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Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Zia Highlights National Solidarity Program during U.S. Visit


Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Mohammad Ehsan Zia traveled to the U.S. from April 14-26 to participate in a conference at George Mason University. The conference, “US/Canadian Engagement in Afghanistan,” brought together numerous scholars and field practitioners to discuss the state of Afghanistan’s security and development missions in order to further analyze the “whole of government approach.”

At numerous public events and meetings, Minister Zia discussed rural development and enterprise and the National Solidarity Program (NSP)—a program that is bringing sustainable economic development to rural areas through community empowerment, mobilization and local governance while significantly reducing cost, waste and corruption. Since 2003, the NSP has reached over 15.4 million Afghans in over 20,000 communities. These communities have democratically Community Development Councils in nearly all of 364 districts, which in turn have been partially or fully financed over 35,000 community development projects.


“The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development is one of the major actors in the developmental arena of Afghanistan and has in recent years been expanding its services into the country’s remotest corners…in order to form the much needed links between the Government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, whilst creating a situation in which people could influence their own destiny,” said Minister Zia during his keynote address at George Mason.  “In any post conflict environment the crucial thing is re-establishment of a relationship of trust between the state institutions of government and the citizens of a country.”

The Minister discussed the creation and execution of the Kandahar model, an Afghan-generated development model crafted specifically to fit the insecure environment in southern Afghanistan. The Minister announced that the success of the NSP is being extended to a variety of other iniatives; the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Programme is intended to harness the potential of the private sector for rural employment and income generation, while the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan is establishing credit in many rural areas where would-be entrepreneurs have been forced to sit on the sidelines during the recent surge in Afghanistan’s GDP growth. Microfinance has been an essential building block in improving the lives of Afghanistan’s rural poor, and has made a remarkable impact on the lives of impoverished women and widows.  As of March 2008 nearly 70% of approximately 430,000 clients are women involved in various small businesses. 

Following the George Mason conference, Minister Zia participated in a roundtable with Senate staffers hosted by the Afghan Advocacy Group, and met with Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich), Wayne Allard (D-CO), Ben Nelson (D-Mont), Kit Bond (R-Miss), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) and Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY), Nicole Gillibrand (D-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). 

Minister Zia discussed the connection between security and development with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Central Asia Mitchell Shivers and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Richard Boucher. The Minister discussed agricultural development, mirco-enterprise and the national solidarity program with Acting Deputy Administrator of USAID Jim Kunder and Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schaffer. 

Minister Zia gave detailed presentations on the status of Afghanistan’s development plans to business leaders and representatives from NGOs at roundtables hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the State Department. The Minister also attended the launch of the Institute for State Effectiveness in New York.

Minister Zia concluded his trip with a public speaking engagement at the United States Institute of Peace titled, "Kick-starting the Virtuous Cycle? Security, Development, and Governance in Afghanistan.” 

CLICK HERE to hear Minister Zia's speech at USIP


To read more about rural development in Afghanistan, visit the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development website

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