The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) is an independent research institute based in Kabul. AREU's mission is to inform and influence policy and practice through conducting high-quality, policy-relevant research and actively disseminating the results, and to promote a culture of research and learning. To achieve its mission AREU engages with policymakers, civil society, researchers and students to promote their use of AREU's research and its library, to strengthen their research capacity, and to create opportunities for analysis, reflection and debate. As an impartial Afghanistan-based voice dedicated to research excellence, AREU aspires to contribute to the development of inclusive and transparent policymaking processes, driven by the priorities of the Afghan people, which give rise to better informed policies and programmes that improve Afghan lives.
AREU was established in 2002 by the assistance community working in Afghanistan and has a board of directors with representation from donors, the United Nations and other multilateral agencies, and non-governmental organisations. AREU currently receives core funds from the Embassy of Finland and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
AREU's predecessor, the Strategic Monitoring Unit (SMU), was first envisaged as part of the UN's 1998 Strategic Framework for Afghanistan. It was thought that the development of an independent, analytical unit could provide the capacity to "help the assistance community measure progress against strategic objectives" and to document "how principles are being applied on the ground." There was broad support from the assistance community for the creation of such a unit and in 2000, the SMU was established with a board of directors of equal UN, NGO and donor representation.
The dramatic developments of 2001 and their impact on the nature of assistance work in Afghanistan led to a decision by the Afghanistan Programming Body (APB) in February 2002 to refocus SMU's work towards research and evaluation. The unit's name, mission and activities were changed to reflect this shift. Today, AREU has evolved from a small research unit to a mid-sized organisation by expanding its research programmes, core activities, and staff levels.