Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development

Op-Ed – 30 Years of Coordination – Effective NGOs, Stronger Communities

Published: 11:36 AM 07-01-2018 Updated: 03:45 PM 06-03-2018

It is a great privilege to be part of ACBAR during this year of 2018 which marks 30 years of existence of the organisation.  When ACBAR started as a coordination body in 1988 in Peshawar, the NGO founders probably did not envisage that this coordination body would carry on for so long and continue to be so relevant to the needs of its members 30 years later.  In my opinion there are three key elements which have contributed to the success of ACBAR.  First, the structure and governing Statutes of the organisation were very well designed at the beginning of ACBAR.  Since then the Statutes have continued to govern the organisation with relatively minor changes over the years.  A General Assembly of all NGO members elects a Steering Committee of NGO Directors and a Chairperson every year, responsible to oversee the work of the Director and Secretariat on a voluntary basis.  The structure of ACBAR is democratic and dynamic – encouraging participation from all members and representation on behalf of all members through the Steering Committee.  If there is a weak Steering Committee this can be counterbalanced by an active Secretariat and if there is a weak Secretariat, the Steering Committee can provide leadership and support.  

The second element is that ACBAR has gradually changed from being a forum representing only international NGOs to a forum representing both national and international NGOs.  This is due to the development of experienced national NGOs who have realized the value of being part of ACBAR.  The voice of national NGOs is also reflected in the members of Steering Committee and by the Chairperson, traditionally elected from a national NGO. 

A third element is the importance of the good reputation that ACBAR has built up over the years.  All NGO members are required to sign a Code of Conduct when they join as members committing their organisation to certain principles.  ACBAR is also considered to be a reliable, independent body by Government, UN, donors and other stakeholders and appreciated not only for information sharing and advocacy services that it provides but also for its contribution to Government policy development and its capacity building programmes for the wider NGO community. 

The NGO members of ACBAR have continued to provide assistance and support in many different sectors to people in need over the last 30 years.  What has been the impact on local communities?  During 2018 ACBAR will plan different events round the country to mark the achievements of NGOs over the last 30 years and to identify what more can be done.  Join with us in these discussions and celebrations!

Fiona Gall, Director