IFES Begins Two New Complementary Programs in Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently described Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential and provincial council elections as “the single most important milestone over the next year.”

Secretary Kerry emphasized that the future for Afghan women and men hinges on a peaceful transfer of power that is “accountable and transparent and free and fair and accessible.” IFES is responding to the complex array of challenges involved in achieving this goal through two new complementary programs for the April 2014 elections and future elections.

The first project, Strengthening Political Entities and Civil Society (SPECS), empowers Afghan civil society organizations (CSOs) in diverse provinces as they advocate to officials, candidates and political leaders on the issues most important to their communities.

IFES will help CSOs – especially those empowering women and youth – build their capacity for effecting change. The CSOs will leverage this enhanced ability to engage voters in the political process, with an emphasis on accountable governance and issues-based elections. IFES surveyed 58 CSOs operating in Balkh, Bamyan, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces on their capacity, experience and organizational goals. Up to four CSOs from each province, a maximum of 20, will be selected to receive specialized advocacy training using IFES’ updated advocacy training manual, which encompasses lobbying concepts and tactics; program monitoring and evaluation; good governance; and leadership.

IFES' team will support the selected CSOs as they put these principles into practice.

Through its second new project, IFES is providing technical expertise to Afghanistan’s newly-permanent Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) as it investigates and adjudicates disputes during its first election as a permanent institution.

IFES experts are currently advising and assisting the IECC on all aspects of electoral dispute resolution, including regulations and procedures; investigation and assessment; strategic planning; case management; public outreach; and training. IFES’ goal is to support establishment of an effective electoral complaints adjudication system that protects electoral integrity; bolsters the legitimacy and credibility of elections; and serves as the official outlet for electoral complaints, precluding public recourse to violence.

Together, these projects foster two elements of a sustainable Afghan democracy that are at the core of IFES’ mission: empowered citizens and strong democratic institutions. They demonstrate how IFES’ core technical work with electoral institutions and its innovative empowerment initiatives with civil society can work together for greater impact.

The SPECS project is a partnership with the National Democratic Institute and Internews, and is funded for three years by the United States Agency for International Development. The second project is funded for two years by the United Nations Development Programme.