Skip to content

A bold and holistic vision for Afghanistan’s urban future, grounded in a strategic and implementable framework of catalytic projects and policies

Strategic Development Frameworks for Five Cities in Afghanistan

World Bank, Afghanistan Ministry of Urban Development and Land (MUDL)
Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Khost, and Mazar, Afghanistan
Planning and Urban Design
Completed June 2020
Fast Co. World Changing Ideas Awards, Honorable Mention—Urban Design category
Boston Society of Landscape Architects, Excellence Award – Analysis & Planning

For centuries, Afghan cities were hubs of international commerce and culture. Today, amidst three decades of instability, the country is struggling to leverage economic and cultural assets to create prosperous cities and meet the basic needs of the country’s growing urban population.

Working closely with President Ashraf Ghani and the Ministry of Urban Development and Land, Sasaki worked to develop a bold vision to guide strategic development in five of Afghanistan’s largest cities: Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Khost, and Mazar-e-Sharif. These visions will enable local governments to build towards the future while addressing the immediate challenges that each Afghan city faces: informality and affordable housing, the preservation of cultural heritage, protection of water resources, and the development of resilient infrastructure to mitigate environmental hazards. The Strategic Development Frameworks themselves, as planning and policy documents, articulate a clear vision and establish a roadmap for future investment in each city. Together, they define a cohesive approach to urban planning at the national scale while building management capacity at the local level.

An Inclusive Approach to National and Local Policy

Fragmentation across sectors and a lack of capacity at the local level is a challenge faced by many developing countries. In Afghanistan, the SDFs were intended to support a much larger effort to build the management capacity of individual cities and to unite different ministries around a cohesive overarching vision. At the highest levels of government, Sasaki was fortunate enough to work closely with President Ashraf Ghani and the leadership of the Ministry of Urban Development and Land, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livelihoods. Each of these leaders emphasized the importance of an inclusive approach that engaged local government and civil society leaders, and reflected the experiences and needs of the most vulnerable Afghans. Sasaki worked closely with a team of local planning and development consultants to develop a comprehensive outreach and engagement process, with an emphasis on women, IDPs, and youth:

  • Over 4,000 Household Surveys
  • Over 250 Key Informant Interviews
  • Over 40 Focus Group Discussions

A stakeholder workshop was also held in each city with key stakeholders and implementation partners. The first component of each workshop focused on eliciting information about the cities through a SWOT session and the identification of key drivers and critical themes. Stakeholders were then asked to prioritize goals, actions, and potential commitments for implementation. At the conclusion of each workshop, an open house presentation and visioning session was held, to include a larger group of community leaders and civil society stakeholders.

Resilient and Equitable Strategies for Urban Growth

Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Khost, and Mazar are political, economic and cultural hubs for their respective regions within Afghanistan. The Strategic Development Frameworks cross scales and sectors; they look beyond municipal boundaries and take into account the complex realities of how each city functions within Afghanistan’s urban-rural continuum. Each SDF was organized into five thematic areas, highlighting the need to for cross-sectoral cooperation while identifying specific actors for implementation.

Theme 1: Urban Growth and Development addressed the rapid population growth experienced by Afghan cities and articulated a sustainable strategy for each city to absorb this new population over the next 20 years

Theme 2: Resilient Communities developed approaches to the most pressing challenges faced by Afghanistan’s cities, from basic infrastructure to women’s rights

Theme 3: Heritage and Cultural Landscapes sought to protect and leverage the considerable natural and built heritage in each city

Theme 4: Livelihoods and the Agricultural Economy identified the competitive advantages of each city, developed strategies to strengthen economic value chains, and envisioned each city as a gateway for international trade and investment.

Theme 5: Inclusive Planning and Governance focused on policies and initiatives to strengthen institutional capacity at the local and national levels

A Data-Driven Approach with Measurable Outcomes

In addition to building consensus through stakeholder outreach, Sasaki used an evidence-based approach to develop a roadmap for investment and decision making in each city. In a country that has not had a national census since the 1970s, collecting and verifying data was no easy task. Drawing on every source available – from global land-use datasets to our own household survey, Sasaki developed a Baseline Data Assessment to map each city and develop benchmarks. This data provided a common, informative foundation for engagement with stakeholders and drives the assessment of strategies and goals for the Strategic Development Frameworks.

For more information contact Dennis Pieprz.

Sasaki colorful logo Sasaki 中文