Case Study - BCA 16

On the 5th October 2016, the European Union and the government of Afghanistan co-hosted the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (BCA). This conference brought together  75 countries and 26 international organisations and agencies


Participants endorsed the ambitious reform agenda presented by the Afghan government. They undertook  to ensure continued international political and financial support for Afghanistan until 2020.

BAAG played a leading role in supporting Afghanistans Civil Society Working Committee (CSWC) to have 10 delegates representing the voice of the Afghan people.The 10 delegates were: 

  1. Mr Aziz Rafiee – Afghan Civil Society Forum-organisation
  2. Ms Palwasha Hassan - Afghan Women’s Educational Centre
  3. Mr Naeem Ayubzada - Transparent Elections Foundation of Afghanistan
  4. Ms Nooria Sultani - Equality for Peace and Democracy
  5. Mr Said Ekram Afzali - Integrity Watch Afghanistan
  6. Ms Samira Hamidi - Afghan Women's Network
  7. Mr Maiwand Rahyab - Afghan Institute for Civil Society
  8. Ms Zarqa Yaftali - Women & Children Legal Research Foundation
  9. Mr Jan Mohammad - South Western Afghanistan & Balochistan Association
  10. Ms Freshta Karimi - Da Qanoon Ghoshtonky


The BCA supported the complilation of the following documents: 

  1. Afghan civil society position paper for the BCA 
  2. Synthesis Paper of various combined Afghan and international NGO/group position papers
  3. Afghanistan National Peace & Development Framework 



Mr Aziz Rafiee - Afghan Civil Society Forum-organization

Focus: Civil society and democracy

The biggest challenge is the fight and struggle against radicalism and bad traditional practices.  We struggle to reach concerned citizens who care about others and promote tolerance in a fragile and hostile atmosphere of more than 30 years of conflict and destroyed social fabric.

Aziz Rafiee has worked for the development of Afghanistan civil society for more than 25 years, coordinating with many, diverse social, human rights and cultural groups.  Today as Executive Director of Afghan Civil Society Forum-organization, he coordinates 350 member-NGOs and partners to facilitate the process of citizen building and state building through advocacy, capacity building and coordination.  

Aziz is founding member of several democracy-building groups:

  • Afghan Civil Society Organisations Network for Peace
  • Free and Fair Elections Foundation
  • Civil Society Coalition for Advocacy
  • Action for Civil Society in Afghanistan
  • Civil Society Joint Advocacy Committee
  • Civil Society Joint Working Group

Aziz was a convening member of the Tokyo NGO Conference in 2001, the Emergency Loya Jirga in 2002 and the Constitution Loya Jirga in 2004, and also played a leading role in civic education for both the Presidential and the Parliamentary Elections.  Born in district one of Kabul in 1960, Aziz has always lived in Afghanistan, graduating from the Engineering Faculty of Kabul University in 1981. 

Languages: English – Dari – Pashto


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Ms Palwasha Hassan - Afghan Women’s Educational Centre

Gender, development and governance 

“When things are not moving you see it as a challenge. After 20 years I have seen a big evolution in women’s rights. I have learned that change is possible. Today building trust with communities is most important to make sure all women know their rights. Through our daily work with communities, we are countering insecurity and instability, and expanding education and development for all, especially marginalised groups”.

alwasha Hassan has been active in women’s rights issues in Afghanistan for the past 20 years, working on peace and development and the role of women in government and society. Today as Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Educational Centre, Palwasha leads 174 staff, advocating policy change to protect and enable women in Afghan society.

The Afghan Women’s Educational Centre works against violence and discrimination and for the human rights of women and children, and advocates for policies that embed democracy, justice and equality. The Centre also provides capacity building and services in education and socio-economic development for women and children in need.

As a refugee in Pakistan, Palwasha was directly exposed to the suffering of women and children, and helped to secure school places for the refugee children. After learning about international women’s rights, she was motivated to set up the Afghan Women Network, and undertook research in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Jordan. Palwasha also served as senior research fellow in the US Institute of Peace. 

Palawasha holds a Masters in Post-war Recovery Studies from the UK’s University of York.

Languages: English – Dari – Pashto


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Mr Naeem Ayubzada - Transparent Elections Foundation of Afghanistan

Governance, fair and free elections, electoral reform

“Our country is rich is diversity. Travelling intensively to rural areas, I have met so many different people with so many traditions, cultures and ways of living. They all want peace. They all have hope. They all need to know they matter.”

