The third phase of Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN) is completed successfully in January 2011 and the network kept on its endeavors by bridging the lessons learned of third phase to the objectives of fourth phase of the network. Precisely eight years ago, the CSHRN established itself as a coordination entity for local human rights based organizations. CSHRN establishment was the result of 2002 up to 2004 constructive and substantial dialogues of human rights defenders and activists in Afghanistan.
The CSHRN started its activities in August 2004 by the support of Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR). DIHR as a well-known international human rights institution has supported the CSHRN in the field of institutional and thematic capacity building. This support has enabled the CSHRN to establish democratic structures and increase its human rights knowledge and play its role for strengthening human rights values.
The CSHRN convened its first general assembly in Kabul city in presence of representatives of 25 local civil society organizations. In the first two years all the activities of the CSHRN were being limited merely to the Kabul city. But these activities have facilitated cooperation and collaboration among different civil society and human rights organizations. It is worth mentioning that in these years the only supporter of the CSHRN was the Royal State of Denmark international support mechanism (DANIDA).
In 2005 the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Joined DANIDA and thereafter SDC has a great contribution in attaining the aim of the CSHRN.
SDC has supported CSHRN in the field of developing pool of training materials. The network by receiving the support of Swiss State has developed the human rights educational manual. Through this program CSHRN conducted systematic human rights trainings in Afghanistan.
In the run of recent eight years, CSHRN has experienced three phases of its activities. These phases have encountered with both achievements and challenges but more importantly our common vision has bound us firmly together and substantiated CSHRN as a well-functioning and sustainable Network.
2004 to 2006 was the first phase of the CSHRN. In this phase CSHRN focused much more on coordination of civil society organizations and organizing discourse and debates among civil society institutions, state organizations and human rights activists.
Capacity building of civil society member organizations through organizing systematic and standard training programs was the main objective of abovementioned phase. In this phase for the first time debates on different topics such as democracy, human rights, rule of law and civil society has been conducted in a professional manner via the CSHRN and support of its international partners.
The human rights concept previously was being misinterpreted and was projected by ex- regimes as an ideological concept, but the Network has schemed and projected the human rights as an essential element for organic relationship of citizens with the government.
The CSHRN in the sphere of civil society has debated profoundly the rights of citizens, political and economical rights, social and cultural rights. CSHRN also elaborated a realistic picture of civil society role in the Afghan society. Previously civil society organizations had a symbolic presence and they have been misused by political regime and did not have the recognition as independent as an active sphere out of government control.
The CSHRN has screened the civil society as institution that plays its role for strengthening legitimacy of the state. This was a big achievement of the Network in its first phase. To promote and strengthen these values in the country the CSHRN has organized many events that symposiums and human rights schools in different regions are examples of these events.
The statements and position papers of CSHRN from the beginning have played a vibrant role in the society. CSHRN has released and disseminated statements and position papers on the occasion of very important human rights issues and have played its role in monitoring of human rights situation and raising public awareness. These statements and position papers have been covered by national and international Media.
CSHRN for the sake of public awareness from the beginning of its activities has been broadcasting human rights radio programs “The Voice” in collaboration with “Good Moring Afghanistan” Afghanistan National Radio. These radio programs air weekly programs and continuously are broadcasts to promote and strengthen human rights culture in the country. The main participants of these weekly radio programs are civil society and governmental representatives as well as representatives from Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), intellectuals and ordinary people.
Publication of “ Angara ” a human rights Magazine on the issue of civil society and human rights is another initiative of CSHRN. This magazine deals with the issues like civil society, democracy and human rights in an academic language. Angara Magazine by having academic and professional articles on the issue of democracy and human rights has a great number of readers among Afghans. CSHRN publication section publishes six times the Angara Magazine in a year in 5000 copies and disseminates for universities, civil society, state organizations, parliamentarians and academic centers. The issues like civil society, democracy, rule of law, good governance, peace building, transitional justice, international human rights mechanisms are the topics that Angara is dealing with.
