January 13, 2007

Jan. 13, 2007: #2 CIDA Evidence to Senate Committee


This is a revealing report.

Note: NGO's , shura , Women's Rights Promotion Fund , The Human Rights and Development Centre ...

I would guess the micro-financing program in Afghanistan refers to ARTF (More below).

Senator Atkins: Who administers the distribution of funds at the village level?


Ms. Verner: It is the NGOs.


Senator Atkins: Someone must be in charge to make decisions on the disbursements?

Mr. Baker: That would be the village shura
— the village elders working to identify village priorities. [Men? Women?]

Senator Atkins: Do you have any record of the success of the use of those funds?

Mr. Baker: Yes, there has been a solid success rate on the national programs in terms of the use of the funds and the lack of diversion of the funds. That has been verified by Price Waterhouse Coopers, which is acting as accountant for the World Bank through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, who handles the National Solidarity Program and MISFA, the Microfinance and Investment Support Facility Afghanistan.


Senator Atkins: You explained to my colleague the process of the distribution of finances. Could you take us through that once again, how it originates and how it gets down to the local level?


Ms. Verner: We have said that we will provide $100 million per year overall, $90 million for national programs covering the entire territory, including Kandahar. Moreover, 10 per cent of the budget goes to Kandahar. That gives you the overall picture of our financial support to Afghanistan. Perhaps my colleague can give you more specifics.


Senator Atkins: I understand the top end.

Mr. Baker: You want to take it to the bottom end.

Senator Atkins: Right.

Mr. Baker: Understanding that top end is key because the whole notion is that these programs are owned and designed by Afghanistan. That is the beauty of them in terms of their sustainability. As you move down through, government departments are responsible for various sector portfolios, just as in Canada. For example, rural reconstruction is responsible for implementing the National Solidarity Program. They, through their national and provincial directors, would work to reach out to the villages to identify the priorities for each village. That information is then rolled up by the districts and then by the provinces and is fed back to the national level. It is all at the hands of the bureaucracies of the actual ministries of the Government of Afghanistan.

Senator Atkins: The NGOs at the local level make a proposal to whom?

Mr. Baker: The village shura would determine which projects they want to go ahead with, confirm that with the implementer of the program — for instance, rural reconstruction is one ministry — and then locally selected NGOs would bid on doing that work and act as the contractor to implement it.

Senator Atkins: Who supervises to ensure that this money is being used for that purpose?

Mr. Baker: Both ARTF, the World Bank, for example, for the national programs under its bailiwick, plus the ministry involved in governing that activity right out to the village level, for example, the ministry of rural reconstruction and development.

Senator Atkins: Does the World Bank have a crew in Afghanistan?

Mr. Baker: The World Bank works with independent verification and accounting such as Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Mr. Tse: We look at it from an accountability perspective and the capacity to discharge funds related to the national programs. The World Bank has the capacity and the infrastructure; in particular, they have the means to engage a lot of Middle Eastern accounting firms to put in place the infrastructure for monitoring, for vetting the receipts and all these issues in Afghanistan. Over time, as these national programs go to the next phase, we will be able to look at other institutional capacity and government initiatives as well.


Senator Johnson: What kind of training are CIDA personnel given before they go to Afghanistan? [....]

Mr. Baker: Our effectiveness begins with the actual recruitment process when we bring our employees from CIDA to work on the Afghan program. We have a hostile environment that is very pertinent for Kandahar and somewhat pertinent for Kabul.

The actual development background of these experts is important. We draw in people with seasoned experience, often from South Asia itself, who have worked with our Pakistan or Bangladesh program. They are seasoned development experts. We bring them in at various levels of our program so that we have a nice mix of people learning the ropes, supporting us at headquarters. They work with extremely seasoned people such as our head of aid and our staff in the field in Kabul, who have been in many development situations before. By virtue of their development training, academic background and experience, they are completely well versed on taking on these challenges.

Mr. Tse: In addition, our colleagues at DND have programs for their civilian staff that deal with working in high security and high risk environments. We piggyback on those programs. Our British colleagues also give them training because they are working in the same high risk environment. The military has different modules. When the time is right, we send our young officers there as well.


Senator Johnson: Are the CIDA programs working in the women's centres? I know we are putting a lot of time into these programs. Given that women run the homes and raise the children and the families of the future, I think that is where a lot of the focus should be in rebuilding a country such as Afghanistan. I would appreciate it if you could elaborate on anything in that regard.


[Name of speaker omitted. Presumably it is Mr. Phillip Baker or Mr. Hau Sing Tse:] We have a micro-financing program in Afghanistan. First of all, I think we have to start by informing women of their rights. There is an organization, called Rights and Democracy, which does that type of work. Women tell other women, they tell their daughters; they send their daughters to school, and that is how, over time, women will be able to fully participate in Afghanistan. We have a 52-million-dollar micro-financing program underway in Afghanistan, as we said earlier on; and 157,000 clients have used it, 78 per cent of which were women.


There is also the Women's Rights Promotion Fund which received a 1.75-million-dollar CIDA contribution. The Human Rights and Development Centre advocates for women's rights through this promotional fund.

CIDA contributes $2.8 million to support the media. Through this project, women were trained in the field of communication and media in rural regions where most families have access to the radio.

The $90 million we were referring to earlier on also include a basic education initiative for girls in the order of three million dollars.

Maybe you should read that last sentence again. $3-Million out of $90-Million for basic education for girls? How much is going on the radios and to what purpose other than perhaps for organizing women ... for some purpose ... maybe for schooling once they learn their rights ... or for entertainment. Maybe Canadians could pay next for online education delivered via radio or cell phone? Provincial governments have been busily developing programs.

What are the implications? Think about it. Think about the women being provided with cell phones in Africa and elsewhere and consider to what purpose. It boggles the mind. By the way, I've read the sewing machine bought through microcredit story in several accounts about microcredit. Maybe there is another success story that could be used? It might be productive to check further into microcredit, and the banking tentacles being developed. Much intriguing information ... if anyone is interested.

Information follows on the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF)


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