What Italy is doing in Afghanistan in terms of development cooperation?
This was the issue presented at the meeting between the three Italian components of cooperation (Italian Agency for Development Cooperation - IADC, Italian military contingent within the Mission Resolute Support, the Italian Embassy) and the Editors in chief of the most important international and local newspapers in Afghanistan, which took place last June 12 at the Italian Embassy in Kabul.
Mr. Mauro Ghirotti, Head of the IADC Afghanistan Office, briefly presented the following activities the infrastructural area:
- The construction of the Maidanshar – Bamiyan road: a tract of 136 kilometers that has considerably reduced the connecting times between Bamiyan and the Afghan capital from 10 hours to 3 hours.
- The construction of the Chisti e Sharif highway, a 155 km long road along the Harirud valley, first part of the east-west central corridor that would cut the distance from Herat to Kabul to about 750 km.
- The upgrade to the International Civil Aviation Organization standards of the Herat airport. Currently the airport the manages 350.000 passengers, even if the estimate passenger volume could be 1 M per year, that could attract interest for Afghanistan and major neighbor and regional Countries.
- The Harirud bridge, a project to be completed in order to make functional the Herat By-Pass.
- The Khaf Herat railway: the construction of the fourth segment of the railway connecting Khaf (Iran) to Herat, as part of a much wider plan including connections to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
Mr. Ghirotti explained that all these projects are elements of the intermodal transportation strategy implemented by the Agency, which aims at promoting the regional connectivity and the socio-economic development. Italian Cooperation has contributed for around 320 million euros for building roads, bridges and planning new interventions in the infrastructural area. The financial amount invested in the infrastructural sector corresponds to 82% of the volume of IADC initiatives implemented in the Country.
Then has been presented the sector of culture and sustainable development in the Country. In the Bamiyan Valley, known for the destruction by Taliban of the giant stone Buddha, Italy has three projects focused on the creation of an archaeological park, the preservation of the site of Shar e Golgola, an ancient citadel perched on a rock conquered by the ferocity of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, and the development of sustainable tourism in the region and urban planning. Through an integrated approach, IADC wants to promote culture as a tool of affirming national identity and as a development opportunity. And in this context the twinning initiative between the city of Bamiyan and the city of Matera (European Capital of Culture 2019) was born, which IADC is promoting. Both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, they bear an extraordinary resemblance due to their geophysical and anthropological conformation.
Captain Marianna Calò, Gender Advisor of the Deputy Commander of the NATO Resolute Support Mission, illustrated the activities of civil cooperation implemented by the military (CIMIC) and support for gender empowerment in the region of Herat, where Italy is present from start of the mission Born in 2002. Courses for journalists, training for the Afghan female armed forces, construction of hospitals and schools (including the one dedicated to the Italian journalist Maria Grazia Cutuli, who died in Afghanistan in 2001), courses to promote female employment are among the activities implemented by the Italian contingent that actively contribute to gender empowerment.
From the Italian Embassy have been illustrated how the Italian government is promoting female participation within the Afghan forces. Through two specific funds (“Afghan National Army - ANA - Trust Fund” and the “Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan - LOTFA”), Italy in fact contributes to the consolidation of the Afghan defense and security military forces also through the construction of building for military women, such as the city of female police, a pediatric center for assistance to the families of the armed forces and a training center for military nurses.
The session ended with a moment of debate and deepening analysis between journalists, experts and the diplomatic corps: although the political curiosity on the future of Afghanistan and on the role of Italy has accompanied the moment of confrontation, the curiosity and the appreciation for the initiatives were the characterizing elements of the meeting.
Based on the financial volume of the IADC initiatives and the contribution to the reform of the Afghan security system (through the LOTFA), in 2017 Italy was the ninth global donor for the civil sector in Afghanistan (data OECD-DAC and UNDP ) and the third donor in the defense sector (with the ANA Trust Fund).
A result that rewards the commitment of those who, since 2002, have come to the Afghan Country to contribute to its development.