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Title Assessing the Links between Economic Interventions and Stability: An impact evaluation of INVEST, vocational and skills training in Kandahar, Afghanistan
Post date 09/28/2015
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale Under what conditions are economic development interventions likely to improve stability? How can economic development programming be done in a way that addresses deep-seated social and political frustrations that drive young people into insurgencies? Promoting stability has become the primary, underlying aim of nearly all major development donors operating in fragile and conflict afflicted states. Youth play a critical role in this dynamic as they are both the large recruitment pool for potential violent spoilers -- representing a significant proportion of the population in many developing countries --and will eventually take positions of power and influence in their society. Nowhere are the issues of youth and stability more salient than in Afghanistan. The nation is currently experiencing a significant "youth bulge" (nearly 70% of the population is 35 years and under according to UNDP), which, combined with unemployment and social fragmentation, has raised concerns for a significant increase in insurgent recruitment and violence. Many aid actors see employment generation as the best bet for promoting stability in Afghanistan and other fragile states. The underlying assumption is that employment will reduce people's likelihood to be recruited into or resort to political violence by providing them with incentives to disengage with violent movements. However, a number of studies have begun to question the prominence of youth joblessness in explaining their role in violent movements. Evidence of the causal relationship between youth employment and stability remains almost non-existent, resulting in policy and program decision that are based on untested assumptions. The purpose of this research is to test the causal linkages between employment and support for political violence among youth in Southern Afghanistan. The insights and recommendations generated will contribute to improving the effectiveness of investments in youth employment and stability in Afghanistan and similar fragile states.
C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?

Specifically, the research will test the following hypotheses drawn from political science theory on the determinants of violence:

H1: If young people gain vocational skills, they will a) be more likely to find employment thereby improve their economic conditions and social status, and b) be less likely to support political violence and insurgent groups to address their social status-related grievances.
H2: If young people gain critical life skills such as critical thinking, dispute resolution and effective communication, they will be more likely to engage in pro-social behaviors, develop social networks, and less likely to get involved in political violence and insurgent movements.
H3: If young men have their immediate financial needs met, then they will be less likely to be manipulated by financial incentives to support political violence and insurgent groups. Given that the study sample for this project includes about 25% women and at least 50% displaced individuals--refugees, internally displaced, and/or returnees--living in Kandahar, we would also like to examine the following secondary hypotheses:
H4: Participants who undergo the INVEST program, which includes a gender based violence and human rights component, are less likely to support domestic and gender based violence.
H5: The displaced (refugees and returnees) are more likely to support political violence compared to the natives of Kandahar.
H6: The displaced, because of their vulnerability, are more likely to be targeted for recruitment by the insurgency.
H7: Increased interaction between the displaced and local natives of Kandahar through the INVEST program leads to less anti-refugee attitudes among the natives. The quantities of interest to be estimated are participants' employment status, economic engagement, attitudes towards violence and armed insurgency, household violence, participation in illicit activities, contact with recruiters and recruitment activities, and community engagement. We will also measure and analyze the roles of the following potential mediating factors: social status, displacement status, self efficacy, and social connections.
C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? * The research will be conducted as a rigorous, theory-based impact evaluation of INVEST, Mercy Corps' vocational training program which consists of three types of interventions: TVET bundle (3-month vocational training courses + "Ready to Earn Clubs" + Gender Based Violence and Human Rights half-day training), Soft-skills training, and unconditional cash transfers (UCT). This program will target vulnerable youth populations, including Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan now based in and around Kandahar City and the three neighboring districts of Dand, Daman and Arghandab. A randomized impact evaluation using a fractional factorial design will be used to estimate the causal effects of these three intervention types on the quantities of interest. To measure these outcomes, we will employ a mixed-methods approach that intentionally combines panel survey data, behavioral games, in-depth, semi-structured interviews, and the opportunity for participants to apply for a grant to start a community development project. Given the sensitive nature of some of these outcomes, we will use indirect survey questioning techniques.
C4 Country Afghanistan
C5 Scale (# of Units) 3000 participants
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? No
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number 7280 (Princeton), 1506016047 (Yale)
C9 Date of IRB Approval 09/08/2015
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Mercy Corps
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? No
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? Yes
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors
Anonymous Documentation PDF icon 20150928AA_PAP_anon_20180126.pdf