Afghanistan: Restoring livelihoods for displacement-affected communities

To generate new employment and international labour migration opportunities for internally displaced persons and the communities who host them.
Jobs & Livelihoods

Afghanistan: Restoring livelihoods for displacement-affected communities

To generate new employment and international labour migration opportunities for internally displaced persons and the communities who host them.

The project in brief

Implemented by

United Nations Development Program UNDP and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR - Afghanistan




2016 - End 2019


In 2016, UNDP, ILO and UNHCR began the Support Afghanistan Livelihoods and Mobility (SALAM) project in the province of Nangahar to create long-term employment opportunities for returning refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities. UNDP identified promising jobs and then contracted out employment training and job placement. SALAM attracted private businesses by subsidizing returnees’ and IDPs’ salaries. 

Project aims

To generate new employment and international labour migration opportunities even amidst ongoing crises and protracted conflict. The project included IDPs, host communities, women, youth and other vulnerable groups. 

Resources used

In 2014, the Government of Afghanistan adopted a comprehensive National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons and in 2016 it established the Displacement and Returnee Executive Committee to address the needs of the displaced and returnees. Durable solutions for displacement also feature prominently in the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework 2017-2021.

Main activities of the Good Practice

Support Afghanistan Livelihoods and Mobility (SALAM) is a joint project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD).

SALAM aims to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) in developing comprehensive, coherent and integrated national and sub-national policy and institutional approaches for enhancing livelihoods in a time of crisis and protracted conflict.

The main intervention of SALAM in Nangarhar Province is to create sustainable employment.  SALAM also targets safer and more productive international labour migration for those who choose to leave Afghanistan, through initiatives that help identify regular and regulated opportunities for international migration. 

Activities are designed to support the burgeoning youth population (those 18-29 years old), along with targeted initiatives for enhanced livelihoods development for women. 

Examples include: 

  • Competency based, gender sensitive job placement and training programmes for IDPs, returnees, unskilled and semi-skilled youth, and potential migrants (women and men) for identified priority trades

  • Skills training programme for entrepreneurs

  • Value chain interventions as well as measures for stimulating enterprise innovation and creation of start-ups

  • Local and international events (job fairs, business fora and exhibitions) to promote job placement, business and entrepreneurship

  • Provision of support to the establishment of gender sensitive, sector specific minimum standards for Bilateral Labour Agreements with countries of destination


Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) 

Challenges and how they were overcome


The original SALAM Framework project signed with the Government of Afghanistan in 2016 covered Kabul and five selected provinces with a budget of USD 120 million.

Operational constraints also included limited capacity of staff and staff turnover within the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, including at field level, thereby hindering the provision of quality services to returnees.

Amidst this changing operational environment, only EUR 4.5 million in donations from the Government of Finland materialized.

Ongoing conflict has long been a significant and constant impediment to sustainable return, jeopardizing years of development gains made under the 2001 Bonn Agreement.

Competing and overlapping projects developed with international partners also complicated cooperation between government officials and the SALAM project.

How they were overcome

The SALAM project opted to significantly downsize, choosing to focus on one province, Nangahar, with the highest number of returnees according to UNHCR data. 

To align with the donor’s priorities and build on UNHCR’s experience with job placement in the private sector, the project’s emphasis shifted to job training and placement. 

Results of the Good Practice

  • Some 1,200 forcibly displaced Afghans were either employed in the private sector or had started their own businesses.
  • 216 IDPs who had benefited from skills training, internships or job placement

Matiullah, 29, who lives with his father in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan is a refugee returnee whose family had sought asylum in Pakistan. 

I was so thankful that the SALAM project helped me achieve my dream of becoming a tailor,” Matiullah says. “I am earning and fulfilling the whole family’s needs. I have plans for the future. I would like to open a small tailoring shop of my own.”

How the project meets the GCR Objectives

Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries

SALAM brings together the Government and three UN Agencies, along with the private sector and other partners, to seek durable solutions for Afghans in line with the Government’s vision and strategies for employment generation and labour migration.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

Socio-economic integration and job creation for returnees, IDPs and host communities

Next steps 

Despite the project closing at the end of 2019, the model has inspired similar projects in Afghanistan