OVERVIEW OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS
Afghanistan is a mountainous landlocked country
bordered by Iran, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of
China (PRC), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
It covers about 647,500 square kilometers. Its capital
and largest city is Kabul.
The majority of Afghanistan’s 32 million inhabitants are
Sunni Muslims, although there is a sizeable Shia Muslim
community. Afghanistan has several ethnic groups,
the largest being Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Turkmen, and
Uzbek. More than 40% of the population is under age
15. Dari and Pashto are the country’s official languages.
One of two Afghans can be classified as poor. Life
expectancy is less than 43 years and the literacy rate is
One in five children dies before age five, and
one woman dies approximately every 30 minutes from
pregnancy-related causes. Infant and maternal mortality
rates are among the highest in the world. Preventable
diseases cause 80% of the deaths of children under five.
About half of this same age group is physically stunted
due to chronic malnutrition, and some 10% suffer acute
malnutrition. Only 25% of the population has access
to clean drinking water—one in eight children die from
lack of the resource.
Afghanistan is highly dependent on farming and raising
livestock. The major food crops produced are corn,
rice, barley, wheat, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. The
biggest industrial crops are cotton, tobacco, madder,
castor beans, and sugar beets. Leading exports include
wool and prized Karakul skins. Afghanistan is rich in
natural resources, few of which are currently exploited.
The country has numerous mineral and precious stone
deposits, as well as natural gas and some oil reserves.
In 2007, Afghanistan’s poppy fields produced up to
93% of the world’s total supply of opium,
trafficking the biggest income source.
On 9 October 2004, Afghanistan held its first national
democratic presidential election. More than 8 million
Afghans voted, 41% of them women. Hamid Karzai was
inaugurated as President on 7 December 2004.
National parliamentary elections were held on
18 September 2005 for the
of Afghanistan’s bicameral National Assembly, as well
as for the country’s 34 provincial councils. About 53%
of the 12.5 million registered voters participated in the
The Afghan Constitution provides for the indirect
election of the National Assembly’s
(upper house) by the provincial councils and by reserved
presidential appointments. The National Assembly was
inaugurated on 19 December 2005, thus completing
the process of political normalization outlined in the
Bonn Agreement following the September 2001 ouster
of the former Taliban regime.