Third Provincial Round Table
15 Aug 2017
SUMMARY REPORT OF 3rd PROVINCIAL ROUND TABLE ON
“COORDINATION AND COOPERATION AMONG CSOS AND GOVERNMENT”
Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society (AICS) convened its 3rd provincial roundtable on “Coordination and Cooperation among CSOs and Government” on May 8, 2017, in Bamyan province. The main purpose of the roundtable was to discuss coordination and cooperation among CSOs and the government in Bamyan province and learn about emerging challenges and opportunities as well as explore participants’ recommendations for follow-up measures. The roundtable attended by 31 (20 male, and 11 female) experts and leaders from CSOs, government and local media.
At the inauguration, AICS Policy Engagement Director welcomed the participants, explained the ground rules for the roundtable discussion and introduced the agenda. Subsequent to participants’ introduction, he delivered a presentation on “The State of Enabling Environment for CSOs in Afghanistan 2016” and “Civil Society Sustainability Index 2015”. 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 the routable. Followings are main discussion points of this roundtable:
1- Coordination and Cooperation among CSOs:
Bamyan has active civil society and plenty of CSOs have been established and flourished during the past decade in Bamyan province. Incomparable to its neighboring provinces, Bamyan has a considerable number of active women-led CSOs who have been active both in service delivery as well as in advocacy initiatives. Three umbrella organizations (ACSFo, AWN, and CSHRN) are operating in Bamyan province while only AWN have registered member CSOs and holds regular meeting with its member organizations. ACSFo and CSHRN Bamyan offices have been facing financial problems and have recently decreased their activities in the province. UNAMA provincial office has been playing a productive role in establishing coordination among CSOs in several occasions but does not serve as regular CSO’s coordinating body in the province.
During the discussions some participants raised their concerns about inadequate coordination and cooperation among CSOs in Bamyan province which has undesirably impacted CSOs image, abilities and impact of their efforts. Bamyan CSOs were successful when they initiated joint advocacy initiative under the name of “Jonbish-Roshnai” which was, later on, mislead by some individuals.
Some participants believe that CSOs have previously promised a lot to the public when they visited local communities for survey and project implementation. Failing to fulfill their promises have affected their image in the local community and has reduced community support for some CSOs.
Some CSOs raised their concerns about some leading CSOs who represent CS in national and international events but don’t reflect general views and only promote their own agenda.
There are some concerns that some CSOs have gradually been converted to family-based organizations after they recruited family members and undermined diversity in their organizations. Participants questioned some leading CSOs who underestimate newly emerging CSOs and intentionally minimize space for emerging players.
Not having CSO-led regular coordination meeting among CSOs was highlighted as one of the challenges both for CSOs and coordination bodies which could reduce inter cooperation and further reduce CSOs’ image among the public and govt. The absence of regular coordination meetings between CSOs and faded role of coordination bodies can further distance CSOs. Some participants reported that some CSOs have political support that can ultimately impact the level of coordination among CSOs and collective stand against government for public interest.
A number of CSOs have been dissolved in Bamyan province after they failed to raise fund for their operation and program activities. On the other hand, the donor-dependent status of some CSOs have also raised questions about the sustainability of these CSOs and have affected CSOs’ image and their work continuity with their constituencies. Some CSOs don’t follow their projects after completion and are not concerned about the impact of their projects.
Besides, some CSOs are concerned about duplication of CSOs’ projects in Bamyan province. They believe that absence of a close coordination among CSOs can cause duplication in projects and reduce productivity. It was also said that some CSOs ignore local culture and norms when they implement donor-funded projects in local communities which has weakened CSOs’ credibility among public and local communities.
Some participants believe that most of Bamyan projects are decided in Kabul and views of Bamyan CSOs have never been heard when major projects are decided.
CSOs believe that financial sustainability is a major concern for CSOs in Bayman province. Some CSOs are expecting the leading CSOs to play a further effective role for financial sustainability of small CSOs by establishing partnership opportunities and initiating sub-grant mechanisms.
2- Coordination and Cooperation among CSOs and Government:
Some CSOs reported that they are not very satisfied with the level of CSOs engagement in policy formulation processes in the province. They revealed that limited number of CSOs are mostly consulted and invited to attend discussions held specifically about the economic and social development of Bamyan province. Some CSOs said that they are consulted by provincial government, but their views and recommendations have not been taken seriously. For example; provincial government has never invited CSOs representative(s) when they convened meetings to define “fix-price” for lands intended to build urban cities in Bayman province.
Provincial government claims that it has assured CSOs’ participation in important agendas and policy discussions. Provincial government representative reported that provincial government has established diverse consultation platforms for CSOs such as; 1) regular meetings with CSOs representatives ; 2) periodic meetings with women-led CSOs; 3) regular meetings with women-led business organizations; 4) regular meetings with representatives of political movements; 5) regular meetings with Ulemas and with provincial council. It was also reported that provincial government has also invited a CS representative to observe recruitment process in government organizations and attend PDC meetings. A CSO (youth parliament member) has also been invited to attend provincial government administrative meetings. Meanwhile, Provincial government appreciated CSOs’s role in the fight against corruption and requested CSOs to extend their cooperation with the provincial government.
The provincial department of Ministry of Economy in Bayman province is responsible for CSO affairs including CSOs reporting, coordinating CSOs’ activities with other local government institutions, and monitoring CSOs’ projects. In Bamyan province, CSOs have less knowledge about requirements of CSOs’ reporting to MoE. There are a lot of CSOs who failed to submit regular reports to MoE. Some CSOs recommend that government should penalize those CSOs who don’t report to the government in spite of frequent reminders and orientations.
Some CSOs believe that CS would object government and do not support every government undertaking. There should be a separating line between CS and govt. Some CSOs do not object government as they don’t want to disappoint government. CSO image and credibility have been affected recently in the country and their voice has less been heard. Some participants said that CS and government are two different sectors of the society. A line should separate their roles and functions. CS should monitor government functions and report on government weaknesses and shortcomings.
It was learned that members of line ministries have not been successful to extend required support to CSOs for their program implementation. It was also indicated that provincial government i.e. ministry of economy is not very successful in monitoring most of CSOs projects/work.
“Though current governor is more supportive to CSO, some CSOs are not invited to important events organized by provincial government” said by a CSO representative.
Some CSOs questioned the transparency in government and nongovernment organizations and indicated that corruption has also deteriorated coordination and cooperation between government and CSOs and created more distance between the public and these two sectors. Some CSOs also expressed their concerns about Ministry of Finance (MoF) taxation and reporting procedures.
- CSOs should be protected from political influence and work for the public good. CSOs’ movements and advocacy campaigns should be protected from political influence and individual’s pressure.
- Civil society concepts should be taught in schools and it should become an integral part of school curricula.
- Coordination and cooperation among CSOs should be improved. CSOs coordination bodies should establish a comprehensive database of CSOs and call member organizations’ regular coordination meetings.
- CSOs should work together to build the credibility of CSOs with local communities.
- The provincial government should give equal opportunity to CSOs’ representatives to attend government meetings and discussion forums.
- All CSOs should submit regular reports on their activities to MoEc. CSOs failed to report to MoE should be warned and ultimately penalized.
- MoE provincial department should initiate regular CSOs coordination meetings and increase access to CSOs.
- Ministry of Finance should provide necessary support to CSOs to clear their taxes.
- Ministry of Economy should strengthen their monitoring capacity and monitor CSOs projects.