The CSHRN with close collaboration of one of its member organization (Killid Group) has opened an especial human rights page for ordinary people. The CSHRN especial human rights page in Killid magazine, talks about civil society and democracy, in a very simple language. Killid weekly magazine publishes in 25000 copies and disseminating to all over Afghanistan.
The second phase of CSHRN activities started from 2006 to 2008. In this phase CSHRN based on its gained experience from phase one launched its activities in the remote areas and proliferated CSHRN to the provinces of the country. In this phase CSHRN opened its regional offices. One in Balkh province to cover North and North-East provinces, one in Herat province to cover western provinces and one in Nangarhar to cover eastern provinces. These offices have been staffed very well and capacity building programs both thematic and institutional capacity building programs organized.
CSHRN in the second phased targeted the new member organizations by organizing capacity building program for them. Additional efforts were done for coordination of regional programs. The women rights debate manual developed in this phase and a series of training workshops and debates conducted in different regions accordingly. The added value of this phase was establishment of different democratic bodies of CSHRN.
During this phase CSHRN has been recognized as a very important and key actor of civil society and human rights in the country. CSHRN through its systematic and consistent coordination programs with state and international organizations played an active role on identification of challenges and problems of human rights. Joint programs with ministry of Interior in the field of training of human rights and advocacy and joint program of CSHRN with Ministry of Justice on establishing of monitoring mechanism to monitor human rights situation within governmental organizations are good examples of this phase.
Analytical books on the issue of refugees, returnees and displaced persons and development and elaboration of CSHRN strategy were tangible results of phase two of CSHRN.
In three steps CSHRN developed its strategy. In the first step, CSHRN organized debates and discussions among member organizations on importance and usage of the strategy. In the second step CSHRN consolidated its efforts to draft the strategy via conducting working groups and discussions.
The third step was finalization of the draft based on analysis of the situation, role of civil society, human rights values and rule of law. The strategy of CSHRN defines explicitly the vision, mission, key result areas, outcomes and outputs of the CSHRN. During all steps CSHRN has received the expertise of Danish Institute for Human Rights. The strategy made the ground for empowerment of CSHRN in the field of institutional, administrative, leadership and management. Relevant policies developed and helped the Network to design its activities based on the strategy.
At the end of phase two and beginning of phase three CSHRN has collaborated and cooperated with the Ministry of Foreign affairs. Via this collaboration CSHRN has contributed to providing Afghanistan state report on Universal Periodic Report (UPR). The representative of CSHRN presented civil society inputs in this regard to the United Nation Human Rights Council in Geneva . The experts of CSHRN have played a vital role on training of governmental organizations concerning Human Rights mechanisms.
One of the other very important outputs of CSHRN in phase two was the establishment of CSHRN web-site: www.cshrn.af The CSHRN web-site very soon met its visitors who were interested to human rights information. The web-site of CSHRN in term of having human rights information is among few very rich national web-sites with a great number of visitors from inside and outside of the country.
CSHRN in phase two focused to use its resources for the favor of its advocacy programs. Three strategic steps were taken to orient these resources toward advocacy programs. The first step was dedicated to organize capacity building programs for governmental structures. The aim of this step was to generate tolerance among governmental and civil society organizations. The second step was a need assessment process to indentify the need of more capacity programs to increase human rights knowledge of governmental authorities. The third and final step was drawing of issue based and policy based advocacy plans to start practically influencing on decision making process of the country. Developing and drafting of the access to information law by CSHRN in a participatory method and inclusion of CSHRN in different decision making committees like High Media Council are examples of issue based and policy based advocacy of CSHRN.
In the third phase began from 2008 to the 201. CSHRN expanded its advocacy programs and decentralized its policy based advocacy programs however more efforts were done to accelerate the coordination and capacity building programs in a systematic and programmatic approach.
