Around the world, civil society organizations (CSOs) are in a unique position to advocate on behalf of people whose voices would otherwise go unheard. They can play an important role in shaping a national agenda that responds to people’s needs, and this often involves CSO representatives taking their message straight to a nation’s politicians. However, in Afghanistan, civil society participation in the law-making process remains rare and few CSOs know that they can use legislative advocacy to affect the crafting of public policy.
To help Afghan CSOs boost their influence, the Afghanistan Parliamentary Institute, supported by the USAID-funded Afghanistan Parliamentary Assistance Project (APAP), provided four days of legislative advocacy training in late September. The 28 participants from 15 organizations learned different legislative advocacy tools and techniques. A course highlight was a simulated committee public hearing on an actual bill pending in parliament. With insightful testimony from “CSO representatives” as well as thoughtful questions from “MPs,” the exercise gave participants a glimpse into the conduct of committee business and how they can provide input to the legislative process.
Speaking afterwards, Mr. Zabiullah Bahar from the Center for Youth Affairs believed the exercise had built the capacity and confidence of CSOs to connect with parliamentarians. “The knowledge that CSOs can participate in committee hearings will diminish the barriers between CSOs and parliament,” he said. Another participant, Ms. Muqadas Atalwala from the Afghanistan Women’s Educational Center, said the training had opened her eyes to a new role her organization could play on the national stage. “We now know that CSOs should be involved in the law-making process. We learned from the course that it is important to bring public opinion to the attention of parliament.”