Few could have predicted that Afghanistan, widely considered a dead end for development dollars, would host an experiment with the potential to transform how foreign aid is delivered to fragile states.The gambit is seldom acknowledged as such — most experts have not been paying attention — yet in the cafés and living rooms of Kabul, it is rather hard to miss.
We predicted it! This is exactly the type of “pop culture revolution” in Afghanistan we talked about a few months ago on the podcast. Here’s what Benari had to say about it in December:
"But the thing that makes me most optimistic is the rise of pop culture in Afghanistan… we take for granted how influential and transformative television can be in a culture… in Afghanistan, it’s not just escapism – it’s actually a direct reflection of freedom and progress in the region."
And here’s what an article in Foreign Affairs had to say about it today:
For the past four years, Afghan television stations have been flooding the country’s airwaves with a steady stream of crime dramas and courtroom documentaries. Although produced by Afghans, the shows have been funded by foreign backers, including the European Commission, the United Nations, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The article goes on to explain why this is a very good thing for Afghanistan.
… the crime series provide twin benefits: offering up a valuable education in civil procedure and engendering popular expectations of equality before the law.
Over the past decade, Afghanistan has made modest strides in its formalized civil code, but it has all come at a high price.
By contrast, comparatively paltry investments in Afghan television and its imaginary courtrooms have yielded proportionately higher returns. By providing compelling examples of Afghans who exercise their civic rights and hold their state accountable, Kabul’s scriptwriters and journalists are tackling the demand problem head on, motivating citizens to lay claim to the laws and protections so doggedly championed by rule-of-law organizations.
Read the full article and then listen to our thoughts from a few months back on the positive impact of pop culture in Afghanistan!