The Asia Foundation Releases Study on Trade and Livelihoods in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands

September 3, 2019 — Securing borders is a key challenge for the Afghan State. Border security is inseparable from the larger war effort, as insurgents take advantage of porous borders to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Cross-border trade is also vital to the Afghan economy. Customs duties are the most important single source of government revenue, yet considerable leakage persists because of insecurity and entrenched corruption. Meanwhile, a vast share of the local population of border regions makes a living from trade, smuggling, or activities that belong in a grey area in between. Research and data are needed to explore how to protect borders and improve revenue collection, without hurting local livelihoods and fueling local grievances.

The Asia Foundation releases an initial study on cross-border trade and its importance for the economic welfare of local communities in two border districts: Spin Boldak in Kandahar province and Muhmand Dara in Nangarhar province. Trade and Livelihoods in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands is based on a representative survey of 1525 respondents, and interviews with key informants. The study provides empirical evidence of the reliance of border settlements on cross-border trade. It demonstrates that even temporary disruptions in cross-border movement—such as the closure of crossing points by Pakistani authorities in response to security incidents—have significant impacts and generate considerable anxiety among local residents.

This work is the first step in a five-year research agenda focusing on the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It aims to serve as a resource for government, policy makers, the international community and other stakeholders with interests in supporting peace and security for border communities. The research is commissioned as part of the X-Border Local Research Network, a partnership between The Asia Foundation, the Carnegie Middle East Center and the Rift Valley Institute. With support from the UK Department for International Development, the X-Border Local Research Network produces policy-oriented research on the conflict-affected borderlands of Asia, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa; builds, maintains, and expands local research networks in those regions; and supports improvements in local research methods and capacity.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

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Related locations: Afghanistan
Related programs: Conflict and Fragile Conditions
Related topics: X-Border Local Research Network

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Amy Ovalle, Vice President, Global Communications
amy.ovalle@asiafoundation.org
415-743-3340

Eelynn Sim, Director, Media & Strategy
eelynn.sim@asiafoundation.org
415-743-3318

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