Population growth rate
Fixed and mobile telephone subscribers per 100 people
Life expectancy (at birth)
Primary school dropout rate
Afghanistan served as a buffer between the British and Russian Empires until it won its independence from the British in 1919. A brief experiment in democracy ended in a 1973 coup and a 1978 Communist counter-coup. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to support the tottering Afghan Communist regime, touching off a long and destructive war.
The USSR withdrew in 1989 under pressure by internationally supported anti-Communist rebels. A series of subsequent civil wars saw Kabul finally fall in 1996 to the Taliban, a hardline Pakistani-sponsored movement that emerged in 1994 to end the country's civil war and anarchy.
Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S., Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces toppled the Taliban for sheltering Osama Bin Ladin. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution, a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. In December 2004, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan and the National Assembly was inaugurated the following December. Karzai was re-elected in August 2009 for a second term.
Security remains Afghanistan's key challenge. Despite some progress in the situation remains challenging in large parts of the country. Many parts of the South and East remain inaccessible to international aid workers due to continuing anti‐government activity. Other areas of the country have also experienced a deterioration in the security situation, largely due to increases in criminal activity Likewise, law and order has also been a national challenge, with high-turnover rates, lack of professionalism, and a decreasing presence of international security forces.
More than 30 years of war, tension, and insurgent violence have left a heavy toll on Afghanistan's institutions and its way of life. According to UNDP's 2012 Human Development Report, the country ranked among the lowest countries, ranking 175th (0.374). Factoring into this low score are endemic challenges of poverty (36%), low participation of women in the national workforce, and a high dropout rate for children (54.6%). Nearly half of Afghanistan's children have never set foot in a classroom.
But there are pockets of success in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has one of the lowest per capita rates of electricity consumption in the world. In 2007 only seven percent of the population had access to electricity, according to Government data. Since then, that figure has risen to about 30 percent, thanks to an increase in imported electricity and the construction of micro hydroelectric and solar panel stations.
UNDP has funded the construction of 18 micro hydroelectic power plants in Bamyan province, with a budget of $997,000 provided in part by the Governments of Denmark, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway and the European Union. The plants are currently generating a cumulative 196 kilowatts of electricity that is powering 2,163 households, benefiting more than 15,000 people.
Afghanistan is now recruiting and training women to join the national police force, which is only 1 percent female. A 2011 UNDP-sponsored police perception survey, 53 percent of Afghans said they were in favor of having female police officers in their community. By August 2012 there were a total of 1,445 female police officers spread across various ranks in the national police force, an increase of 1,000 since 2007 when the recruitment programme began. The police force added 1,000 women between 2007 and 2012, reaching a total of 1,445 female officers. The program hopes to recruit 5,000 women by June 2014.
And there has been steady measures to improve Afghanistan's tattered environment. Today, 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have Provincial Environment Advisory Councils, thanks to a nationwide environmental management initiative supported by UNDP in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, and with financial support from the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund.
The Councils are legally mandated by the central Government and meet twice a year. The 30-member Councils include mayors, heads of local government departments, community elders, the religious Ulema—made up of senior clerics and religious scholars—and representatives from women and youth civil society organizations. More than 8,000 trees have been planted, and saplings are being looked after by volunteers.
- 33.4 Million
- Area (in sq. km)
- Dari, Pashto
- Poverty rate
- Per capita income
- Human Development Index
- Median age
Sources: UNDP Human Development Report 2012