Spotlight on the Afghan Professionals Network

Educated, skilled, and values-driven professionals have a vital role to play in building a better future for Afghanistan and its citizens. This is the philosophy behind the Afghan Professionals Network (APn), a passionate global team of professional Afghan volunteers who are dedicated to leveraging their skills, expertise, and connections to achieve the goal of reinventing Afghanistan one sector at a time. Read on to learn more about this dynamic organization.

 

What is the vision of APn?

APnlogoAPn was established in 2012 with three core objectives. The first is to make a positive contribution to the Afghan community, both within Afghanistan and abroad, by harnessing and channeling the resources of a worldwide network of professional Afghans. The second is to serve and benefit the people of Afghanistan through the development and delivery of educational, professional development, and charitable initiatives. And finally, APn’s third objective is to portray and promote a positive and more representative image of Afghanistan and its people to the global community. In addition, in all its work, APn strives to uphold its central values of unity, equality, tolerance, respect, diversity, and collaboration.

 

Who are APn’s members?

APn truly is a global network: there are APn members and supporters in various cities all across Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, North America, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Australia. Together, APn’s membership represents more than 15 different professional sectors, including law, government, journalism, academia, medicine, engineering, IT, and business development. APn’s leadership teams and board members are primarily located in London and Kabul, with additional board members based in California, and Washington, DC.

 

What kinds of programs and events does APn operate?

Over the years, APn has developed and implemented a variety of initiatives across the following three key focus areas:

Education—APn’s educational initiatives aim to facilitate knowledge sharing both within and without the Afghan community. Discourse Afghanistan is an example of one such initiative: the “think tank” of APn, Discourse Afghanistan sees APn’s intellectual and academic members working with the UK research community to develop reliable, unbiased, evidence-based research on the Afghan diaspora. One of the central goals of the Discourse Afghanistan initiative is to help provide a more accurate and detailed picture of what life is really like for Afghans living outside the country. In Afghanistan, APn operates educational initiatives like Stories for Kids, a project that is working to build an accessible library of children’s stories in Dari and Pashto. The idea behind Stories for Kids is to promote and facilitate a culture of literacy in Afghanistan starting from an early age, while at the same time providing resources for teaching Dari and Pashto to Afghan children living abroad.

Professional development—APn’s professional development activities aim to grow the professional Afghan community by providing inspiration, connection, and support. The two main programs in this focus area are APn Skills and APn Connect. Offered in the UK at University College London and in Kabul at the American University of Afghanistan, APn Skills presents interactive skills development workshops to young and emerging professionals. Workshop leaders are experienced authorities in their respective fields; to date, APn Skills has offered workshops in oil and gas finance, entrepreneurship, creative writing, financial fundamentals, and communications for professionals. APn Connect also operates in London and Kabul, where it targets university students as well as young professionals. Through APn Connect, professional APn mentors help link young participants with internship or employment opportunities, career fairs, seminars and symposia, and networking events.

Charitable giving—APn’s charitable initiatives aim to improve social welfare for people living in Afghanistan and contribute to the country’s socio-economic development. Winter Warmth, for example, is a Kabul-based program that provides poor families and at-risk street youth with survival essentials—including blankets, coal, and flour—during the cold winter months. These critical items are distributed by APn volunteers in Kabul, while APn members in London help with fundraising activities to provide financial support for the program. Spring of Hope, another APn charitable program, operates under a similar model, but here the items being distributed to young Afghans in need are school supplies, like pens and notebooks.

In addition to these initiatives, APn hosts a variety of affairs throughout the year. From fundraising sports events to networking seminars, these occasions are designed to bring APn members together, build awareness of APn’s activities in the broader community, and garner financial and other support for future programs. One of the most popular and important APn events is the APn Aspire Awards: a unique awards program that was created to recognize and celebrate the achievements of outstanding Afghan professionals who have made significant contributions to their field and their community. Awards are given in a variety of categories—including arts, sciences, technology, media, and entrepreneurship—and award candidates are assembled through a public nomination process.

The Bayat Foundation Supports Higher Education for Afghans

Founded by Fatema and Ehsan Bayat in 2006, the Bayat Foundation aims to provide hope and assistance to Afghans in need while working to rebuild the country. A 501(c)(3) charitable organization based in the United States, the foundation focuses on initiatives designed to improve the health and well-being of all Afghans.

