Very few development projects in Afghanistan rely on participant and beneficiary feedback to help guide planning. As a result, many Afghans feel a lack of ownership of the work, and they see the initiatives as driven by external priorities. Given civil society’s instrumental role in providing services in and connecting government to communities, civil society organizations’ (CSOs) commitment and ownership are critical for the sustainability of any civil society development initiative.
In response, Counterpart International, through the Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society II (I-PACS II), worked to establish an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from seven leading CSOs within Counterpart’s program.
This Committee will work to strengthen Afghan civil society’s capacity to support social improvement and nation-building, through both advice for the effective implementation of Counterpart’s civil society program and enhanced civil society participation, collaboration and recognition.
With technical assistance from Counterpart, the Committee members developed a common vision, a three-year strategic framework, an operational framework and year one action plan. This group is now posed to gradually take on the role of providing direct support to other Afghan civil society organizations, to act as a “voice” and focal point of civil society to government and donors and to publicize the good works of Afghan civil society.
One Committee member, a program manager from the Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF), Dr. Tasal, shared, “I was asked to represent our organization in the workshop and I am now aware of the importance of this work and committed to actively attending these AC meetings.” He added, “I know this will be a place where I can honestly share my ideas and advice, both on how to strengthen [Counterpart’s] civil society programming and civil society in general.”
At the second meeting, the Advisory Committee members signed letters of commitment and provided feedback to Counterpart on the selection of civil society partners for I-PACS II. This project, which aims to enable Afghan citizens to effectively participate in the political process, solve problems and demand good governance by strengthening civil society, will continue through September 2013.
Learn more about I-PACS II on our Web site.
Joan C. Parker, Counterpart International's CEO, is featured on the highly rated Executive Leaders Radio. She offers an introduction to the organization and colorful anecdotes from her recent trip to Ethiopia. She shares how her personal experiences have shaped her outlook on life and prepared her to lead the organization.
Counterpart International celebrated the launch of our new Feed the Future initiative, the USAID/Yaajeende Agriculture and Nutrition Development Program in Dakar, Senegal this past week. This five-year program is led by NCBA-CLUSA, with Counterpart implementing the nutrition component. The program takes an integrated approach to food security through agriculture, livestock, agro-industry, nutrition and governance interventions in 60 rural communities in four regions of Senegal.
Attendees were invited to walk through an open air market that featured fruits, vegetable, nuts, pulses and grains grown in Senegal as well as locally processed products, farming innovations and equipment. The crowd enjoyed theatrical presentations by local actors groups, which included a demonstration of Yaajeende’s potential impact through a series of comedic sketches.
Pape Sene, Chief of Party for the Yaajeende Program, Kevin Mullally, USAID Mission Director and Madame Maimonna Lo Gueye, Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture, addressed the crowd and spoke of their excitement for this program.
Launch attendees were treated to a buffet of local delicacies, all made with local produce – corn, millet, sorgum, sweet potatos, peanuts, fish, honey and cowpeas. Local fruit juices were also available, like Made, hibiscus, Soump, baobab fruit, mango and Jujube. The event was capped off by lively music from the Brothers Guisse, who entertained the crowd with renditions of their most popular songs as well as the Yaajeende song, composed especially for the event.
The Yaajeende Program, which is projected to reach one million Senegalese, aims to increase revenues in agricultural homes by 250 percent, reduce stunting by 25 percent and reduce the number of children underweight by 35 percent. The program focuses on intensification of agriculture production, enhancement of agro-food links, promotion of good nutrition and enhancement of governance linked to food security. Heifer International, Manobi and Sheladia Associates are also consortium members.
Learn more about the Yaajeende Program.
May 12th, 2011 | Tags: | Category: | Leave a comment
By Maggie Farrand
In the small Guatemalan village of Uaxactún, situated within an archaeological site dating back to 700BC, hundreds of visitors gathered to watch the vernal equinox this past March.
From Uaxactun’s Maya Astronomical Observatory – formed by a pyramid standing in front of a long structure topped by three temples – one can observe the sun rising directly above the central temple during the equinox and behind the side temples during the solstices.
Counterpart has been supporting Uaxactun’s tourism commission in an internal strengthening process which has led to better preparation for accommodating tourists and improved marketing activities, including the Equinox Festival which, during the past 2 years has brought hundreds of tourists to the village.
