Data

Location
Afghanistan
Sector
Non-Profit or Non Governmental
General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Specific Topics
Citizenship & Role of Citizens
Gender Equality & Equity
Files
ACSFo-Annual-Report-2009-.pdf
asia-brief-7-2009_EN.pdf
Links
Afghanistan Civil Society Forum (ACSF)
General Types of Methods
Community development, organizing, and mobilization

ORGANIZATION

Afghan Civil Society Forum

27 de septiembre de 2023 hamrazm
Location
Afghanistan
Sector
Non-Profit or Non Governmental
General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Specific Topics
Citizenship & Role of Citizens
Gender Equality & Equity
Files
ACSFo-Annual-Report-2009-.pdf
asia-brief-7-2009_EN.pdf
Links
Afghanistan Civil Society Forum (ACSF)
General Types of Methods
Community development, organizing, and mobilization

ACSFo's vision is to create a vibrant and dynamic society based on citizen values, achieved through the engagement of citizens and civil society institutions.The mission of ACSFo is to support citizen and state-building for a just society.

Mission and Purpose

Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, there was a significant focus on the role of civil society in Afghanistan's peace-building process, leading to the emergence of various development-oriented groups. This was in stark contrast to the harsh period of de facto Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, when the regime was hostile towards civil society organizations, and the international community was not yet prepared to invest in this area. Despite this, there were some Afghan NGOs that actively monitored and reported on the conflict during the Taliban era and played a crucial role in exerting international pressure. However, they had limited opportunities to influence the regime.

The involvement of Afghan civil society in the Shia Law debate started when a parliamentarian alerted civil society representatives that a draft law was being considered by the Wolesi Jirga (the lower house of parliament). Several civil society organizations worked together with concerned MPs to propose specific amendments to the law that would bring it in line with international human rights standards. In addition, recommendations were also drawn from other sources of Shia jurisprudence, including renowned and highly respected religious scholars in the region. Meetings with Sunni and Shia members of parliament and other political actors were held, and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) played a crucial role in mobilizing a broader civil society network. Up to 30 different organizations, including the Swiss-supported Civil Society and Human Rights Network, Global Rights, UNIFEM, and others, became involved in advocating against the law following the international outcry against it.

ACSF was known for its impartiality and non-partisan identity, which were its main characteristics. It believed in democratic principles of people's participation and was committed to empowering the Afghan population. Additionally, ACSF embraced the diversity of civil society stakeholders and emphasized non-partisanship, transparency, accountability, and promoting a sense of voluntarism and social activism.

The objectives of ACSF were to promote the development of civil society in Afghanistan, increase the involvement of all sectors and levels of Afghan society in the reconstruction, development, and peace process, enable civil society to have a voice on critical national issues, and strengthen the networking of civil society.[i][1]

[i] Swiss agency for Development and cooperation (SDC) (2009). Afghanistan Civil Society Forum. https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

Origins and Development

The Afghan Civil Society Forum was created in 2001 to foster a partnership between Afghan civil society stakeholders and Swisspeace. This was done at the request of 76 participants of the first Afghan Civil Society Conference in Germany. The conference was held alongside a meeting of political representatives organized by the UN at Petersburg near Bonn. The goal of the conference was to involve Afghan civil society in the peace and reconstruction process using a bottom-up approach. [i][2] The information was based on research conducted by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) on the process of drafting the Shia Personal Law and the subsequent signing and revision of the law in June 2009.

Civil society in Afghanistan played a significant role in shaping new laws and advocating for the rights of the people. In one example from 2009, the Afghan parliament passed a law that applied to the country's Shia minority, requiring women to obtain their husband's permission before leaving their homes and making it illegal to refuse sexual intercourse with their husbands. This law, known as the Shia Personal Status Law or the Shia Law, was met with widespread criticism from both the international community and Afghan society. Switzerland also expressed its concern about the law. As a result, some of the most controversial provisions, such as the minimum age for marriage for girls, have already been revised, and the sections related to restrictions on movement and sexual behaviour are under reconsideration. The revision process has been facilitated by the efforts of civil society organizations, which have played a crucial role in promoting these amendments.

ACSF's success demonstrates how even small donors like Switzerland can significantly impact Afghanistan. The Board of Directors of ACSF was made up of nine national and two international members, including SDC's Country Director. Furthermore, Switzerland has gained a reputation for supporting civil society organizations, networks, and human rights in Afghanistan. SDC focused on promoting human rights-based approaches, including in the rural development sector. They also supported the establishment and functioning of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the Human Rights Support Unit at the Ministry of Justice to mainstream the issue within the Afghan government. In addition, Switzerland was widely recognized for its non-partisan and purely civilian engagement in civil society and human rights in Afghanistan. Aziz Rafie attests that Switzerland was considered to be one of the most non-biased states in Afghanistan. Despite the commitment of Switzerland and other countries, much work remains to be done. All stakeholders, both Afghan and international, will continue to face significant challenges for many years to come.[ii][1]

