A Look at 7 of the Organizations Certified by the AICS

Established in 2015, the Afghan Institute for Civil Society (AICS) works to build a stronger, more robust civil society in Afghanistan by helping to improve the credibility of the domestic civil society sector. Through its flagship program, a certification process for civil society organizations (CSOs), AICS independently evaluates and certifies Afghan CSOs against internationally recognized standards and best practices for internal governance, financial management, program delivery, and other key operational areas.

This certification process plays an important role in promoting transparency within the sector and increasing public trust in local CSOs. In addition, AICS-certified CSOs can benefit from support and networking opportunities that boost organizational capacity and performance and help to improve the sector as a whole.

As of June 2018, 27 Afghan CSOs had received AICS certification. These organizations include:

Afghanistan Civil Society Forum

The establishment of the Afghanistan Civil Society Forum (ACSFo) resulted from the first-ever Afghan Civil Society Conference, which was held in Germany in 2001. With a mission to facilitate the process of citizen and state building and to help develop a democratic and vibrant society based on citizenry values, ACSFo operates programs nationwide across four key areas: advocacy and coordination, capacity building, public outreach, and media and the rule of law. Some of the organization’s achievements include a literacy project that reached 15 million Afghans between 2003 and 2005, and the establishment of more than 180 youth advocacy committees.

Development and Ability Organization

There is very little support for people living with disabilities in Afghanistan, but the Development and Ability Organization (DAO) has been working to change that since its founding in 2004. DAO raises awareness of the issues facing people with disabilities and advocates for disability rights. To date, DAO’s programs have focused on physical rehabilitation, vocational training, and income generation for people living with disabilities. In addition, the organization publishes a bi-monthly magazine in three languages that highlights emerging disability and health issues.

afghan children

Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation

Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation (AABRAR) is another organization focused on people living with disabilities and other vulnerable populations. Founded in 1992, AABRAR works with people with disabilities—particularly those whose disability resulted from an injury from Afghanistan’s conflict years—and provides support for them to recover physically and emotionally and to increase their socio-economic participation in Afghan life. In addition, the organization works to build the capacity of local civil society organizations to both support and integrate people with disabilities.

Coordination of Rehabilitation and Development Services for Afghanistan

Established in 2002, Coordination of Rehabilitation and Development Services for Afghanistan (CRDSA) envisions a future in which Afghanistan is a fully developed country where all Afghans can lead their lives free of poverty and with dignity. By focusing on sustainable livelihoods, the reintegration and protection of returning refugees, and the promotion of human rights, CRDSA hopes to make this vision a reality. In addition to operating its own programs—such as vocational training and technical support for agriculture and livestock workers—CRDSA also awards grants to other civil society organizations in Farah and Badghis provinces.

Help the Afghan Children

Many of those who have suffered the most from Afghanistan’s years of conflict are children. Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) focuses on empowering young children and their communities through innovative educational programs. For example, HTAC’s peace education program has helped train nearly 100,000 students on the values of peace, cooperation, patience, respect, non-violence, and self-confidence. The organization also works to enhance the livelihoods of vulnerable families through vocational and skills training programs, and provides essential humanitarian aid to Afghans around the country.

Nai – Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan

An open, independent media sector is an essential element of a bright future for Afghanistan. Nai, which was established by Afghan media activists in 2005, aims to foster the development of such a sector by helping build and train the country’s pool of skilled and educated journalists. Through its newly established media institute, Nai provides coaching to existing journalists, and offers technical support to those hoping to make a start in Afghanistan’s media sector. The organization also helps rural communities run their own local media outlets. Finally, Nai works hard to protect journalists’ rights in Afghanistan by lobbying for the reform of media-related laws and regulations, and by raising awareness of the important role an independent media has to play in Afghanistan. Visitors to Kabul can see some of the fruit of Nai’s labors in the center of the city: a street there has been renamed “Freedom of Speech Road.”

Central Afghanistan Welfare Committee

Since 1989, the Central Afghanistan Welfare Committee (CAWC) has been working to improve the lives of people in rural and remote communities in Afghanistan. Its activities focus on the essentials of life in these regions: literacy, basic health and education, sanitation and hygiene, agriculture development and animal husbandry, infrastructure development, and water management are just some examples of CAWC’s many programming areas. In recent years, energy security has been a particular priority, with many CAWC projects focusing on renewable energy initiatives like solar panels, wind turbines, and micro-hydropower dams.

