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Connecting People and Ideas for Integrated Development

Twenty-eight CSO Representatives Learn Legislative Advocacy Skills with USAID Assistance

The Knowledge that CSOs can participate in Committee Hearings will diminish the barriers between CSOs and Parliament.

Zabiullah Bahar: Center for Youth Affairs

Around the world, civil society organizations (CSOs) are often in a unique position to advocate on behalf of people whose voices would otherwise go unheard. They can therefore play an important role in shaping a national agenda that responds to people's needs, and this often involves a CSO taking their message straight to a nation's politicians.

However, five years after Afghanistan's National Assembly re-opened following a long wartime hiatus, civil society participation in the law-making process remains rare. Very few CSOs have the opportunity to interact with parliamentarians, and many do not even 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 (API) provided four days of legislative advocacy training from September 25-28, 2010. API is supported by the USAID-funded Afghanistan Parliamentary Assistance Project, which has a unit dedicated to legislative strengthening within the emerging Assembly.

The 28 participants from 15 local CSOs were very enthusiastic to learn different legislative advocacy tools and techniques. Understanding the importance of a well-informed parliament for the nation's development, many also said they were keenly interested in attending API's courses on legislative drafting and research, the knowledge of which they could then use to sharpen their CSO's effectiveness. Some participants also expressed a desire to teach their new legislative advocacy skills to colleagues in other organizations.

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."

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