This paper, a version of which was subsequently published in the book, Beyond Reconstruction in Afghanistan: Lessons from Development Experience, describes a strategy for applying human-security principles to social reconstruction in Afghanistan by working through the health sector. Experience in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere shows that health and social-reconstruction programs can be integrated to their mutual benefit. After 23 years of violent conflict, the rebuilding of Afghanistan faces severe challenges. Physical and social infrastructures are debilitated, the economy barely functions, the population’s health and nutritional status is among the lowest anywhere, and internal security is lacking. Also, Afghanistan poses a potential threat to richer countries as an exporter of drugs and terrorism. This combination of factors makes the concept of human security especially applicable to Afghanistan’s reconstruction.
The paper reviews current conditions in Afghanistan, with particular emphasis on problems facing the health sector. It then discusses the reconstruction strategies used by domestic and foreign actors, particularly in the health and internal-security sectors. Next, human security and its application are described. The paper then reviews experience elsewhere in integrating health programs and social-reconstruction programs. This leads to a discussion of opportunities in Afghanistan for integrating health and social reconstruction using a human-security approach. Finally, an organic, adaptive strategy for pursuing these opportunities is articulated.