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 One of Afghanistan’s Most Endangered Animals

Afghanistan is one of the few countries in the world that the elusive snow leopard calls home. The secretive big cat inhabits the high mountains of Central Asia—some of the most remote landscapes on the planet—and the Wakhan Corridor of northeastern Afghanistan marks the westernmost edge of its territory.

Since ancient times, the snow leopard has been a sacred animal and an important cultural symbol for the mountain people with whom it shares its territory. Despite this status, however, the last several decades have seen the snow leopard pushed to the brink of extinction due to poaching, illegal trade, and the loss of habitat and prey due to development and expansion. At one point, estimates placed the snow leopard population of Afghanistan at only 50 to 60 animals.

snow leopard

A brighter future for the snow leopard?

Today, experts are hopeful that the snow leopard’s numbers will rise again due in large part to the efforts of a variety of country government agencies and NGOs that are making the preservation of this mysterious species a top priority. One organization dedicated to saving the snow leopard is the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP). Based in the Kyrgyz Republic, GSLEP brings together country governments, non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, local communities, and private sector representatives on a shared mission to conserve snow leopards and their precious high-mountain ecosystems.

To date, GSLEP has been remarkably successful in uniting these diverse stakeholders and in making progress by working together. In 2013, under the umbrella of GSLEP, the governments of all 12 of the snow leopard’s range countries—including Afghanistan, China, India, and Russia—unanimously adopted the Bishkek Declaration on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard, a resolution which outlined each government’s commitment to protecting and recovering snow leopard populations and habitats. The goal of the declaration is to secure at least 20 different snow leopard landscapes across the animal’s range by the year 2020 (a secure snow leopard landscape is one that is home to at least 100 breeding age snow leopards). According to recent reports from Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency, the snow leopard’s numbers have significantly increased over the last few years.

What you need to know about snow leopards.

snow leopard

Interestingly, for all of their cultural significance, few people know much about the iconic snow leopard. The cat is rarely seen by humans, and due to its secretive behavior, many details about its life and habits remain a mystery. However, as a result of the increased conservation work that has been undertaken in recent years (including technological advancements like remote-triggered camera captures), our knowledge of snow leopards has been steadily increasing. Read on to learn some amazing facts about this unique species and to obtain an up close and personal look at one of the world’s most enigmatic animals.

Snow leopards are high-altitude specialists—Snow leopards tend to live above the treeline in high-altitude forests, alpine meadows, and high rocky areas, usually at elevations of 2,700 to 5,000 meters. In Russia, they have been observed at elevations as low as 540 meters, but their preferred terrain is steeper and more remote. In general, they favor broken rocky terrain and irregularly sloping areas and tend to avoid major valleys, forested areas, extensive open areas, and regions with a strong human presence.

Snow leopards are solitary—Like some other species of big cats, snow leopards are solitary animals who live and roam alone for most of their lives. The exception to this is mating pairs and females with their litters. Young snow leopards generally leave their mothers and siblings at about 18 to 22 months of age.

Snow leopards can travel long distances—Due to their solitary habits, snow leopards are widely dispersed over their territory and must often travel long distances to find prey and a remote habitat. Dispersing leopards (leopards that leave their family groups) have been known to traverse up to 65 kilometers of open terrain to reach more isolated, rocky territories, and some snow leopards have been recorded as far as 200 kilometers from their usual haunts.

Snow leopards are opportunistic predators—While some animals are specialized predators (only preying on specific species), snow leopards are what are known as “opportunistic predators.” What this means is that they hunt a wide variety of prey and may scavenge when possible and necessary. While their principal prey are ibex and blue sheep, they are capable of killing prey up to three times their own weight. Therefore, throughout their territory, the only animals unavailable to them as prey are adult camels, wild yak, and kiang. In terms of prey, snow leopards kill a large hooved animal (or equivalent) every 10 to 15 days and can stay with it for up to a week if they are not disturbed.