Uaxactún is located in northeastern Guatemala, 50 miles from Tikal National Park. March 18th through 22nd marked the 2nd annual Vernal Equinox Festival celebrated at the Uaxactun archeological site.
This year, approximately 600 visitors traveled to Uaxactún to participate in the festival. Festival-goers sampled local cuisine, listened to marimba music, participated in guided tours, listened to cultural presentations and observed Maya cultural practices, such as the Maya Ball game. At the time of the equinox, the crowd gathered by the Astronomical Observatory to witness the sun’s rising above the central temple.
Since 2008, Counterpart International, in collaboration with the local tourism commission, USAID and local partner Asociación Balam, has been supporting the communities surrounding Uaxactun by bolstering their tourism sector. Counterpart helped identify potential tourist sites and hosted workshops to introduce Counterpart’s newly-developed Sustainable Tourism Good Practices Manual to the communities. In addition, in 2009 and 2010, working with the National Technical Training Institute (INTECAP) and the Ministry of Tourism (INGUAT), Counterpart formally trained and certified area tour guides—some of the first such guides in the country.
The Equinox Festival arose as a way for the local tourism commission to attract new visitors and generate buzz about Uaxactún’s beautiful view of the vernal equinox. Last year’s inaugural event was a huge success, bringing new visitors and revenue to the area. In 2011, the event was expanded from three to five days, and several improvements were introduced based on the experience of the previous year. Counterpart supported the general organization of the event as well as the production of promotional materials.
In the midst of the 2011 election season in Chad, many Chadians remain uncertain about the impact of the elections on their future. Despite the lack of opportunities for public dialogue and memories of past elections marked by conflict and violence, Chadians remain hopeful that this year’s election will bring about peaceful change in their country.
As an employee for Chadian state television expressed, “the entire crisis that the country went through in the past may happen again, and the only way to avoid this happening is to talk about it, to let people know how it happened and how to prevent it”.
That is exactly what the Commission Nationale Justice et Paix (CNJP), Counterpart International’s grantee under the Promoting Elections, Accountability and Civic Engagement in Chad (PEACE) project, is doing. In December 2010, CNJP received a Dispute Reporting and Resolution Grant from Counterpart International. The grant to CNJP aims to empower local civil society organizations in detecting and reporting administrative election violations andin enhancing a peaceful election environment.
Panel discussions stimulate conversation
On February 6, 2011, CNJP broadcasted a panel discussion on the management and resolution of electoral conflict featuring Chadian religious leaders. Participants in this panel included representatives from the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the Entente of Churches and Evangelical Missions, and the Catholic Church. The debate was broadcasted on national television and the audio version was broadcasted on state radio.
Reaction to the debate has been overwhelmingly positive. According to an employee of a rural NGO located in Guelendeng, a small city 60 miles from N’Djamena, this kind of event reflects a major step in discussing topics that have been considered taboo in Chad in the past: “Daring to gather religious leaders on national television to discuss electoral conflict and issues will allow Chad to begin a new age which will lead to more open public debates. Through the [forum], we could see that [the participants] went beyond religious boundaries and some selfishness, and cared about the whole country.”
A state TV worker also noted, “This lays the groundwork for opening political debate without any fears, and we hope that the more often we have those kinds of debates the more efficiently we will be able to solve problems without using violence.”
Including all Chadians
Chadians living abroad were also able to watch the debate. A Chadian living in France said, “This is the first initiative in this country to speak publicly of conflict and consider the possibilities of preventing and managing it. It appears necessary to multiply these types of initiatives. Conflicts are the result of a lack of frank discussions. Since religion can spark conflict, it is important to bring religious leaders together to talk publicly and to show that we can live together in peace.”
Many others expressed their appreciation of the debate and asked for it to be rebroadcasted. The state television station rebroadcasted the debate on February 13, 2011 - Election Day in Chad. Fortunately, the parliamentary elections on February 13th were largely peaceful, with few reports of violence.
Safe, fair elections
Demonstrating that communities can take part in peaceful public dialogue is a crucial step in consolidating democracy in Chad and in mitigating election-related conflict. The panel discussion organized by CNJP also demonstrates that constructive dialogue, not violence, can bring about change in Chad.
March 28th, 2011 | Tags: | Category: | Leave a comment