Creating Public-Private-Military Partnerships to Fill Administrative and Financial Gaps in U.S. Infrastructure Reconstruction Projects in Afghanistan

By Jackson Celestin 

On March 11, 2016, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko released a report reviewing 45 Department of Defense (DOD) reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Of the 45 projects, 28 did not meet structural contract requirements or technical specifications, 16 were structurally deficient to the point that they were considered unsafe for use, and 7 of the 15 completed projects had never been used. According to Sopko, the projects suffered from inadequate contractors, project management and oversight; and faulty building materials. To limit deficient projects, Sopko suggested the DOD improve its project planning and design procedures, hire contractors who are qualified and capable of complying with construction requirements, and conduct adequate oversight to guarantee that projects are built to protocol and contractors are held accountable

 Though Sopko’s recommendations are reasonable solutions, they ignore larger trends visible in the U.S.’ reconstruction budget in Afghanistan. Of the $114.92 billion the U.S. has spent since 2002 through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund, the DOD has dedicated $10.68 billion (9 percent) to Operations and Oversight and only $990 million (less than 1 percent) to the main infrastructure fund, the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund (AIF).

Between Sopko’s report and the allocation of U.S. reconstruction funds in Afghanistan, there appears to be an expertise, administration, and funding gap that is preventing the United States from establishing sustainable infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. In the field of international development, this is a common challenge, and more agencies are turning to public-private partnerships (PPPs) to address it. Inspired by PPPs in international development, this blog presents a new model that partners the public and private sectors with the military. This article will refer to this model as Public-Private-Military Partnerships (PPMPs). Though they may face challenges in attracting private investors, working with low starting budgets, and addressing anti-Western and anti-military perceptions, PPMPs can combine the groups’ comparative advantages to fill the knowledge and funding gap in the United States’ Afghanistan reconstruction projects. They can also further connect the military to global development for better military assistance in conflict areas and help conflict and post-conflict areas to pursue global development and sustainability goals.

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This graph is an original creation of the author, Jackson Celestin, based on data from the July 30, 2016 SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress.

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Youth at Risk: How can the Private Sector help Nigeria Fight Boko Haram?

By Catarina Santos

Introduction

Since 2007, Nigeria has attracted the most foreign direct investment in Sub-Sahara Africa due to its well-developed legal and banking systems. However, Boko Haram’s spread of violence to regions where oil and gas are extracted is now intimidating investors. Economically empowering youth is a key piece in this puzzle: the private sector needs a workforce, and youth need employment opportunities as an alternative to joining insurgent groups. Although radicalized Nigerians have not yet reached European or American cities, the potential for global economic impact from terrorism in Nigeria deserves attention. This article discusses the importance of the private sector’s involvement in fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria and recommends that the private sector focus on engaging in the northeast region of the country. The private sector should provide capacity building in various skills, especially sustainable agriculture practices; support youth education; and provide financial grants in areas that government programs have not reached.

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A youth rally in Lagos, Nigeria in September 2012. Youth compose a significant portion of Nigerian society and lack economic opportunities, making them vulnerable to recruitment by Boko Haram. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Temi Kogbe, under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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Buy Social: A New Way for International Organizations to Create Social Impact

By Waka Itagaki

Introduction

International organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank have significant purchasing power. In 2014, the UN purchased $17.2 billion in their procurement process. Despite this purchasing power, international organizations have arguably not made the most of it to generate social impact across the world. “Buy Social,” a procurement process that seeks not only economic value but also social and/or environmental impact, has the potential to be transformative. This article highlights the benefits and challenges of Buy Social compared to “Socially Responsible Procurement,” and recommends that international organizations implement Buy Social.

Background

There is no widely agreed term to describe this kind of socially conscious procurement. This article uses “Buy Social” but other names include “Social Procurement,” “Socially Impactful Procurement,” “Social Impact Purchasing,” “Social Purchasing,” and “Socially Impactful Purchasing.” It is important to note that Buy Social is different from Socially Responsible Procurement, which is already implemented by international organizations.

Socially Responsible Procurement applies negative or positive screens to bidders by using a “do no harm” approach. For example, the UN buys from companies that meet labor standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Socially responsible procurement typically only considers if a bidder is a business with social consideration, and does not measure the outcomes.

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Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads: Drones in International Development

By Aaron Milner

Introduction

Poor infrastructure and weak logistics limit development effectiveness.  Governments invested over $130 billion in official development assistance (ODA) into the world’s poorest countries in 2015, but billions of people still lack access to food, water, healthcare, internet, and electricity.  Traditional development often cannot deliver immediate results to communities, tax payers, and investors.  Developing countries plagued by financial and political instability wait in limbo for long-term development project completion to provide basic public goods.  New technology, however, expedites development delivery.  Private companies are experimenting with technological alternatives to traditional infrastructure—such as drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—to reach more people for less money.  Beyond expense, drones are a flexible development tool.  The same network that patrols South Africa for poachers can track drought patterns.  Whereas an expensive road is permanent to one location, drones can cover vast geographies in a short time to achieve diverse goals.

This post explores how cost-effective and creative technology—specifically drones—could solve large-scale issues and jump start progress in developing countries.  A survey of the various companies using drones leads into an analysis that explores the question:  Do developing countries need to undertake expansive infrastructure projects to reach their initial goals?

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Photo courtesy of Zipline

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Women in Afghanistan: To Be Seen But Not Heard

By Catarina Santos

Visitors to Afghanistan today might see a visible sign of the nation’s progress toward gender equality – women walking to university.  While women were not allowed to attend university under the Taliban, today around 26,000 women participate in higher education. However, despite significant improvements in the past decade, critical challenges still impact Afghan women’s ability to fully participate in society. Lack of female empowerment is still a barrier to sustainable development in Afghan society, economy, and governance.

An upcoming opportunity to discuss further developments will be the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, which will be co-hosted by the Afghan government and the European Union in October. This conference will be a chance for the Afghan government to share their vision, establish plans for the future, and discuss how the international community can help. To achieve the goal of equal access for women, Afghan leadership will need to first understand the status quo of women in Afghanistan and consider two key hindrances to gender equality. First, female government officials are figureheads instead of agents of change. Second, there is an empowerment gap between those women sitting in governmental offices and the majority that is still constrained by traditional conservatism. After looking at these challenges, stakeholders must decide what opportunities lie ahead? What else can be done to advance women’s integration and recognition?

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