A Look at the Winning Design Ideas for the National Museum of Afghanistan

As it prepares to mark its 100th birthday this year, the National Museum of Afghanistan is celebrating the past with its eyes firmly on the future. Originally founded in 1919 as a collection of objects from Afghanistan’s historic royal families, the National Museum of Afghanistan has been in its current home (a former municipal building) since 1931. Over the decades, the National Museum has seen and withstood a great deal, including the dramatic expansion of its collections as a result of archaeological work undertaken by the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan. In addition, the museum has sustained serious damage from vandalism and looting during periods of unrest in the country.

Today, the National Museum of Afghanistan is planning for the development of a new facility: a modern building that will showcase Afghanistan’s rich history and complex contemporary identity in a 21st century context. As a first step toward this goal, the National Museum hosted the International Architectural Ideas Competition in 2012 to solicit bold ideas for the future facility, which will be located adjacent to the museum’s existing premises. The design brief was a somewhat unusual one. Based on the assumption that most of the participants in the competition would not be able to travel to Kabul in person, the design brief contained extremely detailed and comprehensive information about the building site, including images, drawings, diagrams, and descriptions. Submission criteria included a requirement for a visionary but culturally sensitive design, an emphasis on sustainability and the use of renewable energy, and careful attention to Kabul’s unique urban planning requirements.

A special jury—chaired by Afghanistan’s Minister of Information and Culture and composed of international architects, archaeologists, museum planners, and design professionals—considered a total of 72 design proposals from 31 countries, and announced the results at an awards ceremony in Kabul in September 2012. While considerable financing will still be needed to proceed with the construction of the new facility, the National Museum of Afghanistan and its partners (including major institutions such as UNESCO) are committed to this important project. Read on for a look at the winning design proposal, as well as the second and third prize entries and the honorable mentions.

First Prize: AV 62 Arquitectos (Spain)

According to the jury report, the Spanish design team of AV 62 Arquitectos achieved an excellent balance between form and function with its prize-winning entry, which is conceived as a deceptively simple shell arranged on a grid. The design’s distinctive, yet understated exterior appearance works in harmony with the surrounding context, and the interior spatial forms are responsive to the type of materials that will be displayed within them, making the design an inviting and welcoming one that encourages circulation and interaction with both the interior and exterior displays. The jury further praised the practicality of the design (which would be affordable and relatively simple to construct using local materials and labor), as well as its simplicity, flexibility, and approachable scale. Some of the most unique aspects of this design concept include an internal courtyard and ceiling baffles, which make effective use of Kabul’s intense natural light; parallel brick vaults on the roof; and the use of traditional materials such as decorative ceramic tile. In addition, the jury felt that the additions proposed by this design were the best at connecting the existing museum with the new facility.

Second Prize: Mansilla + Tuñón Arquitectos (Spain).

“Demonstrative” and “monumental” were some of the adjectives that the jury used to describe the design from Mansilla + Tuñón Arquitectos, which was awarded second prize in the competition. Expressed as a series of spatial volumes arranged in a grid formation, the exterior profile of the design is larger and more sculptural than the first-place entry and is clearly visually responsive to the backdrop of the nearby mountains. While the jury appreciated this larger vision, they also felt that the construction costs for this design would be significantly higher. Furthermore, they felt that some aspects of the design, such as its relationship with the existing museum and the design references to historic Afghan architecture, could have been more fully developed.

Third Prize: fs-architekten, Paul Schröder Architekt (Germany)

The jury praised the strong, dramatic, and creative architectural statement of this free-form design, which earned third prize in the competition. The sculptural massings and volumes that comprise the design allude to the adjacent mountains and transform the building into a destination in its own right. The design idea demonstrates integrity when it comes to the collections to be housed. Strong, protective walls surround different exhibition rooms, while lighter, linear circulation spaces between high walls evoke the public routes of the region’s historic cities. From a practical perspective, however, potential problems with this design include its size, complexity, and monumentality, particularly the inclusion of a large glazed atrium space.

