Taking Afghanistan out of the ruins: Building trust in states institutions

Sayed Ikram Afzali | @SIAfzali 
Executive Director, Integrity Watch Afghanistan

Marathon efforts were made after the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan to rebuild the Afghan state. However, most of these efforts, even though well-intentioned, did not go very far in rebuilding the state and citizens’ trust in state institutions in the war-torn country. In fact, many of the efforts were counterproductive and this in turn led to the prevalence of conflict, corruption and a culture of impunity. The 2018 National Corruption Survey findings showed that 73% of the people do not trust local public services and that “there is a strong sense [among citizens] that people in government, NGOs and international organizations are only out to benefit themselves.” A low turn-out in the recent elections is another indication of the trust deficit. Therefore, it is critical to understand rebuilding state intuitions from a trust-building perspective.

What is trust? Trust, at an interpersonal level, is a belief in the intentions or skills of someone in your personal network. Social trust is a belief in strangers, in the reliability and integrity of another person that we do not know – a “faith in people.” Political trust is trust in political institutions. Lack of or low level of trust can have many negative consequences for a society, such as decreasing human happiness, degradation of stability and the breaking out of conflict. It can also lead to a prevalence of corruption and injustice.

One of the underlying causes of conflict breaking out in a society is where there is a low level of trust– stability. Prosperity cannot be realized in a society where people feel they are being cheated or treated unfairly. In contrast, states which have been able to preserve stability for a long time, such as Sweden, have a high level of trust. Continue reading…