Through the years, the two countries consolidated their friendship, and it is well known that Italy gave hospitality to two Afghan kings when they were forced into exile (Amanullah in 1928, Zaher Shah in 1973).
A first form of active cooperation between the two countries was the Italian Archeological Mission in Afghanistan, which has been operating 1957. The Mission was suspended following the political events in the late 1970s and resumed its fieldwork in 2002 in Ghazni, its traditional area of operation.
Italian Cooperation, now the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation – IADC, has been present in the country since immediately after the end of the Taliban regime, and, since then, Afghanistan has remained one of the priority countries for official Italian Development Aid.
The Tokyo International Conference on Afghanistan (2002) set the basis for the donor community’s commitment for reconstruction. Since then, Italy has actively contributed, together with 57 countries and 22 international organizations, with a budget of EUR 1 Billion every year, to consolidate institutions and improve the living conditions of the population, in line with the National Priorities Programs – NPPs of the Afghan Government and with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
Over the years, the added value of Italian Cooperation has grown, and this was confirmed by the Development Cooperation Dialogue in 2018, when the Afghan authorities renewed their appreciation for Italian action. From its side, the Afghan Government asked IADC Kabul to focus its work on certain sectors and projects in order to maximize their impact, reduce transaction and logistic costs and allow effective monitoring. The priority areas of intervention agreed were mainly:
infrastructure and connectivity;
sustainable agriculture, food security and environment;
enhancement of cultural heritage and urban planning;
justice and good governance;
Public Health, Private sector development, Gender equality and Humanitarian aid also remain traditional areas of intervention.
The IADC interventions criteria and methods are ruled by two Agreements with the Afghan Government: the Development Cooperation Framework Agreement (signed in 2010) and the wider Bilateral Partnership Cooperation Agreement (signed in 2012). The Italian commitment made at the Brussels Conference (2016) makes provisions for annual financing of 45 MEUR through soft loans and grants.
At present, the total investment portfolio in the country includes 42 projects, for a total of 389 MEUR, through grants and loans managed on the bilateral, multilateral, and multibilateral, channels.
Through the credit lines Italy is providing funds for several large projects worth almost € 200M. This approach of using very “soft” loans is in line with both International Monetary Fund’s and OECD-DAC policies.
The Programming and Policy Planning Document 2016-2018 confirms for the three years 2017-2019, 22 priority Countries for the Italian Cooperation: Afghanistan, together with Pakistan and Myanmar, for Asia. For Afghanistan the 2019 financial portfolio is set at 90 MEUR, one of the top beneficiaries of IADC action.
The interventions aim at the eradication of poverty through the reduction of inequalities, with particular reference to gender and equal opportunities, to support good governance and an effective access to jobs and services, the establishment and strengthening of the rule of law, the assertion of human rights and dignity of all individuals and communities.
With its contribution to trust funds and through multilateral programs, IADC Kabul action operates at the national level. As for the bilateral level, it is concentrated in the Province of Herat, and, increasingly, in the Province of Bamiyan.