For the past 25 years Naeem Ayubzada has been active in education, social outreach and democracy building.  Naeem is the founder and leader of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA). Set up in 2010, TEFA is the parliamentary election observation body that monitored the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. 

Before, Naeem worked at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs on regional governance, parliamentary engagement, political parties, election observation missions and gender mainstreaming policies to increase women’s political participation.

Naeem is familiar with the tribal structures and political cleavages of Afghanistan and has worked closely with government ministries, members of parliament, women’s rights activists and civil society leaders.

Under the Taliban regime, Naeem was forced to move to Pakistan, where he graduated in political science from Preston University. He returned to Afghanistan in 2001 and one year later set up a school in the outskirts of Kabul, the beginning of his civic engagement.

Languages: English – Dari – Pashtu - Urdu - Arabic


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Ms Nooria Sultani - EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy

Women, peace and democracy 

“It may be unfair, but what happens in few days, even a single day, can change the course of a whole life time” ---- (Khalid Hussaini)

Nooria Sultani is Programme and Advocacy Manager with EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy, which works to empower and strengthen women and youth at the community and policy levels to build coalitions and networks and promote human rights, peace and good governance.

As a refugee in Pakistan for 12 years, Nooria wanted to help the women she saw that were living such miserable lives. She studied social law because she wanted to fight for their rights.

Nooria works to support internally displaced Afghan women and against the sexual exploitation of women prisoners. She leads volunteer networks of 30 or more women in 15 provinces of Afghanistan, providing training on women’s rights, peace and democracy. Since volunteering is not commonplace in Afghanistan, the network is providing hope for change. Yet recently local offices have been ransacked and women threatened.

Before, when working for the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre, Nooria’ helped set up the first microbiology and histopathology labs in Kabul, to allow forensic testing on rapists for the first time, and introduced training on post-trauma counseling for the victims.   

Languages: English – Dari


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Ms Samira Hamidi - Afghan Women's Network

Women’s rights, peace and governance 

“The strength and resilience of Afghan women motivates me every day. Despite all the hardships at home, in society and in the workplace, the majority of women are not giving up. When I travel in the morning, I pray to come back alive in the evening. This has increased my mother’s fears for me. Most of the time she begs me, stay at home.”

Samira Hamidi has been active in women’s rights, peace and governance for 16 years. Today she is Chair of the Executive Board of the Afghan Women’s Network. The Network advocates for women, peace and security, women’s leadership, legal and social rights.

On a daily basis, Samira is involved in advocacy meetings and advocacy related initiatives, meetings on women’s issues with government ministries, meetings with international donors and policy makers and emergency meetings on emerging and unexpected issues such as threats to women human rights defenders, increased insecurity, and incidents of violence against women. She is active on Twitter and Facebook.  

For Samira, there are several challenges facing women in Afghanistan.

  • The need for protecting high profile women politicians and NGO leaders and improve the security situation for all women.
  • The lack of women in local government. Good governance means women in leadership roles in local government.
  • The justice system is still not women friendly and violence against women is increasing.

During the NATO Summit in 2014, Samira worked with Amnesty UK for a campaign called “Talk to me, not about me”.

Languages: English – Dari


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Mr Maiwand Rahyab - Afghan Institute for Civil Society

Capacity building, civil society and governance 

“The recent attack on the enlightenment protest in Kabul that resulted in the killing of more than 80 protestors during a peaceful protest is one of the sad stories of my country. A bleak reminder of our struggles and the price we have to pay for exercising our constitutional rights. As a member of the Afghan civil society family, the attack is a sign of the shrinking civil space in the country, a horrifying setback, one that makes our work and struggles more timely and relevant.”   

Maiwand Rahyab is Executive Director of Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society, whose role is to strengthen the role and relevance of civil society in Afghanistan. The AICS assesses and certifies civil society organisations to improve their governance.

Before joining AICS, served as Chief of Afghanistan Chapter of Counterpart International, and led the Afghanistan Office of Focus Humanitarian Assistance and served as an OSCE election observer in Tajikistan in 2005.

Maiwand ran home-based schools for girls during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. He remains a prominent youth and civil society leader and a founding member of a number of civil society and youth movements. He founded the Youth Development Foundation, a youth group aimed at promoting youth civic engagement and peace building in northern Afghanistan.  