The Advocacy section of ACSFo has set up four advocacy committees, which are as follows: the Advocacy Committee for Persons with Disabilities (ACPD), the Environment Protection Advocacy Committee (EPAC), the Afghan Youth Advocacy Committee, the Economic Literacy and Budget Analysis Group (ELBAG) in Kabul and the regional advocacy committee in Bamyan, Nangarhar, Gardez, and Balkh provinces.[iii][2]

ACSFo has recently made significant changes to its core programmatic intervention and strategy in response to the situation in Afghanistan post-August 2021. Over the last ten years, ACSFo has undertaken more than 52 programmatic interventions in this area, with five new interventions initiated in 2021.[iv][3]

[i] Afghanistan Civil Society Forum-organization (ACSFo) (2009). Annual Narrative Report To SDC. http://acsf.af/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/ACSFo-Annual-Report-2009-.pdf

[ii] Swiss agency for Development and cooperation (SDC) (2009). Afghanistan Civil Society Forum. https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

[iii] Afghanistan Civil Society Forum-organization (ACSFo) (2009). Annual Narrative Report To SDC. http://acsf.af/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/ACSFo-Annual-Report-2009-.pdf

[iv] End Water Poverty. Afghanistan Civil Soicty Forum Organizations (ACSFo). Officail Website: https://endwaterpoverty.org/member/afghanistan-civil-society-forum-organization/

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF) became an independent organization in February 2002 with the help of initial funding from the Swiss and German governments. Its office in Kabul opened two months later. Initially, ACSF conducted dialogue exchanges and confidence-building forums to identify topics of relevance for the peace and reconstruction process that might have otherwise been neglected. In 2003 and 2004, ACSF focused on supporting the Bonn Agreement's implementation and conducted educational and advocacy activities for the drafting of Afghanistan's new Constitution, voter education, and events preparing for the October 2004 presidential elections. In 2005, ACSF continued to focus on elections by undertaking a massive voter education project before the September 2005 parliamentary elections. ACSF was deeply involved in the upcoming elections with the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), bringing civil society into the discussion of the preparatory process and earmarking half a million Swiss Francs for ACSF's activities as part of its financial contribution to the international election support program.[i][1]

[i] Swiss agency for Development and cooperation (SDC) (2009). Afghanistan Civil Society Forum. https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

Specializations, Methods and ToolsIt is evident that organizations and civil society leaders took up the issue of making the law of their own accord, without being formally invited by the Ministry of Justice or any other government actor. They became involved in the process by inserting themselves and insisting that they had valuable contributions to offer, rather than participating as formally recognized elements of civil society in law-making.

It is apparent that there were no formalized interactions between voters and their parliamentary representatives. As a result, civil society organizations must bear a significant burden. A representative from one such organization stated that there is minimal public discussion of laws, and parliamentarians are not in touch with their constituents. Thus, they rely heavily on civil society. Despite this, the example of the Shia Law illustrates how civil society has been effective in playing a watchdog role over the parliament and executive. Citizen groups, who were not accustomed to participating meaningfully in the political system at the national level, have taken on the role of concerned citizens. As per recent research, it was revealed that civil society ultimately influenced the content of the law and later succeeded in having it put under review. This was due to the impetus from the international outcry over the law and the massive international media coverage that set off condemnation from Western leaders. This kind of protest inside Afghanistan was unique and dangerous but was supported robustly by established civil society organizations.[i][1]


[i] Swiss agency for Development and cooperation (SDC) (2009). Afghanistan Civil Society Forum. https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

Major Projects and Events

The ACSF, which had over 100 members and worked with more than 200 partners, had six offices scattered throughout the country before the government's collapse in 2021. The forum's primary responsibilities included coordinating various civil society organizations, providing civic education, building capacity, conducting advocacy work, and carrying out research on civil society issues.

The Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF) played an essential role in coordinating and integrating the various segments of Afghan civil society, which are traditionally divided along tribal, kinship, and religious lines. The ACSF represented Afghanistan's civil society organizations in international conferences such as the Donor Conference in Paris in June 2008 and the international conference in The Hague in March 2009. Additionally, ACSF's website receives 250 visitors every day, with the largest group coming from the United States, Iran, or Germany. Over the past two decades, the organization has published 42 editions of its monthly magazine, Jamea-e-Madani, which is considered one of the best magazines on civil society issues by intellectual circles.[i][1]

In 2009, EPAC conducted seven regular advocacy committee meetings and four other meetings to address environmental concerns such as air, earth, and water pollution, and more specifically, contamination of underground water and its solutions. Furthermore, EPAC members prepared a report on "usage of underground water and absorbing wells", and were provided with the national environment protection law. Finally, a resolution was developed by the committee to control air pollution, which was subsequently sent to the media.

The members of ELBAG conducted ten advocacy meetings focusing on issues related to accountability and transparency, and they also prepared a report on the agricultural sector and its further development in the country. They collaborated with OSI's informal initiative for EITI advocacy to promote transparency and accountability. This joint effort would continue to support civil society and ACSFo's advocacy programs.

