Second Provincial Round Table
13 Aug 2017
SUMMARY REPORT OF 2nd PROVINCIAL ROUND TABLE
ON “COORDINATION AND COOPERATION AMONG CSOs and GOVERNMENT
Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society (AICS) convened its 2nd provincial round table on “Coordination and Cooperation among CSOs and Government” on March 13, 2017, in Balkh province. The main purpose of the round table was to discuss coordination and cooperation among CSOs and the government in Balkh province and learn about emerging challenges and opportunities as well as explore participants’ recommendations for follow-up measures. The round table attended by 26 (15 male, and 11 female) experts and leaders from CSOs, government, media and INGOs.
At the inauguration, Mr. Azizurrahman Tasal, Policy Engagement Director of AICS welcomed the participants, explained the ground rules for the round table discussion and introduced the agenda. Subsequent to participants’ introduction, Mr. Samirullah Popal Policy Engagement Specialist of AICS delivered two presentations on “The State of Enabling Environment for CSOs in Afghanistan 2016 ” and “Civil Society Sustainability Index 2015” recently published by AICS. The main purpose of the presentation was to establish linkage between findings of stated reports on CSOs and government cooperation and cooperation and the purpose of round table. Followings are main discussion points of this round table:
1- Coordination and Cooperation among CSOs:
While plenty of CSOs have been established and flourished during the past decade in Balkh province, ineffective coordination and cooperation among CSOs in Balkh province has adversely impacted their image, abilities, work impact and advocacy efforts as well as the level of support they entail from public and media. Inconsistent, isolated and uncoordinated efforts of different Balkh-based coordination bodies have reduced the impact of their coordination efforts and effected their advocacy interventions.
Obtaining and maintaining multiple memberships (membership with several coordination bodies) was highlighted as one of the core challenges both for CSOs and coordination bodies which could affect inter CSOs cooperation and impair CSOs’ integrated efforts. There is no holistic and unified database of CSOs of Balkh province as well as for CSOs of the northern region. The absence of regular coordination meetings between CSOs and among different coordination bodies have also distanced CSOs and has caused some misunderstanding and information gaps. The nature of coordination and cooperation among CSOs is more personal (personality-driven) rather than organizational (mandate-driven) which can affect organizations’ identify and civil society image. Moreover, political support for some CSOs has discouraged other CSOs that has eventually reduced level of confidence and enthusiasm for some CSOs to keenly work with local government and approach donors.
Some participants said that the opportunistic and fund-driven attitude of some CSOs have also raised questions about the transparency of CSOs and have affected CSOs’ image and work both with the community and donor organizations. On the other hand, CSOs with a high degree of commitment have been continuously striving to improve CSOs image and overcome challenges affecting civil society work results in the province.
Besides, some CSOs are concerned about duplication of CSOs’ work in the province. They believe that absence of a comprehensive database for CSOs’s projects and areas of their expertise can cause duplication of projects or activities and reduce productivity. Limited coordination among CSOs have further contributed to this deficiency and has triggered unsound competition among some CSOs to grab more fund from donors. Often this competition among CSOs and CSOs coordination bodies have wasted their efforts and reduced development opportunities for CSOs.
Some CSOs are expecting leading coordination bodies to play further effective role for small CSOs capacity building and financial sustainability by channeling development aids from donors and government to grassroots CSOs.
2- Coordination and Cooperation among CSOs and Government:
The Ministry of Economy provincial department in Balkh province is responsible for CSO affairs including coordination of their activities on the ground and oversight from their projects. Every CSO inform the Ministry of Economy (MoEc) about their projects and activities. In addition, the provincial governor has assigned a representative who also coordinate CSOs related activities and report to the Governor.
It was learned that members of line ministries have not been successful to extend required support to CSOs for their program implementation. CSOs are obliged to sign a sector-related memorandum of understanding with concerned line ministries at the provincial level before they launch their projects in the province. However, the processes within line ministries are not very transparent and speedy. For instance, provincial directorate of Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled of Balkh province has not been able to issue permission to a CSO with almost six months period to initiate their project activities.
There are concerns that some CSOs are politically connected with government officials. They are invited to provincial events and often supported by officials and some of them have been promoted and awarded. It was also said that such CSOs always appreciate the work of government officials, overlook their weaknesses and evade to voice up against them in favor of public goods. It has impacted CSOs development and raised questions about CSOs in dependency.
Participants also said that legal environment is complex for CSOs. Some CSOs faced problem when they wanted to clear their taxes or their staff visited Ministry of Finance (MoF) provincial department (Mastofiat) for obtaining Tax Identification Number (TIN).
According to the participants, there are CSOs that pay to insurgents for obtaining their agreement to implement projects in an insecure part of the region. Lack of government ability to eradicate such obstacles has contributed to the continuation of insurgency and restricted CSOs development in the provincial level.
In addition, corruption is also a challenge in Balkh province. It was confessed that inadequately empowered CSOs cannot make much impact upon widespread corruption among government and private sector institutions.
Besides, there is very limited coordination between government and small grassroots CSOs. As a result, smaller and informal indigenous CSOs are excluded and have not been benefited from government support.
- Awareness should be raised among CSOs to maintain their impartiality, in dependency and integrity. CSOs should comprehend and follow their mandates and be protected from political influence for their personal gains.
- Coordination and cooperation among CSOs and CSOs’ coordination bodies should be improved. CSOs coordination bodies should establish a comprehensive database of CSOs and their projects. CSOs coordination bodies should increase CSOs awareness on how they will be benefited from their membership services. They should build understanding and coordination among their member CSOs and support them for their sustainability.
- All CSOs should work jointly to improve the credibility of CSOs in the province, and effectively influence national and sub-national government policies for public benefits.
- Every coordination body should call more regular coordination meetings with its member CSOs and improve communication and coordination with other coordination bodies operating in the province.
- CSOs should submit regular reports on their activities to MoEc.
- Bureaucratic processes within line ministries is a constraint towards government support to CSOs. Line ministries should support CSOs to initiate their projects without unnecessary delays.
- Ministry of Finance should provide necessary support to CSOs to declare their taxes and obtain TIN for their employees without unnecessary delay.
- Ministry of Economy should strengthen their monitoring capacity to avoid duplication of projects/activities implemented by CSOs. They should also enhance their coordination with donors to reduce chances for duplication of activities.