Emerging Afghan Leader to Attend Major Youth Summit in the Netherlands

Twenty-three-year-old Mohammad Mustafa Raheal is part of a new generation of Afghan leaders who have come of age during the post-Taliban period of Afghanistan. Like many of his young compatriots, he wants to see Afghans take a stronger role in solving their own problems, an outlook informed by years of benefiting from and actively participating in foreign aid programs that continue to be vital to Afghanistan’s stability. 

Since graduating from the USAID’s Emerging Civil Society Leader’s program in 2016, Raheal has fought for internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and women in protection centers as a project coordinator for the International Psychosocial Organization. On September 3, his dedication was recognized when he was selected for the One Young World scholarship program, which will see him participate in an annual global youth summit in the Hague on October 16-20, 2018. Raheal is one of 12 young leaders selected from more than 4,400 applicants in 160 countries. Read more...


Afghan Civil Society Advocacy Efforts Improve Law on Associations

Afghanistan took a major step forward in creating the environment in which new civil society organizations (CSOs) can continue to register and conduct their work in Afghanistan. In December 2017, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published enabling amendments to the Law on Associations, easing registration and reporting requirements, and eliminating taxes on the property of associations. This breakthrough followed months of advocacy efforts by Afghan CSOs with support from the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) under USAID’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP).

In early 2017, the MoJ proposed restrictive amendments to the Law on Associations without consulting civil society. The Lower House of Parliament approved most of the restrictive amendments and sent them to the Upper House for approval. In May 2017, CSOs in coordination with ICNL studied the amendments and determined that they would significantly hamper the ability of associations to register and operate. Read more...


Afghan Civil Society Speaks from One Voice

Cultivating strong bonds between the government and civil society organizations is a foundation that offers informed and predictable decision-making and benefits to citizens. However, engagement between these sectors has been stymied by Afghan civil society’s inability to present a united voice and represent citizens and their concerns in a constructive manner. This challenge was underscored by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who called for greater civil society unity, leadership and effective responsiveness to the country’s evolving realties and needs during an annual NGOs Conference in Kabul on March 11, 2018.

In an effort to take on greater leadership and accountability, the Civil Society – Joint Working Group (CSJWG), a network comprising more than 500 civil society organizations (CSOs), elected 31 members, including 19 women to its Secretariat during a general assembly on March 7, 2018. The election resulted in 17 new Secretariat members and greater inclusiveness. The assembly was organized with the support of USAID’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program. Read more...


Annual Festival Empowers and Inspires Afghan Youth

Securing Afghanistan’s future means empowering future generations. Since 2010, the Afghan Youth Voices Festival (AYVF) has provided a platform for Afghan youth to express themselves, showcase talent and raise their voices on issues that affect them. This year’s AYVF, held on April 19-21 in Kabul, showcased the festival’s staying-power as a trusted platform that continues to inspire Afghan youth from across the country. The annual festival is supported by USAID’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP), co-implemented by Counterpart International and Internews.

Faizya Hussaini of Bamyan Cultural House has participated in the festivals since 2016. “Over the years, I have seen youth come to learn new skills, add their voices to local issues and become empowered to push for social change.”

The achievements of AYVF go far beyond the three days where youth from 12 provinces gather in Kabul to celebrate their talents in videography, photography, blogging, theater performance, and poetry readings Read more...


Community Dialogue Leads to Steps to Upgrade Road in Faryab Province

The projection of central government authority and services has historically been a challenge in largely rural and rugged Afghanistan, a situation made worse by the conflict with the Taliban. However, upon closer inspection, a more positive and hopeful picture can be found. Across rural communities in at least 27 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, Afghans are looking to themselves to address local issues by engaging in inclusive dialogue and advocacy with government authorities. Such civic action is being supported by USAID’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP) since 2013 through a country-wide network of provincial civil society organizations (CSOs).

Under the guidance of these provincial CSOs, local communities across Afghanistan have created platforms to engage in open, respectful and solution-oriented conversations to address common community problems. At the community dialogues, local students, mullahs, teachers, CSO representatives, elders and members of community district councils discuss and prioritize issues such as infrastructure, unemployment. Read more...


