to residents.
JICA will continue to support from the sidelines the people of Afghanistan, who play the leading role in the recovery and development of their country.