$65m initiative bolstering civil society launched
KABUL (PAN): A new initiative, a multi-donor trust fund aimed at strengthening Afghan civil society organisations to improve living conditions for ordinary people in remote areas of the country, was launched on Monday.
UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, Danish Ambassador René Dinesen and ambassadors of Norway and Sweden addressed the launching ceremony for the Tawanmandi Programme.
With the lead role in designing the programme, Denmark funded in 2010 a team of consultants who formulated the document, the foundation of the Trust Fund.
The programme will focus on five key areas -- human rights, access to justice, anti-corruption measures, peace building/conflict resolutions and media development.
At the ceremony for the five-year initiative, Ambassador René Dinesen said: "In the midst of the transition, the role of civil society becomes even more crucial and the programme strengthens the capacity of civil society to support the transition process."
While backing civil society to help people improve accountability and transparency in the government, the Tawanmandi should be an Afghan-led trust fund, the diplomat said, adding that management of the $65 million fund would be transferred to an Afghan secretariat in 30 months.
Sweden's Deputy Ambassador Asa Gustafsson said designing the programme was a long-term effort, which would go a long way in empowering Afghan civil society, particularly youth and women. "Youth constitute 65 percent of Afghanistan's population but this huge group hasn't received the attention it deserves."
UK Secretary Mitchell told participants: "The launch of Tawanmandi provides great funding opportunities for Afghan civil society groups to carry on their work in improving the lives of ordinary Afghans…"
Speaking on the occasion, the Norwegian ambassador called for coordination to ensure the success of the programme, particularly in a country like Afghanistan, where the flow of donor assistance was not well-coordinated.
Grete Lochen added: "I think Tawanmandi sets a sound example of valuing the need for coordinated efforts, as it brings together the assistance of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the UK to a single point."
Seema Ghani, a member of the Tawanmandi Steering Committee, said: "With transition in the picture and the need for the people to have a voice for real democracy, they need to be supported by all interested parties…"