Marking a momentous day for Afghan civil society, President Hamid Karzai signed the Association Law on September 1, 2013.
The Association Law supersedes the 2002 Law on Social Organizations, which legally recognized Afghanistan’s deeply rooted civil society without providing them with the freedoms necessary to operate effectively. A new draft law prepared by the Ministry of Justice in 2012 threatened to constrain Afghan social organizations (SOs) even further. An ICNL analysis of the draft law found many troubling restrictions on the establishment, registration, funding sources, and participation in policy-making of social organizations.
ICNL played a convening role between SOs and members of Parliament, supporting an advocacy group and providing expertise to transform the law into one that expands associational rights. This advocacy group, composed of SO members, revised the draft law and met with Parliamentary groups to advocate for positive changes to the SO Law. Of the 33 amendments proposed by the group, 29 (88%) were accepted by both houses of Parliament in May 2013.
With President Karzai’s signature this month, the Association Law promises an expansion of civic space in Afghanistan. Social organizations now have the express rights to access foreign funding and to conduct advocacy. 4010 SOs currently operate in Afghanistan, a number that is sure to grow even higher with the enactment of the law.
Most importantly, the expansion of associational rights in Afghanistan allows SOs to effectively carry out their important work of improving the everyday lives of Afghan citizens.
“This is a great demonstration of the potential power of civil society,” said Mohammad Maqsood, ICNL’s Legal Advisor in Afghanistan. “It’s a fantastic sign for the future of Afghanistan. It’s a very exciting time for civil society and the future of our country. When we see results like this, we feel hopeful for a better tomorrow.”
ICNL’s assistance to Afghan civil society is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented in partnership with Counterpart International.