Geospatial analysis and mapping have a critical role to play in reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected regions. This report explains the core problem in typical data collection techniques: bias. Data is collected only where collection is safe and thus is not representative. To be more effective, development programs need more in-depth analysis of their reconstruction efforts, even in the most insecure spaces.

Summary

  • Current methods of monitoring and evaluation in conflict-affected environments such as Afghanistan have typically focused on achievements in more secure and accessible areas where international investment is higher and the population has historically been more attuned to the interests of the state.
  • The institutional interests of donors and an overreliance on quantitative data collection techniques, such as polling, has led to this bias in assessing the impact of programs.
  • Thus, international organizations often find themselves blind to the outcomes of their investments and to the experience of the population in more contested areas, where state fragility is highest.
  • As the conflict has worsened in Afghanistan, oversight of foreign assistance has become even more circumspect. Concerns are growing as to whether current methods offer any-thing but the most cursory review of program expenditures and outputs.
  • To better understand the outcomes of foreign assistance in conflict-affected environments, we need to supplement existing data collection techniques with geospatial analysis and mapping, combined with well-focused fieldwork.
  • Although not a panacea, the advent of lower cost and more accessible high-resolution imagery combined with a growing inventory of investments with corresponding global positioning system (GPS) coordinates can support more in-depth analysis of the delivery of infrastructure and agricultural inputs, as well as their subsequent effects, even in the most insecure space.

About the Report

This report addresses the oversight of reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected environments. Following on from a symposium discussion, this report explains how existing data collection techniques might be supplemented by high-resolution geospatial imagery and analysis and well-focused fieldwork to improve oversight, particularly where state fragility is most extreme. The symposium—“Monitoring and Management in Insecure Environments: Applying Best Practices to Afghanistan”—was sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

About the Author

David Mansfield is an independent researcher who has conducted in-depth fieldwork in rural Afghanistan for eighteen consecutive years. His research has evolved with the worsening security situation in rural areas and increasingly combines fieldwork in some of the most insecure parts of rural Afghanistan with detailed geospa-tial analysis and mapping. Currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University, Mansfield has a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Related Publications

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

After nearly 40 years of war, Afghanistan and the international community are urgently seeking paths for a peace process. But amid the tentative efforts—a three-day ceasefire in June, the peace march across the country by hundreds of Afghans and talks by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad—a somber question hangs for women and human rights advocates. How can Afghanistan make peace with the Taliban while protecting democracy and women’s rights?

Gender; Religion; Peace Processes

How to Secure Afghanistan’s Future

How to Secure Afghanistan’s Future

Monday, December 10, 2018

By: William Byrd

From a diplomatic and process standpoint, Geneva Conference on Afghanistan was generally seen as a success by participants (though some countries were not represented at the minister level), and the Afghan government showcased the progress it made in implementing reforms and national priority programs over the past two years. But what did the GCA accomplish substantively, what was left undone, and what questions were left unanswered?

Democracy & Governance; Economics & Environment

Johnny Walsh on Election Season in Afghanistan

Johnny Walsh on Election Season in Afghanistan

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

By: Johnny Walsh

As Afghans wait for official results from the parliamentary polls, Johnny Walsh says that the country is already entering “high political season” in preparation for the critical April 2019 presidential election. Although the Taliban continues to carry out high-profile attacks across the country, Walsh says that many Afghans are focused on the presidential polls and its implications for the peace process.

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications