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Counterpart International Releases Enlightening Report on Civil Society in Afghanistan

Bridging the Gap sheds light on the complex relationship between elected officials and civil society actors.

Arlington, VA, April 29, 2010 --( Counterpart International (Counterpart), under the Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society (IPACS), has released the report, Bridging the Gap: Increasing Civil Society Participation in Law and Policy Formulation in Afghanistan. The report reveals the true nature of the complicated relationships between elected officials, government and civil society organizations (CSO) in Afghanistan, showing that while there has been progress, greater need and opportunities for more effective engagement between these various parties in law- and policy-making processes still abound. The existing engagement is largely donor-driven and considered by the international community to be ineffective.

“A report like this in an increasingly challenging environment like Afghanistan is a testament to the leadership and hard work of Counterpart’s staff on the ground. Because of our team’s belief in creating enduring change, Counterpart has been at the forefront of strengthening civil society in Afghanistan for five years, and this report is another tool customized for Afghan groups and international assistance organizations to design their work more effectively,” says Alex Sardar, Vice President of Counterpart’s Civil Society Programs.

Over the past ten years, as part of a larger effort to strengthen Afghanistan’s civil society, Counterpart has worked to build the capacity of CSOs through grant support and technical training. This study was undertaken as a way to better understand the cooperation between elected officials, government and civil society actors to shape laws and policies in Afghanistan, as well as to identify ways to improve their engagement. Through interviews and focus group discussions with representatives from all three sectors, a great deal was learned about engagement around the formulation of relevant laws and policies.

“The report shows that while civil society in Afghanistan has improved by leaps and bounds in its ability to provide services and assistance to local communities, local Afghan organizations still have a long way to go before they can be key players who advise Parliament and government in the creation and implementation of law and policies” says Senior Program Manager Amal Al Azzeh.

The study revealed that neither the law- or policy-making processes have clearly defined guidelines for including consultations with CSOs. Counterpart outlines major recommendations that have emerged out of this study, including building a better understanding of civil society and law- and policy-making processes, increasing access to information and increasing women’s participation.

“NGOs can play an important role in helping the government shape Afghanistan’s legal and regulatory base and ensure that the needs of the people are reflected in it. The report identifies a number of ways to improve and increase their engagement,” says Anika Ayrapetyants, Director of Monitoring & Evaluation and Knowledge Management at Counterpart, who managed the research effort.

Authored and produced by Counterpart International, under the auspices of USAID and in collaboration with the Afghan NGO Cooperation for Peace and Unity (CPAU), the Bridging the Gap report can be found online at

Established in 1965, Counterpart International has forged strategic partnerships in more than 65 countries. With 350 staff currently operating in 25 countries, Counterpart’s programs encompass humanitarian aid and relief assistance, democracy and governance, economic development, and feeding the impoverished. Though Counterpart’s projects are diverse, they share a common objective: improving the lives of those in need by empowering people and local institutions to develop innovative and lasting solutions that address social, economic and environmental challenges. Learn more at

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Counterpart International
Alex Sardar

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