A Day in Mazar with the Korean Ambassador
25 July 2016, Mazar-e-Sharif – Last week, we were in Mazar-e-Sharif, where, thanks to generous support from the Republic of Korea, UNDP has helped to improve local governance and support local women as they build successful businesses.
- The Republic of Korea has supported UNDP’s work in local governance and gender in Mazar-e-Sharif and across Afghanistan.
- Now local government services are faster and more transparent.
- Local women have seen their incomes increase sevenfold.
- UNDP’s new LoGo project is building on this work to further strengthen local governance and empower civil society organisations to monitor results.
First stop was the municipality’s Customer Service Centre – a one-stop-shop for citizens to access government services. Here, transactions that used to take days, like paying taxes or renewing licenses, can now be done in hours or minutes. UNDP-trained government staff are on hand to give advice, and a host of services can be accessed in one clean, convenient place.
“In the past, we had to go from office to office for several days and there was no one to guide us,” said local business man, Mohammad Kabir. But today, Mohammad managed to renew his business license in less than an hour.
In the local government office next to the Customer Service Centre, Ambassador Chin met with local government staff who thanked him for making UNDP’s programmes possible in Mazar-e-Sharif.
“Before I was one of those people who couldn’t use a computer,” said Engineer Mohammad Ashim. “But now I can… and not just the internet!”
Better trained staff mean quicker services for local citizens, further helping to cut the time and effort needed to deal with government paperwork.
Another key part of UNDP’s work on local government is empowering civil society organizations to play a role in decision making and monitoring service delivery. These groups help make sure that when plans are being drawn up for new roads, schools, clinics or other services, they reflect the real needs of local people and that public funds are spent in the most transparent and effective way. This is one of the main focuses of UNDP’s new Local Governance project, called LoGo, which kicked off in September 2015.
Next stop is a women’s cooperative in a suburb of Mazar-e-Sharif, where 47 women produce pickles, preserves, spaghetti and other goods for sale in local markets.
Before UNDP got involved, the cooperative was struggling to make money. But after we provided equipment, training and help to access new markets, the co-op’s income jumped from less than US$100 a month to nearly US$700.
Now the women are using their savings to buy land and build a new production facility that will hugely increase their output. They’re also taking on new staff.
“I’d like to thank the people of the Republic of Korea for their generous and long-standing support,” said Douglas Keh, UNDP Afghanistan’s Country Director. “Without this funding, local government services would not be as efficient and far fewer Afghan women would have a chance to realize their full potential.”