RAMP UP, the Regional Afghan Municipalities Program for Urban Populations, was a major local government capacity-building program in four regions in Afghanistan. ICMA has successfully implemented programs in Afghanistan since 2004 and was a key player on a RAMP UP implementation team headed by DAI as the prime contractor for the East, West, and North regions.
RAMP UP supported the U.S. government’s stated objective to promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function with limited international support. The program sought to support the Afghanistan government in efforts to:
- Increase the capacity of local-level officials, managers, and staff to perform their core responsibilities effectively
- Improve municipal service delivery in ways that are responsive to citizens and enhance citizens’ perception of municipal governance
- Increase revenue at the local level, particularly by fostering and sustaining economic growth.
To achieve these three objectives, the RAMP UP team undertook the following activities:
- Established baselines against which each objective can be measured, using functional audits, citizen surveys, and other data-gathering methods.
- Delivered training in core skills and built Afghan training capacity (for example, RAMP UP-East, which got the earliest start, trained dozens of municipal officials and local trainers in public relations and public outreach, business registration, public works maintenance, construction management, economic development, public finance and revenue enhancement, procurement, and standard operating procedures).
- Established service delivery advisory groups made up of citizens to help prioritize infrastructure projects and monitor their progress.
- Designed plans for improvement in service delivery, management systems, and economic development potential.
- Implemented projects, including new and refurbished infrastructure and facilities, improved service delivery operations, and citizen outreach and service initiatives, using a “learning by doing” approach. Projects included construction of pedestrian sidewalks, drainage ditches, public latrines, and car parking lots; road rehabilitation; trash collection systems; and park renovations, including a "women's park."
- Assisted national and local government in setting up a nationwide business registration system so that local governments can assess business taxes. The initiative was based on a pilot that resulted in the registration of 13,000 businesses in an eight-month period.
- Worked with municipalities to implement archive and filing activities, a relatively unprecedented undertaking for municipalities, that offered training and insight into the importance of proper record keeping for land and business registration, finances, and budgets.
- Incorporated GIS (geographical information system) mapping into the processes for land use planning and revenue generation.
- Initiated a campaign to collect more books for public libraries, using donations from staff and civil society members.
RAMP UP included projects intended specifically to provide economic and social opportunities for women in culturally appropriate ways (parks, markets, cafes) and projects to engage youth (sports programs, internships, skills development). Two additional cross-cutting themes were anti-corruption and conflict mitigation.
Afghan “ownership” was an underlying principle of RAMP UP. Most of the program’s employees were local hires, and the program sought to engage a significant number of local Afghan firms in the implementation process. Utilizing ICMA’s methodology from the predecessor program funded by USAID, the Afghanistan Municipal Strengthening Program (AMSP), RAMP UP embeded a team of Afghan staff in each municipality to assist the mayor and municipal staff to build capacity and carry out municipal improvement activities through a “learning by doing” approach to implementation.
RAMP UP also worked in partnership with the United Nations and key Afghan institutions that have an impact on facilitating local governance, including Afghanistan’s Independent Directorate for Local Governance, the Ministry of Urban Development, the Ministry of Finance, and the Civil Service Commission, as well as mayors and other officials at the municipal level.
The RAMP UP program produced a series of accomplishments summarized in “Success Stories” reported in the column at the right and in posts contributed to the International Dispatches blog. Activities that were perceived as having had the most impact on municipal capacity building and improved service delivery were citizen service centers; public-private partnerships, especially in solid waste management; business property registration; small-scale infrastructure improvements, specifically green spaces; and on-the-job training and mentoring of municipal officials. Citizen participation also increased in the RAMP UP municipalities.
Here is a sampling of specific accomplishments:
- Municipal officials in nine northern provinces in Afghanistan independently held public budget hearings for the first time in late 2012 and early 2013.
- RAMP UP established internships that placed young people in local government departments, where they helped implement new processes and computerize systems while also preparing for future employment.
- A film festival in Herat was designed to enlist citizens' support for maintaining services and encourage a sense of community ownership and responsibility.
- A post-flood canal cleaning and community restoration project in Sar-e-Pul province improved the lives of local farmers and city dwellers and provided short-term employment for laborers.
- In a significant step toward equal opportunity for females in Afghanistan, two teams made up entirely of women and girls were able to participate in a football (soccer) tournament in Bamyan province.
- More than 300 citizens, civil society members, and business owners in Taloqan, Takhar province, joined in a cleanup campaign for the city's market and business areas. The RAMP UP-North program inspired the project and provided equipment and seed money for the campaign, which was then turned over to the municipality. Cleanup campaigns were organized in a number of other municipalities as well.
- With assistance from RAMP UP-West, four cities in the region reviewed and improved their collection processes, resulting in significant revenue increases. (Afghan municipalities rely entirely on revenues from their own sources.)
- RAMP UP established service delivery advisory groups to facilitate communication between citizens and municipal officials; women became active participants.
- School children in Mazar-e-Sharif participated in an art contest sponsored by RAMP UP, painting pictures with the theme "Let's Keep Our City Clean and Green" as part of a public outreach campaign to educate citizens about a trash collection project.