• Grassroots engagement holds the key to development in Afghanistan

Grassroots engagement holds the key to development in Afghanistan

27 September 2016 | Civil society

Ten prominent Afghan development and human rights activists will alert world leaders to the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan that has led to more than a million internally displaced people, the highest levels of civilian casualties since 2009 and unemployment rates of 40%. Without renewed engagement by the international community with civil society, at the grassroots level, they warn that progress for peace and development will be impossible.

The Afghan activists will be joined by ten international NGO leaders, including Jawed Nader, Director of BAAG, British & Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group, a network of 28 charities delivering vital development, rights and humanitarian programmes in Afghanistan. 

Jawed Nader said, “The growth of a vibrant civil society in Afghanistan has been one of the country’s great achievements. Yet our work is under threat because of the intensifying conflict. Funding is uncertain, attacks on staff are commonplace and life is risky. Some of our delegates deal with the daily stress that they might not make it home that night.International support to Afghanistan – both financial and technical – must continue, not only to the Afghan government, but to also build a strong grassroots civil society and support INGOs.”

Nooria Sultani, Programme Manager at Afghan NGO, EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy said, “Sustainable development in Afghanistan needs vibrant grassroots networks in rural communities as well as vocal NGOs in Kabul. Our voices must be heard. Every day. Not just today.”

The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan on 5th October is jointly hosted by the European Union and the Government of Afghanistan, and brings together leaders from 70 countries to discuss international commitments. Pledges are expected for funding for Afghanistan to 2020 and beyond. The activists will present recommendations on behalf of Afghan civil society, designed to tackle the major crises of insecurity, poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.

1.     The Brussels Conference must urgently drive a national dialogue towards a comprehensive and inclusive peace process that includes civil society, without which all development efforts remain futile.

2.     Partnership and mutual respect between the Government of Afghanistan, the international community and civil society are essential for continued progress on human rights and sustainable development in Afghanistan.

3.     The new Afghan National Peace and Development Framework can be successfully implemented only with policies and programmes that build on the knowledge of civil society, experience of NGOs and engagement with local community networks.

In their official Conference paper to the Afghan government and international donors, the activists call for commitment from all sides, including civil society, to improve governance and tackle corruption, to protect human rights and support the most vulnerable, including those displaced by the conflict.

MaiwandRahyab, Executive Director of the Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society said, “Afghanistan is a different place today, thanks to the determination and resilience of the Afghan people and the support of the international community. But without stable partnership between government and civil society, peace in Afghanistan will not be just or lasting.”

Samira Hamidi, Chair of Executive Board of Afghan Women’s Network said, “We know the real needs of the people. We work in remote rural communities. Reaching the grassroots is critical to the future of Afghanistan. We need the Afghan government and the international community to help us strengthen our work in remote provinces.”





Media enquiries contact Jo Sullivan, Conscience Consulting on


+32 474 349 458 or jo@conscienceconsult.net


Media wishing interviews with the Afghan development and human rights leaders (online profiles here), or specific photo or TV opportunities, should send an immediate request to jo@conscienceconsult.net.


Interviews can be arranged on 3rd October at the Marriot hotel, Grand Place on 4th October in the Charlemagne building and on 5th October in the Justus Lipsius building (accredited press).


For information on the civil society delegate agenda, contact Jenny Humphreys, Programme & Communications Manager at BAAG, on +44 7740 292 015 or jenny.humphreys@baag.org.uk


For information on the Brussels Conference, programme and venue, see http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/international-summit/2016/10/05/



BAAGis an umbrella organisation of 28 British and Irish NGOs delivering vital development, rights and humanitarian programmes in Afghanistan.  BAAG also works with Afghan civil society to champion the voices, needs and recommendations of Afghans. Established in 1987, BAAG is a source of expertise on Afghanistan's development needs and civil society sector. 

BAAG worked closely with the Afghan civil society activists and other prominent Afghan NGOs, CSOs and local community groups as they conducted countrywide consultations and developed recommendations for the Brussels Conference. Over 475 national and grassroots civil society organisations have shared their insights.