The Bayat Foundation also maintains a commitment to closing the educational gap in the country. To this end, it has undertaken a number of projects designed to enhance academic opportunities in Afghanistan for everyone from children to college students. For example, the nonprofit has provided a range of support to learning centers that serve refugees and young people who have been orphaned, among other vulnerable groups. Another recipient of the foundation’s assistance has been institutions of higher learning, most notably the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).

 

American University of Afghanistan Receives Assistance

American University of AfghanistanLocated in Kabul, the American University of Afghanistan holds distinction as the country’s only private, nonprofit, independent, co-ed, nonsectarian institution of higher learning. AUAF, which awards undergraduate degrees in four areas of study and master’s degrees in two, has graduated nearly 1,000 students since opening in 2006. Graduates of AUAF have gone on to secure high-level positions with the Afghan government, as well as national and international organizations. Other graduates of AUAF have gained admission to universities in countries around the world.

AUAF holds accreditation from the Ministry of Higher Education and maintains partnerships with Stanford University, Georgetown University, the University of California system, as well as other institutions in the United States and Middle East. Through these relationships, the institution strives to ensure that it continues to provide students with a world-class education.

In order to help AUAF to achieve its goals, the Bayat Foundation recently underwrote the construction of the university’s new Bayat Institute of Technology, which opened in spring 2018. The 32,000-square-foot academic center houses seven laboratories, six lecture halls, and a library. At these state-of-the-art facilities, students and educators have an opportunity to take part in demanding research and teaching, which has the effect of expanding Afghanistan’s technical, scientific, and engineering knowledge. The center also provides support to Afghan-led innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of technology and science.

 

Completion of the Bayat Institute of Technology

The Bayat Institute of Technology, which also consists of 22 faculty offices, two prayer halls, a rooftop leisure center, and an atrium social center, was built using sustainable design and construction methods. Air circulates naturally through the atrium, while myriad windows allow for ample natural light. LED lighting has also been employed, as has repurposed marble.

The marble has been integrated with aluminum, porcelain, and gypsum to create an architecturally sound, earthquake-resistant structure. What’s more, the Bayat Institute of Technology’s radiant alabaster-colored exterior and other architectural and design elements coalesce to produce a distinguished-looking building that stands out as a marvel of Afghan craftsmanship.

In addition to underwriting the construction of the Bayat Institute of Technology, the Bayat Foundation has established a $1 million endowment fund, which will cover the operational costs of the building for the next decade. This ongoing support will extend what Ehsan Bayat calls an “unbreakable partnership” between the foundation and AUAF.

In previous years, this partnership has seen the Bayat Foundation work to improve other facilities on AUAF’s Kabul campus. In 2009, the nonprofit assisted AUAF in renovating the school gymnasium. Five years later, it again enhanced the gymnasium, this time reconstructing it. Now known as the Michelle Bayat Gymnasium, the facility benefited from the addition of new flooring, basketball hoops, and exercise spaces. The 2014 renovation also included the addition of new ventilation, plumbing, and electrical systems.

 

Foundation Donates Textbooks to Nangarhar University

The Bayat Foundation’s support of higher education does not end with AUAF. Over the years, the nonprofit has drawn on its resources to furnish quality textbooks to universities throughout Afghanistan. In 2014, Nangarhar University received a generous donation of textbooks, which the foundation provided with the cooperation of the international humanitarian nonprofit Operation Compassion.

Located in Jalalabad, Nangarhar University has offered a quality education to Afghans since it opened in 1963. Solely a medical school at the time of its inception, the institution has since expanded to comprise 13 colleges and 73 departments. Currently, 467 lecturers instruct 14,004 students in the university’s wide-ranging bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs.

Due to the Bayat Foundation’s donation, Nangarhar University will be able to continue to expand the knowledge of its students in the coming years. In the past, the foundation has also facilitated textbook donations for Maimana University, an institution located in Faryab Province.

The Bayat Foundation encourages anyone who is passionate about improving the education, health, and well-being of Afghans to support its various initiatives. Individuals can make a donation or engage in a number of other fund-raising efforts, such as participating in a charitable-matching program at their workplace. The nonprofit also welcomes the assistance of volunteers, sponsors, and public speakers to help spread the word about its important work.

