Review of Afghanistan’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals

Ahmad Abid Humayun, in collaboration of Dr. Inshah Malik
Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), Global Impact Management Consultancy

The United Nation’s Agenda 2030 constitutes of 17 sustainable development goal (SDGs), and 169 targets. It was conceptualized in “Rio+20” conference on sustainable development in 2012. These conference proceedings eventually led to its adoption in 2015. On September 25, 2015, 193 countries adopted the agenda and pledged to include the agenda into their national development frameworks. The Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah pledged on behalf of government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) and thus Afghanistan is one of first 193 countries to have adopted the agenda. Furthermore, GoIRA designated the Ministry of Economy (MoEc) as the lead ministry for incorporation, coordination, reporting, monitoring and evaluation of the progress. The government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan followed a phased method to the practical application of SDGs. The three phases were nationalization (March 2016-May 2017), alignment (July 2017-December 2018) and implementation (Jan 2018-2030).

United Nations Development program (UNDP) has aided the three phased SDG implementation in Afghanistan. UNDP contributed to enhancing the capacities of national institutions, and helped them to better plan, budget and respond to development priorities. In addition, UNDP improved Ministry of Economy’s capacity to monitor and evaluate the progress on nationalization process. In the nationalization phase between 2016-2017, GoIRA also established the SDG executive committee which has 4 additional working groups (WGs)—firstly, Security and Governance, secondly, Agriculture and Rural Development, thirdly Education, Health and Social Protection, and lastly infrastructure and economy. The executive committee, along with the WGs, Line ministries, CSOs at national, provincial and district levels established a mechanism for implementation and accountability. GoIRA also produced a comparative matrix of national development goals and SDGs in both its programs and budget allocations.

In the alignment phase, GoIRA aligned all SDG goals with National Strategic Plans and Policies—Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF) and National Priority Programs (NPPs). In 2017, GoIRA presented a Voluntary National Review (VNR) report at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) of United Nations indicates that nationalization was undertaken and could reach many of its milestones.

For SDGs’ alignment Phase, GoIRA’s Ministry of Economy published a report on Alignment of SDGs with National Priority Programs. The report after reviewing the alignment process concluded in following words:

“After a comparison of the specific themes and program components of NPPs against ASDG targets, it was found that most of the NPPs were partially aligned with ASDGs” (Pp. 24)

GoIRA in its presentation at South Asia Forum on Sustainable Development Goals in 2019 claimed to be on track with many alignment tasks. The concerns about non-availability of data that were raised by many CSO’s GoIRA reported the availability of data to be at 84%. Furthermore, on the alignment phase, the GoIRA claimed to have aligned its ANPDF and NPPs at 86% and 80% respectively on all 17 SDGs. Additionally, in its 2019 update, GoIRA shared a list of 35 main activities of which it claimed to have achieved 25.

Key Areas of Concern

As early as 2017, some of the key areas of concerns around GoIRA’s nationalization of SDGs’ were raised. These concerns spanned from criticism of nationalization process as newly nationalized targets and indicators did not sufficiently represent SDGs, the centralization of processes and programs impeded multisectoral approach to SDGs and lastly the non-participation of CSO’s, private sector entities, universities and academic institutions. However, the CSOs, Private sector and academic institutions are taking individual initiatives for inclusion of SDGs into their programmatic framework, as they also consistently contribute in various sectors and priority programs.

In addition, to the technical and moral challenges to this exercise, GoIRA, on the sidelines continued to face the existential crises brought about by fighting a robust insurgent group, Taliban. GoIRA continued to rely on irregular groups for fighting its war against Taliban. Many reported this as an essential reason for the hike in the civilian causalities. On November 20, 2018, prosecutor of International Criminal Court (ICC) asked the court’s judge for permission to open and investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Taliban and affiliated forces, Afghan national security forces and US armed forced and the central intelligence agency since, May 1, 2003.

Like 2018, the SDG mission faced many road bumps in 2019, as GoIRA struggled with deepening security crises. As the country’s security situation worsened, the rates of civilian deaths spiked even more. The humanitarian situation remained abysmal as severe droughts and internal displacement generated a crisis beyond measure. The flawed and contested parliamentary election further impacted the alignment processes.

With the insecurity precedent as it unfolded in 2018-2019, an assessment and review of Afghanistan’s SDGs remains in doldrums due to significant political and economic challenges emanating particularly since 2019, and now more so with the United States Government’s Peace Deal with the Taliban. This deal is welcomed with a mixed response by the Afghan nation while some dismayed over the impact such a prospect can have on the nation-building exercise of the GoIRA while raising hopes about halting the long-term war and violence that has torn the civil and public life.

While the 2019 presidential elections declared Ashraf Ghani victorious again with 53% vote, however, his presidency was challenged by his contender Abdullah Abdullah who vowed to create his own government. The recent election has left the country with a divided cabinet and two presidents, furthers pointing towards the looming threat to the stability of the country. As we speak the global threat of Covid 19 pandemic further derails the process of implementation of SDGs in Afghanistan.

National Alternative Report

About: The National Alternative Report (NAR) solicited by Social Watch will be based on a qualitive research undertaken jointly by Sanayee Development Organization and Global Impact Management Consulting- a consultancy firm based in Afghanistan. The NAR highlights CSO independent initiatives and actions taken in collaboration of GoIRA for aiding and strengthening the application of SDGs in Afghanistan. Owing to the massive political, security and administrative challenges, a civil society assessment of the SDG implementation particularly between 2019-2020 is imperative. This report aids the process of strengthening the civil society to influence national, political, security decisions that are to the detriment of the people of Afghanistan.

Objectives of this report

  1. To ascertain the progress made in terms of achievement of SDG goals in Afghanistan.
  2. To map Civil Society and private sector contribution and initiative for SDG implementation in Afghanistan.
  3. To identify and explore key technical and political barriers affecting the achievement of SDG goals in Afghanistan.


This research employs a qualitative approach, with desk research of reports published by key stakeholders like UNDP and Ministry of Economy (MoEc) and Key Informant Interviews(KIIs) and Focused Group Discussions (FGDs) with key officials in the MoEc, identified key CSO actors and Private sector influencers. This research employs Global Development Framework (GDF) and the Afghan National Development Framework (ANDF) to frame Interview guides and questions.


Afghan Women's Educational Center (AWEC), C. A. (2019 ). Working Together: Afghanistan Sustainable Goals. Kabul: AWEC.

(2019). Aligning National Priority Programs(NPPs) with Afghanistan Sustainable Development Goals (ASDGs). Kabul: Ministry of Economy, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Najifizada, S. A. (2017). Policy Research Institutions and Health Sustainable Development Goals. Kabul: Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.

Recent Development of Afghanistan (SDGs-ASDGs). (2019, June 19). Retrieved from

The Current Situation in Afghanistan. (2019, May 1). Retrieved from

Voluntary National Review at High Level Political Forum: SDG's Progress Report Afghanistan. (2017, July 1). Retrieved from