Maiwand holds a Master’s of Public Administration degree through a Fulbright Scholarship and studied law in Balkh, Afghanistan. He was a Chevening Fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK, and has spoken on civil society and Afghanistan at global institutions and forums, including the UN General Assembly, US Institute of Peace and the Wilson Center.

Languages: English – Dari


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Ms Zarqa Yaftali Hakimi - Women & Children Legal Research Foundation

Women’s rights and child protection

Zarqa Yaftali Hakimi is executive director of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation. She has a deep knowledge of women’s and child protection policies and issues in Afghanistan. Zarqa joined the organisation as research assistant in 2007.

Zarqa has written research reports on many topics.

  • Women’s Access to Justice
  • Early marriages in Afghanistan
  • Violence against women in Afghanistan
  • Girl child situation in Afghanistan
  • Women’s political participation in Afghanistan
  • Women’s access to property and heritage.

Zarqa has written manuals on the following issues.

  • International human rights mechanism
  • Awareness on Elimination of violence against women
  • Women’s access to inheritance and property
  • Leadership and Management and Family order

Zarqa is active in several women and child protection groups.

  • Afghan Women Coalition Anti Corruption, founder member
  • Afghan University Women, founder member
  • Afghan Women’s Network, board member
  • Civil society Human Right Network, board member
  • Child Protection Action Network, member
  • Afghanistan constitutional Network, member
  • Women Political Participation, member

Zarqa was born in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. She graduated in law and political science from Kabul University in 2006.

Languages: English


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Mr Jan Mohammad Hamdard - South Western Afghanistan and Baluchistan Association for Coordination

Democracy at the grassroots level 

“There is a growing need for basics like drinking water and education. In these remote rural areas security is getting worse day by day. The number of internally displaced people is increasing every day. Many young educated males have emigrated. The people must not be neglected.”

Jan has worked in development and capacity building in Afghanistan for 20 years. Today he leads the South Western Afghanistan and Baluchistan Association for Coordination.

The South Western Afghanistan and Baluchistan Association for Coordination facilitates and coordinates the provision of services by local member NGOs and CSOs in the region, and ensures a single platform for sharing information and building a common voice.

Jan's work with local organisations brings him face-to-face with daily realities. In order to help tackle the region’s high unemployment and the skills shortage, the South Western Afghanistan and Baluchistan Association for Coordination has started to provide local training.

Some 3420 people, 2270 men and 1150 women, have been trained in Computer Skills, MS Office, Social Media, Photography, Videography, Citizen Journalism and Sound Recording and Editing. All participants are now working locally, using their new skills.

Languages: English – Pashto

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Ms Freshta Karimi - Da Qanoon Ghoshtonky (Seeker of Law)

Access to justice, legal aid to victims of domestic violence 

“I would love to see a time where we all can live in a better, peaceful and developed country. Especially I want to see the improvement in the situation for the women of this country who have suffered a lot. ‘Qatra Qatra Darya mesha’ - drop by drop a river is made.”

Freshta Karimi is Founder and Director of Da Qanoon Ghushtonky -meaning “Seeker of Law” in Pashto - one of the largest legal aid service organisations in Afghanistan. An activist from the ‘new generation’ of Afghan women, Freshta is committed to building a more secure and safe country for vulnerable women, victims of violence, and works to increase legal rights awareness among local communities.

Her organisation, Da Qanoon Ghushtonky, provides legal aid services for women, children and men in criminal and family cases in 16 provinces of Afghanistan. From its creation in 2006, more than 21,000 criminal and family cases have been handled: 70% of victims were released, or in civil cases, resolved in favour of victims. Da Qanoon Ghushtonky has also provided training to build the capacity of defence lawyers, law and Sharia Law students, paralegals, judges, prosecutors and police.

Freshta’s efforts to promote gender equality and empower women were recognised internationally when the Danish Government awarded her a Millennium Development Goal 3 Champion Torch in 2010. Freshta was one of the two official civil society spokespeople at the 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan. 

Freshta is a law graduate from Kabul University. 

Languages: English – Dari – Pashto  


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Mr Said Ekram Afzali - Integrity Watch Afghanistan

Governance and corruption 

(more details to follow - please click here for his LSE Alumni profile) 

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