The Asia Foundation Releases Policy Recommendations Based on Largest Public Opinion Survey Ever Conducted in Afghanistan

Kabul and San Francisco, December 29, 2008 — Six Essays Analyze Afghan Perceptions on Democratic Values, Political Progress, Security and Women’s Advancement

Today, The Asia Foundation released “State Building, Security, and Social Change in Afghanistan: Reflections on a Survey of the Afghan People,” a collection of six essays that analyze in-depth the findings of the largest public opinion survey ever conducted in Afghanistan. The survey, “Afghanistan in 2008: A Survey of the Afghan People,” was preceded by similar surveys in 2004, 2006, and 2007. All essays in this analytical volume inform the Afghanistan policy debate currently under way. In doing so, they temper subjective views of the complex governance environment of Afghanistan with perspective and offer policy advice with a long-term view.

The volume, in addition to the 2008 Afghan public opinion poll on which it is based, can be downloaded in its entirety at

To interpret the 2008 survey’s findings, The Asia Foundation brought together nine expert analysts on political, social, and developmental issues in Afghanistan and the region: RAND Political Scientist Seth Jones; Australian National University Professor William Maley; University of California (Irvine) Professor Russell Dalton; New School Professor Sanjay Ruparelia; Asia Foundation technical consultants Sudhindra Sharma and Pawan Sen; and Asia Foundation advisors Najla Ayubi, Harjot Kaur, and Ruth Rennie.

Through careful study and interpretation of data collected for the 2008 survey, these analysts identified long-term trends and their implications for Afghanistan’s future. For instance, more Afghans now understand democracy in terms of fundamental political rights, feel politically efficacious, and believe that democracy is compatible with Islam. Yet these gains in social attitudes are mitigated by an erosion of public confidence in democracy, and increasing dissatisfaction with the way it is working in Afghanistan, largely caused by the failure of government institutions to provide effective responses to people’s needs for security, and economic and social development.

Collectively, the six essays point to a set of nested priorities for the Afghan government and the international community. In the near-term: improved security, accompanied by the continued reinforcement of the capacity of Afghan government institutions to deliver justice, democratic representation, and economic and social development. Alongside this, continued investment must be made in fostering positive change in social attitudes through education and increased citizen participation in governance and development. The experts agree that building sustainable partnerships between government and Afghan communities lies at the heart of the challenge of state building in Afghanistan.

Financial support for this publication came from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The views of the contributors to this volume do not reflect the views of The Asia Foundation or of the U.S. Agency for International Development.


The Asia Foundation’s Kabul office was re-established in February 2002 to launch programs in areas vital to the political, social, economic, and intellectual development of post-Taliban Afghanistan. Since then, the Foundation’s Kabul office has assisted Afghans in their efforts to rebuild the country through the establishment of an interim government, the development of a new constitution, and the provision of support to implement national voter registration, civic education, media monitoring, and technical planning for the 2004 Presidential and 2005 National Assembly and Provincial Council elections. Since these elections, the Foundation has also been providing long-term critical support to key institutions within the executive branch of government at the central level. Other Foundation programs have focused on creating educational and training opportunities for women and girls, supporting development of higher education, and promoting exchanges to foster improved international relations.


The Asia Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region. The Foundation supports programs in Asia that help improve governance, law, and civil society; women’s empowerment; economic reform and development; and international relations. Drawing on more than 50 years of experience in Asia, the Foundation collaborates with private and public partners to support leadership and institutional development, exchanges, and policy research.

With a network of 17 offices throughout Asia, an office in Washington, D.C., and its headquarters in San Francisco, the Foundation addresses these issues on both a country and regional level. In 2007, the Foundation provided more than $68 million in program support and distributed 974,000 books and educational materials valued at $33 million throughout Asia.

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