What’s New at the UNESCO Office in Kabul?

Since it was re-opened in 2002, the UNESCO Office in Kabul has been working with the government of Afghanistan and a variety of local and international partners and stakeholders to build Afghanistan’s capacity in the areas of education,culture, communication and information, and natural and social sciences. In pursuit of this goal, the Office oversees a broad range of programs and events across these focus areas, all designed to enrich thelives of Afghan citizens and contribute to a stronger future for their country.

Some of the most recent offerings from the UNESCO Office in Kabul include the following:

Workshop on Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage involves more than monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions and living expressions (e.g., oral traditions, rituals,social practices, festive events, and performing arts, as well as the knowledge and skills involved in the production of traditional crafts) that cultural groups have passed down to their descendants for generations. UNESCO refers to this body of traditions as “intangible cultural heritage” (ICH), and the question of how to safeguard these practices is of growing concern in the face of globalization.

Image by Unesco Headquarters Paris | Flickr

In October 2018, UNESCO and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture organized a community-based workshop on the topic of preserving and promoting ICH in Afghanistan. Held over four days in the city of Bamiyan, the main goal of the workshop was to train local communities to effectively document,protect, and promote their own ICH practices. The workshop’s attendees included local ICH practitioners and representatives from a variety of organizations,including the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the University of Bamiyan. Over the course of the four days, participants learned about and discussed some of the fundamental theoretical concepts of ICH, assembled an inventory of documented examples of ICH practices in Bamiyan, and conferred about practical measures to safeguard ICH.

Bamiyan Management Plan Workshop

The former site of two massive and ancient open-air Buddha statues, the Bamiyan Valley is one of Afghanistan’s most important World Heritage Sites. However,the property’s fragile archaeological and geological context has also earned it a ranking on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Over the last decade,emergency preservation efforts have been undertaken, but the site is strongly in need of a comprehensive overall management plan, especially now that a variety of development initiatives are currently underway.

To assist with the development of the ambitious plan, UNESCO organized a three-day workshop in Bamiyan to bring together the key stakeholders that manage different areas of development in the region. At the October 2018 workshop,representatives from a variety of government offices—including the ministries of Information and Communication; Development and Housing; Agriculture,Irrigation, and Livestock; and Rural Rehabilitation and Development—came together to discuss how the proposed Bamiyan Cultural Master Plan and the Strategic Master Plan could be harmonized with existing development plans.

Curriculum Reform Workshop Series

Improving the quality of and access to education is currently one of Afghanistan’s top priorities. One of the key policies the country is adopting in pursuit of this goal is an ambitious reform of the national general education curriculum. To date, the UNESCO Office in Kabul has been one of the strongest supporters of the Ministry of Education’s curriculum reform efforts.

In late September 2018, the Office organized a workshop, the first in an intended series of five, to strengthen and advance the reform work that has taken place so far. The workshop series is geared toward the members of the Ministry of Education’s Technical Working Group, and also involves a number of Ministry senior officials. Broad workshop objectives include finalizing the Curriculum Framework for General Education, the Afghan Life Competencies Framework, and the syllabi for a variety of subject areas, as well as developing guidelines and quality assurance frameworks for textbooks and learning resources.

In addition, each of the five workshops will explore an element that is central to the goal of curriculum reform, including student-centered teaching and learning, strategies for active learning, formative assessment, integrating life competencies with particular subject areas, and syllabus mapping and review.

IPDCtalks

In 2016 UNESCO designated September 28 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. According to UNESCO, access to information is an essential human right that is necessary for the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. To commemorate this day in 2018, the UNESCO Office in Kabul held an IPDC talks event in early October.

Inspired by TED Talks and organized by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), IPDC talks is a global event series that aims to spark an international discussion of how to foster open societies and create better laws and policies in support of access to information. Speakers at the Kabul IPDC talks event included members of the media and civil society and representatives from Afghanistan’s government and the UN.