The CSHRN launched the domestic violence program in Herat province. This program started by organizing an analytical symposium on root causes of the domestic violence at the beginning of 2008 in Herat city. The symposium welcomed the representatives from academic centers, civil society organizations, intellectuals, human rights and civil society defenders and representative of the local government. During the symposium the working group established to develop a guiding book entitled “root causes of domestic violence and relevant strategies to tackle it”. The result of domestic violence campaign in Herat province was establishment of a monitoring committee under the leadership of Herat governor. The component of this campaign were radio programs, debates, workshops, round tables, distributing leaflets and hanging banners.
CSHRN organized an analytical symposium in Mazar province and invited representatives of academic centers, civil society, journalists, government, intellectuals, human rights and civil society defenders. This symposium dealt with the issue of access to information and its role in democratization of Afghanistan . CSHRN conducted a series of capacity building programs and constituted a working group. The access to information working group afforded the first draft of access to information law in a participatory method. The inputs of different key players from different regions were incorporated in the draft law. CSHRN established a joint review working group of CSHRN and Ministry of Culture and Information. The joint review working group after including its inputs submitted the access to information draft law to the High Media Council for the final check. The High Media Council in December 2011 finalized the draft law and formally submitted the draft law to Ministry of Justice for further development.
The democratic bodies of CSHRN have been more strengthened and the members of democratic bodies understood clearly their responsibilities. Number of member organizations increased to 96 members and CSHRN changed to a well known National Network of human rights based organizations. CSHRN represented actively the Afghanistan civil society in the national and international conferences.
During the phase three CSHRN developed two other educational manual on very important issues. The first one was on conflict transformation and the second was on transitional justice. Necessary policies such as advocacy policy, gender policy and financial policy developed and streamlined within the structures. In this phase other donors like ASDHA, ICCO and ASGP supported CSHRN programs and donor diversity ensured to an extent possible.
The fourth phase of CSHRN started from February 2012 for duration of three years. This phase also received technical support of DIHR and financial support of two core donor of CSHRN which are DANIDA and SDC. During phase four CSHRN will focus more on institutional capacity building of its member organizations. In Phase four CSHRN will develop concrete strategy for its ten member organizations by the help of international experts. Additionally CSHRN in this phase will launch annual human rights reports. These reports will be provided via surveys and regional studies. CSHRN will capacitate its member organizations and regional governmental organizations on the issue of monitoring of human rights situation.
In phase four CSHRN has intended to establish and develop an educational manual on strategy. A working group composed of representative of member organizations and representative of executive secretariat will work closely with an international expert to develop the draft of educational manual on strategy. Based on this educational manual CSHRN will organize educational trainings in Kabul and regions for civil society and governmental organizations.
In the fourth phase CSHRN through its educational section will develop educational manuals of humanitarian law and international human rights mechanisms. CSHRN will conduct training workshops and debates based on these tow abovementioned educational manuals. The aim of these workshops is securing of these values in the country. In fourth phase CSHRN will more focus on strengthening monitoring role of civil society to perpetuate human rights values and rule of law in the country.
In term of public awareness in fourth phase CSHRN strengthens its efforts to reach to an extent possible number of public. Publications, radio programs, CSHRN web site in three languages Dari, Pashto and English, books and magazines are awareness raising tools of CSHRN in fourth phase.
The Human Rights Advisory Board composed of key persons of human rights based organizations will be established. The board will listen to reports and discussions to give applicable recommendation for key players both duty bearers and rights holders for improvement of human rights situation.
Establishment of a human rights movement through a well functioning civil society is the mission of CSHRN. CSHRN through forming of Human Rights Advisory Board will provide space for sharing information and working jointly with national and international partners. The CSHRN situation studies indicate that human rights organizations and defenders are facing different and big challenges therefore CSHRN would like to play its role to straggle with these challenges. CSHRN believes that solidarity, commitment and joint working are antidote of all these challenges.