Progress in Afghanistan

“Our contribution is important and it’s producing results”

Three questions for Carsten Schmitz-Hoffmann, GIZ’s Country Director in Afghanistan


Mr Schmitz-Hoffmann, the security situation in Afghanistan remains fragile. To what extent do the circumstances in the country actually allow for sustainable development cooperation?

You’re right. Stability and security are necessary to bring about sustainable development and social change. That’s why a key part of our work is dedicated to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan, as this gives us a basis for implementing activities that sustainably improve people’s lives. To achieve this, we work on behalf of both the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Foreign Office. Together with the Afghan people, we’ve already been able to bring about and consolidate some major improvements. For example, to date GIZ has constructed 120 schools and universities in Afghanistan and enabled more than 500,000 Afghans to take part in further training.

The highest level of security precautions are in place for GIZ staff because of the armed conflict. Indeed, parts of the country are off limits to international workers. How can you still engage in effective project work under conditions like this? 

I can’t deny that the security situation is a challenge for us. Our staff’s safety has top priority – and this responsibility and duty of care is built into our security strategy precisely to ensure that we can operate successfully. But we’re not stuck in some kind of ‘top security facility’. We are working at seven locations across the country and a lot of our projects are being implemented nationwide, always in close cooperation with international and national staff. 

If a project is located in a region that’s difficult for an international worker to get to, it’s overseen by highly qualified Afghan staff. Innovative management models and digital solutions are also helping us to implement and monitor complex projects.

Many of your activities focus on helping women in particular to obtain vocational qualifications. How does that tie in with traditional societal structures? How well does this sit with the locals?

Strengthening women’s rights and building their capacity is a key principle of our work. That’s why we’re not only very keen to actively involve women in our projects, but also frequently make them the actual project target group. More women entering the job market improves the prospects for entire families, as this raises their income. From a cultural standpoint, for example, it’s perfectly normal for women to work as teachers. This is because girls are only ever taught by female educators in Afghanistan. With women making up more than two thirds of course participants, our teacher training courses are having a doubly positive impact: more women working as teachers leads to more girls attending school. 

Our contribution is important and it’s producing results. Because of the country’s ongoing armed conflict and fragility, we often forget there are other challenges that can be met with development inputs. And that’s precisely our point of departure, one that leads to improved prospects for tens of thousands of people throughout the country.

October 2018

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