Get to Know the ARTF with These 4 Important Questions

The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) is one of the most important funding entities supporting the ongoing rebuilding and development process in Afghanistan. Learn more about this critical organization with the following four frequently asked questions:

 

  1. What is the ARTF?

ARTFlogoEstablished in 2002, the ARTF is a multidonor trust fund that is managed by the World Bank and currently supported by 34 international donors. Since 2016, these donors have contributed more than US$9 billion for reconstruction projects and service delivery programs all across Afghanistan. The ARTF is the most important multidonor mechanism for nonsecurity, on-budget support in Afghanistan, and it is by far the preferred vehicle for pooled international funding. Its centrally administered structure allows for the well-coordinated and coherent channeling of funds, provides the Government of Afghanistan with funding predictability, and offers excellent transparency and high accountability for its donors, along with low overhead and transaction costs.

 

 

  1. How is the ARTF managed and governed?

There are three tiers of governance within the ARTF. Combined with three additional working groups, this management framework is both sound and flexible, allowing the ARTF to quickly and consistently adapt to changing circumstances and development priorities. The three-tiered governance framework includes the following entities:

The ARTF Steering Committee—This committee sets the strategic direction for the ARTF at quarterly meetings chaired by the World Bank and the Afghan Minister of Finance. Members of the committee are all either ARTF donors or representatives from the World Bank and the Afghan Ministry of Finance. To ensure transparency, the Steering Committee publicly posts full notes of its meetings on the ARTF website.

The ARTF Management Committee—The Management Committee is responsible for implementing the vision and direction set by the Steering Committee. This includes reviewing and approving funding proposals, reviewing ARTF finances, and making recommendations on ARTF management. Members of the Management Committee include the Afghan Ministry of Finance, the Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank, with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan taking part as an observer.

The ARTF Administrator—The World Bank serves as the Administrator for the ARTF. As such, it is responsible for monitoring and reporting on all aspects of ARTF performance. In particular, the World Bank ensures that the allocation of funds takes place in accordance with the Financing Strategy set and agreed upon by donors and the Government of Afghanistan, and in line with established fiduciary standards and performance measures.

The working groups that support the three tiers of governance are the Incentive Program Working Group, a donor group that works to set policy benchmarks for the ARTF with the Government of Afghanistan; the Strategy Group, which reviews the Financing Strategy and its implementation; and the Gender Working Group.

 

  1. How is the ARTF aligned with government priorities?

Working and collaborating closely with the Government of Afghanistan is a key priority for the ARTF; likewise, the government’s relationship with the ARTF is one of its most valued partnerships. Unlike some donor agencies that never give local governments the opportunity to work with funding directly, the ARTF channels all funds through government systems, and all projects are implemented by ministries and government agencies.

Naturally, such a close relationship means that ARTF’s work is closely aligned with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy outlined by the government. In 2010, the government established 22 National Priority Programs (NPPs) and reached an agreement with the ARTF that a minimum of 80% of donor assistance would go towards supporting these priorities. This has proved to be the most effective way for the international community to support Afghanistan’s own development goals. To date, the ARTF has been an instrumental player in many of Afghanistan’s biggest development achievements.

Beyond questions of funding, the ARTF is also a helpful resource for the Government of Afghanistan in that it provides the government with an important platform for dialogue around key policy reforms.

 

 

  1. How are ARTF funds allocated?

There are two different “windows” through which ARTF funds are allocated. The first is the Recurrent Cost window: under this funding avenue, the government receives an annual reimbursement for a predetermined portion of eligible and non-security-related operating expenditure. This recurrent cost funding is an important element of Afghanistan’s fiscal sustainability; while the government is progressively improving its own revenue base through activities like customs and taxation, it is not yet able to fully support its recurrent expenditures with domestic revenues alone. ARTF Recurrent Cost window funding helps provide consistency and stability as the government works to improve its own revenue collection processes. To date, nearly 75% of recurrent costs have fallen into the category of payroll expenses, including wages for teachers and health workers.

The second ARTF funding window is the Investment window: this funding avenue provides grant-based financing for investments that support the National Priority Programs described earlier.