The official Afghan civil society recommendations will be presented to the Brussels Conference. They are the result of a six-month nationwide consultation with over 475 civil society organisations, via provincial surveys, regional focus groups discussions and a national conference. The recommendations cover issues including stability and security, governance, human rights and forced migration.

Synthesis Paper. BAAG has consolidated a number of thematic position papers, to be shared with the Afghan and international delegations. Themes include education, health, peace, governance and media freedom.


The Afghanistan National Peace & Development Framework is the Afghan government’s five-year strategic framework for achieving self-reliance. Due to be agreed between the Afghan government and donor countries during the Brussels Conference, the Framework sets out the fiscal plans that will support Afghanistan’s delivery of its policy goals and reforms to governance, citizen engagement and the rule of law.


A Roadmap to Peace, extracts from the civil society recommendations on peace and stability in Afghanistan ('A Roadmap to Peace - Civil Society and the Peace Process in Afghanistan, May 2016')

Peace was not defined merely as a cessation of the current conflict, but as restoration of justice and the protection of human rights gains (e.g. as access to education, and political and social equality).  In 2013, 59 civil society organisations from across the country signed a memorandum of understanding with the Joint Secretariat and High Peace Council outlining areas of cooperation and ways in which civil society could actively support the peace process. […]

To date these concepts and areas of cooperation have remained on paper, [….] Areas of cooperation including grievance resolution support, peace education, community consultations and confidence building efforts, will remain pressing needs to ensure any future peace deal […] can be fully implemented. Civil society capacity to promote peace through education, events, and media that connect directly to communities has also been woefully under-utilized to date.


Every-day life for Afghan civilians

The Asia Foundation's Annual Survey of the Afghan People is Afghanistan’s broadest and longest-running public opinion poll. In 2015, one year into Afghanistan’s new National Unity Government, 9,586 Afghans from all 34 provinces were surveyed about many issues including corruption, security, the economy and women’s rights. 

Key findings included:

.      Only 36.7% nationwide said the country is moving in the right direction, down from 54.7% in 2014

.      89.9% said that corruption is a problem in their daily lives, the highest percentage reported in a decade  

.      Asked if they would leave Afghanistan given the opportunity, 39.9% of Afghans said yes

.      82.3% of respondents owned one or more mobile phones in their household, up from 41.5% in 2007. 20% report having someone in their household with access to the internet. 


Record numbers of people displaced by the conflict

According to OCHA (United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) more than 1.1 million Afghans are currently displaced from their homes due to the country's conflict. This includes roughly 245,000 displaced in 2016 alone, a figure expected to exceed 400,000 by the end of the year as violence escalates. At the same time, more than 5,000 displaced Afghans are returning from Pakistan every day. Afghan and international refugee agencies are struggling to meet the needs of this surge of people, and in September OCHA launched a Flash Appeal for $152m of emergency funds to support the most vulnerable.

For an analysis of why Afghans are leaving their homes, and their country, see BAAG’s report on Development & Migration: The case of Afghanistan.


Highest civilian casualty figures recorded

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been recording civilian casualties since 2009. Their latest figures, the mid-year report for January to June 2016, recorded the highest half-year casualty figures since records began: 1,601 civilian deaths and 3,565 injured civilians. 1,509 of these were children (388 dead and 1,121 injured). The 2015 annual figures also saw records broken: 7,457 civilians injured and 3,545 killed, a 4% rise on 2014.


NGOs at the Brussels Conference

Alongside BAAG, some 35 international NGOs running programmes in Afghanistan will be in Brussels for the Conference, including:

·       Swedish Committee for Afghanistan

·       Cordaid

·       ACBAR (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development)

·       Islamic Relief

·       Christian Aid

·       Human Rights Watch

·       ACTED

·       CAFOD

·       Afghanaid 

·       Children in Crisis 

·       Danish Refugee Council

·       Emergency NGO 

·       Open Society Foundations 

·       Turquoise Mountain