ACSFo's advocacy section was involved in several workshops and conferences in addition to their thematic working areas. Here are some highlights:

  • ACSFo was responsible for the expenditure of invitation cards, their distribution, and the development of mottos for the Women's International Day celebration on March 8th in the Loya Jirga tent. This event was held in cooperation with AIHRC and other civil society organizations.
  •  ACSFo arranged two preparatory meetings with the media, journalist unions, and representatives of CSOs to hold a press conference. The invitation letter was published in three daily newspapers: the 8 am, Arman and Wisa. The press conference was held on September 16th in ACSFo to discuss the martyrdom of Sultan Ahmad Munadi and other journalists killed during the year 2009. The press statement included precise and logical wills from the government of Afghanistan and the British embassy. The conference was attended by a large number of civil society activists, media representatives, and journalists and was broadly broadcast by mass media.
  •  ACSFo also held a press conference on October 7th to discuss the decline of women's seats in provincial councils. This event was attended by a large number of women activists, and the messages of the conference were widely broadcast by the media.
  • On October 14th, the third conference on the status of presidential and provincial councils' elections was held in ACSFo. The conference was organized by ACSFo and representatives of civil society organizations. Its main focus was on ensuring transparency in the elections and adherence to the constitution and other laws. The conference was widely broadcasted by the media.[ii][2]

[i] Swiss agency for Development and cooperation (SDC) (2009). Afghanistan Civil Society Forum. https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

[ii] Afghanistan Civil Society Forum-organization (ACSFo) (2009). Annual Narrative Report To SDC. http://acsf.af/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/ACSFo-Annual-Report-2009-.pdf

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Advocacy is a relatively new topic in Afghanistan, and many people lack knowledge and skills in this area. Most people do not understand the concept of advocacy, its role and importance, and how advocates can play an active role in creating, amending, and applying policies, laws, and strategies.

The Advocacy Committee for Persons with Disability, Afghan Youths Advocacy Committee, and Environment Protection Advocacy Committee have been busy with advocacy activities, lobbying, and campaigns. These committees have achieved a lot through the use of advocacy tools, such as contributing to the drafting, amending, and changing of laws and policies, such as the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) Law, Environment Protection Law, National Disability Law, Media Law, and Mines Law.

However, a more systematic approach to advocacy was needed to make these activities more effective. This required knowledge, skills, and methodology in advocacy, using practical tools, and making coalitions.

Advocacy activities and initiatives faced many challenges in society, especially in post-conflict countries like Afghanistan. One of the biggest challenges for advocacy activities in Afghanistan was the lack of security. In 2009, the advocacy section experienced many security challenges that prohibited advocacy activities, such as campaigns, conferences, meetings, and workshops. Another significant challenge was the lack of knowledge and awareness among people on the concept of advocacy, advocacy methodology, and its role and importance, which further deprived people of their rights and hindered their participation in advocacy campaigns and activities.

The lack of participation and activeness of members of the Environment Protection Advocacy Committee and Afghan Youths Advocacy Committee in meetings and other advocacy events due to their engagement in their offices was also notable. The employment fluctuation and the appointment of new staff caused a gap in the activities of the advocacy section in 2009, which was another challenge. The delay in the follow-up of the approval of the National Disability Law due to presidential and provincial councils' elections and the engagement of some members of parliament in election campaigns was the other challenge during this reporting period.[i][2]

In Afghanistan, community shuras (which were councils of elders and leaders) and tribal and religious institutions had traditionally represented their communities to the authorities. However, the modern version of the country's civil society had only recently come into existence. Bridging the gap between the modern and traditional forms of civil society has been a major challenge for Afghanistan, as the elders and tribal or religious leaders have been the most influential people in Afghan society. This has resulted in a controversy regarding the link between traditional and modern civil society. Traditional values and practices have been shaped over several centuries and were dominated by traditional, customary, tribal, ethnic, and linguistic mindsets, which were not subject to change or revision. On the other hand, modern values were more logical and subject to discourse, debate, change, and development, as Aziz Rafie explains. However, there was little dialogue between civil society and the clergy who oversee omnipresent religious traditions.[ii][1]

[i] [i] Afghanistan Civil Society Forum-organization (ACSFo) (2009). Annual Narrative Report To SDC. http://acsf.af/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/ACSFo-Annual-Report-2009-.pdf

[ii] Swiss agency for Development and cooperation (SDC) (2009). Afghanistan Civil Society Forum. https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

Publications

See Also

https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

References

[1] Swiss agency for Development and cooperation (SDC) (2009). Afghanistan Civil Society Forum. https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/themes-sdc/fragile-contexts-and-prevention.html/content/dezaprojects/SDC/en/2005/7F04159/phase3

[2] Afghanistan Civil Society Forum-organization (ACSFo) (2009). Annual Narrative Report To SDC. http://acsf.af/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/ACSFo-Annual-Report-2009-.pdf

[3] End Water Poverty. Afghanistan Civil Soicty Forum Organizations (ACSFo). Officail Website: https://endwaterpoverty.org/member/afghanistan-civil-society-forum-organization/

External Links

Notes