Honorable Mentions

Three honorable mentions, each of equal ranking, were awarded to IAN+ architecture & engineering (Italy), Lawrence and Long Architects (Ireland), and Luisa Ferro, Architect (Italy).

Featured Image by Ninara | Flickr

Spotlight on the First Afghan Youth Representative to the UN

For young people in Afghanistan, June 19, 2018, was an important day. Following a rigorous open competition, Ramiz Bakhtiar was selected to become the country’s first-ever Youth Representative to the United Nations. Read on to learn more about the UN Youth Delegate Program, why Afghanistan’s participation is important, and what’s ahead for the new Youth Representative.

What is the UN Youth Delegate Program and how does it work?

The United Nations welcomes and encourages youth to participate in its decision-making activities. The Youth Delegate Program was established to serve as the designated path for participation. At the global level, the program is coordinated by the Focal Point on Youth. However, it is up to each individual Member State of the UN to establish their own national youth delegate programs, and to choose or decide who will act as the youth representatives for their country. In countries where no program to select youth delegates exists, it may be necessary to lobby to have one created.

The roles and responsibilities of youth representatives may vary depending on the countries they represent, but most representatives are involved in matters such as providing input to their nation’s official UN delegations on youth-related issues and participating in the general work of their delegations. In addition, youth delegates are able to participate in any of the UN’s intergovernmental meetings, including the General Assembly, the functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and the Human Rights Council.

How was Afghanistan’s first Youth Representative to the UN selected?

Prior to 2018, Afghanistan did not have a national youth delegate program. The development and implementation of such a program required the effort and commitment of a number of different partners. The Government of the Netherlands served as the program sponsor and worked with groups including Afghanistan’s ministries of higher education, economy, and information and culture; the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan; and Afghans for Progressive Thinking, an Afghan youth leadership organization, to establish the criteria for the program and create the selection process.

The open competition for Afghanistan’s inaugural youth delegate program attracted 60 applicants from all over the country. The candidates completed a multi-stage selection process that involved both video and in-person interviews. Finalists participated in a live debate hosted by the Bayat Foundation that took place on June 19, 2018, at the Bayat Media Center in Kabul. Attending the debate were the four members of the selection committee: Stef Blok, the Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs; Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan; Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister of Economic Cooperation; and Sofia Ramyar, the executive director Afghans for Progressive Thinking, a professional organization for youth.

Following the debate, Ramiz Bakhtiar was selected as Afghanistan’s Youth Representative to the United Nations for 2018. The 28-year-old put himself through school by working as a street vendor, and today he is employed by the Dubai-based media firm MOBY Group. Bakhtiar is passionate about highlighting the struggles that Afghan youth face today and helping to build a brighter future for his contemporaries.

Why is it important for Afghanistan to have a Youth Representative to the UN?

According to the United Nations Population Fund, nearly two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population, or 63.7%, are under 25 years of age. Representing the promise of a new Afghanistan, this large, emerging cohort seeks peace, stability, and prosperity, but must contend with significant challenges, particularly when it comes to essential needs like health, education, and employment. Having a Youth Representative to the UN—someone like Ramiz Bakhtiar—who can show global leaders the face of Afghanistan’s new generation and give a voice to the unique issues they are facing—is an important way for Afghan youth to gain recognition and support in the fight for a better future.

What’s ahead for Afghanistan’s Youth Representative to the UN?

One of Ramiz Bakhtiar’s most important responsibilities as Afghanistan’s Youth Representative to the UN will be to meet and engage with other young Afghans and hear their ideas for building a country that is tolerant, peaceful, and forward-looking. Specifically, Bakhtiar will canvass his peers for their views on the UN, politics, and what role the UN should play in Afghanistan’s future development. Social media platforms are expected to be a key part of Bakhtiar’s efforts to engage young people in Afghanistan, gather their opinions, and share his activities.

So far, Bakhtiar has already made significant progress in engaging with Afghanistan’s young people, and in September 2018, he became the first-ever Afghan youth to address the United Nations Security Council during the 73rd General Assembly session. In his address, Bakhtiar highlighted the problems facing Afghan youth and potential solutions. He also described his peers’ goal of transforming Afghanistan into a hub of regional connectivity and a rich cultural, artistic, and historic resource for the world.