Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society
Civil society has long been a crucial-actor in addressing the full range of issues in the social, cultural, religious, humanitarian and political life of Afghanistan. Given that addressing social development issues will be an important factor in enabling Afghanistan to transform into a stable, modern and forward looking state, civil society, and particularly local non-governmental organizations or NGOs, have the potential to play a critical and complementary role in the delivery of the government’s national priority programmes, supporting improved governance, connecting the wider Afghan population to the state, and in advocating for the vulnerable and excluded.
Enabling civil society organisations (CSOs) in Afghanistan to realize their potential and play an active role in national development is a challenging task. Despite successful partnerships between the government and CSOs (such as, for example, the National Solidarity Programme and the Basic Package of Health Services), there is often a negative perception within the public sphere on the role and value of CSOs. This is a significant risk for CSOs, as it limits the policy space within which they operate and affects access to resources, especially financial resources. Systematic and focused efforts are required to enable NGOs to improve their credibility and effectiveness.
The ‘Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society’ (AICS) is a concept that has been incubating for several years amongst Afghanistan’s civil society community, following the 2007 Enabling Environment conference convened by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Aga Khan Development Network, in partnership with the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the Asia Development Bank. One of the key recommendations from the conference was to establish independent certification bodies for civil society organizations that are recognized by Government, the private sector, donor agencies and civil society. The AICS establishment programme was launched by AKF-A in January 2014 through a partnership between AKF and Counterpart International under a wider USAID funded Afghanistan Civic Engagement Programme (ACEP) with the long-term goal of enabling CSOs to realize their potential in support of the development of Afghanistan. Behind this initiative are key CSO networks, civil society professionals, and representatives from national and international CSOs with an interest in Afghanistan.
To support a credible and competent civil society sector in Afghanistan by linking CSOs, donors, government and capacity building services through culturally appropriate certification schemes. The Institute will encourage the growth of a vibrant civil society, promoting pluralism and participatory, non-discriminatory development in Afghanistan.
- Raise credibility of the civil society sector by certifying local organizations against locally defined and internationally recognized standards;
- Systematize capacity building efforts of local organizations by coordinating initiatives against measurable performance indicators;
- Strengthen the role of civil society in Afghanistan’s development through collective efforts of policy dialogue and active engagement with government, donors, the private sector and the broader civil society sector;
- Provide a channel for resources for civil society by strengthening philanthropic and corporate social responsibility efforts.
The AICS will be an independent, non-affiliated, Afghan managed and owned institution. AICS certified CSOs will operate efficiently, transparently and effectively; will receive the support, resources and technical assistance to build their internal capacity, and will comply with culturally appropriate, locally determined and internationally recognized governance, management and operational standards. By improving the efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of CSOs and by engaging the government, local and international NGOs and the private sector, AICS aims to make a significant positive impact on development and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and to foster an environment for philanthropy to take root and grow