Emerging Leader to Represent Voice of Afghan Youth at the United Nations

Afghan youth seeking peace and development in their country will soon have a voice on the global stage. On June 18, 2018, Ramiz Bakhtiar was selected as the first-ever Afghan Youth Representative to the United Nations, by the Dutch and Afghan governments and youth organization “Afghans for Progress Thinking.” The selection will see him speak at the UN General Assembly this October, among other activities. His journey to global leadership goes back several years. In 2015, at the age of 23, Bakhtiar joined the Emerging Civil Society Leaders (ECSLs), a network of aspiring community leaders from across the country supported by USAID’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program.

“The ECSL Program was a wonderful experience and it tremendously added to my knowledge, experience and involvement in democratic processes. I acquired a great deal of skills, including advocacy skills, public speaking and civic activism - all of these activities played a key role in my selection as the Afghan Youth Representative to the United Nations,” Read more...


Female Afghan Kuchi Nomad Runs for Parliament

Afghanistan’s nomads, known as the Kuchis, are some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in the country due to limited access to services, economic opportunities and security. But Farzana Elham Kochai, a 26-year-old Kuchi of the Khishki subtribe, wants to change this by running for office in the parliamentary elections scheduled on October 20, 2018.

There are an approximately 2.4 million Kuchis in Afghanistan’s 34 million population. Most live off the land, herding goats from province to province and harvesting their valuable cashmere. Unlike her grandparents, who lived a traditional nomadic lifestyle in Parwan Province north of Kabul, Farzana grew up in a settlement, as with an estimated 40 percent of modern-day Kuchis.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, she decided to become more socially active and in 2015 she was selected to join the Emerging Civil Society Leaders (ECSL), a network of aspiring community leaders from across the country supported by USAID’s Afghan Civic Education Program. Read more...


From Student to Social Innovator

Lima Madomi was a computer student who set her sights on becoming a technologist in an environment where few women get such chances. Now, she has gone even further and become a well-recognized social innovator. The journey towards this incredible achievement was conditioned by the introduction of Innovation Labs (iLabs) in Afghanistan by Internews under the USAID-funded Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP), co-implemented with Counterpart International. The annual iLabs convene local experts in the fields of ICT, media, government, and civil society to work collaboratively to identify technology solutions to social problems.  

Lima, who was a budding social innovator, participated in the 2017 iLabs, and has since turned some of her social innovation ideas into actual products that address social change. Lima was one of four female alumni selected to present their experiences at the 2018 Social Innovation Conference, which was organized by TechNation as a capstone of four years of achievements under ACEP. Read more...


RTI Rating of Access to Information Law Puts Afghanistan on the Map

In 2014, Afghanistan adopted an Access to Information Law (AIL), a crucial step towards ensuring government accountability in the fight against corruption. Technical support for the drafting of the law was provided by Internews, under the USAID funded Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP), co-implemented with Counterpart International. Internews also provided support to the Oversight Commission on Access to Information (OCAI), set up by the government under the law to ensure the full implementation of the AIL.

As a result of OCAI’s work, the 2014 AIL was replaced with a much-improved version in May 2018. After being approval by the Afghan government, the Centre for Law and Democracy, in its globally recognized Right to Information (RTI) ranking, scored the new AIL at 138 out of a maximum of 150, placing it in “the best in the world” category. This historic achievement was well received by Afghan media and civil society, which are now calling for the 2018 AIL to be even more effectively implemented than its predecessor. Read more...


Media Boot Camp Strengthens Provincial TV and Radio

The expansion of local TV stations across Afghanistan in recent years has contributed to the greater engagement of local communities. However, many of these fledgling stations need skills and capacity building to help them work more professionally. Fahim Hariva, a cameraman at Burna TV and Radio in Nimroz province was one of 16 TV producers and technicians from five provinces who participated in a TV technical training boot camp organized by Internews Network under USAID’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP) in Kabul in February 2018.

Fahim is one of around 50 other cameramen, producers, reporters and editors that have taken part in the boot camp. “This training was extremely helpful for me and I am using what I learned in my work everyday – about video and audio recording, lighting and editing,” said Fahim.

Burna TV and Radio was established in 2017 and is the first TV station in Nimroz province. Read more...