Established in 2012, the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS) is an research think-tank based in Kabul, Afghanistan. It is committed to strengthening democratic ideas and values by conducting research that provide policymakers with sound alternative solutions to national issues. As an interdisciplinary and independent research-oriented non-governmental organization. DROPS’ goal is to facilitate and encourage Afghanistan’s transition to democratic governance by aiming to (1) produce policy-relevant research that provides information and to provide resources to decision-makers at the national and sub-national levels, particularly the Upper and Lower Houses of the National Assembly; and (2) increase women’s involvement in policy dialogue and research on diverse issues that are at play in building democratic governance.
Mariam Safi, Executive Director of Drops, presenting a paper on ‘Post-ISAF Afghanistan,’ at the Defense Seminar in Sri Lanka.
Our organization’s objective of strengthening democratic institutions and processes is not only reflected in the aspirations of the Afghan people but is also rooted in the Afghan Constitution and the commitments Government made by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s towards the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In order to fulfill its Constitutional obligation of establishing, “an order based on the peoples’ will and democracy,” the Afghan government has pledged to safeguard peoples’ freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want. Furthermore, Afghanistan’s SDGs put the citizenry at the center of all developmental efforts. Combined, these pledges protect citizen’s freedoms while enabling them to become the agents of change they would like to see. It is therefore only in states where all people genuinely participate in the decisions that affect their lives and well being can democracy flourish. In keeping with this belief, we argue that through indigenous research that represents ground-realities and incites policy dialogue and public-private partnerships can environments be developed that nourish intellectual spaces and bridge the gap between citizens and the state.
At DROPS, we firmly believe that a strong policy-oriented research organization is vital for advancing and shaping the governance agenda in states undergoing transition from war to peace. By generating public policy research, building women’s capacities in conducting evidence-based research and advocating relevant research findings to policy actors, we ensure that well-informed policy decisions are constructed resulting in the betterment of both state and society.
"What we find changes who we become; innovation through research; understanding today for a better tomorrow."
Strengthening democratic ideas and values by conducting research that provides policymakers with sound alternative solutions to national issues.
In order to enable the mentioned mission, DROPS focuses on:
- Producing Public Policy Research;
- Building Local Capacities in Conducting Evidenced Based Research; and
- Advocating for Key Research Findings and Recommendations to Bring about National and Regional Change.
Our Main Activities at a Glance:
- DROPS Annual Peer Reviewed Women and Public Policy Journal (WPPJ)
- Research publications on Peace-Building, Human Security, Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, and Economic Development
- Policy Study and Capacity Building Workshops:
- Research Methodology and Gender Lens Training
- 7-Month Policy Study Workshop
- Farkhunda Trust Mentorship Program
- Seminars on timely and relevant policy issues
- Policy Advocacy
Roundtable discussion on ‘The role of women in post-2014 Afghanistan: challenges and opportunities,’ held in Kabul.
Main Activities in Details
WOMEN AND PUBLIC POLICY JOURNAL (WPPJ)
Since 2014, DROPS has regularly published its Women and Public Policy Journal (WPPJ), the first ever peer-reviewed journal of its kind in Afghanistan, authored by Afghan women and reviewed by reputable Afghan and international scholars, experts and experienced practitioners. The journal aims to identify an array of issues that have hindered the consolidation of democratic governance in Afghanistan, through a rigorous examination of specific Sustainable Development Goals, underscoring their challenges and providing policy recommendations for the Afghan government and international stakeholders in the country. This journal severs three important objectives: (1) ensures the creation of good scholarly work on vital issues of national importance, (2) breaks the norms that confine Afghan women to writing only on women gender issues, and (3) provides a unique platform for young Afghan women to publish scholarly papers to influence and shape policy decisions in the country.
To date, DROPS has successfully published five editions of the WPPJ journal:
- The first edition of the journal (2014-2015) was titled: "The Past, Present and Future of Democratic Governance in Afghanistan: What are the Challenges and How Can We Overcome Them?"
- The second edition of the journal (2015-2016) was titled: "Afghan Economy in the Decade of Transformation (2015-2024): Afghanistan's Journey to Economic Self-reliance: Assessments and Recommendation"
- Its third edition of the journal (2016-2017) was titled: “Afghanistan’s Peace Process: Evolution, Impact and Gaps.”
- The fourth edition of the journal (2017-2018) was titled: “Electoral Trajectory in Post-2001 Afghanistan: Assessment and Recommendations.”
- The fifth edition of the journal (2018-2019) was titled: “Building Peace, Stability and Prosperity in the Heart of Asia: How to Build a Common Regional Security Approach Towards Terrorism in Afghanistan?”
The organisation conducts both in-house and consultative research and assessments on topics related to peacebuilding, human security, terrorism and countering violent extremism. DROPS recent flagship publications include a mixture of policy brief on timely national and regional policy issues and in-depth research projects.
A: Policy Briefs
The organization has so far published six policy briefs. They include:
- The first policy brief was titled "Women, Peace, and Security: Afghanistan-Pakistan Women's Policy Brief" published by the Diplomatic Courier and Women’s Democracy Network in January 2017.
- The second policy brief was titled “Youth Unemployment in Afghanistan: Practical Solutions to Break the Vicious Cycle” published by DROPS in November 2017.
- The third policy brief was titled “Afghan Women’s Views on Development: A Crosscutting Perspective” which was published by DROPS in October 2017.
- The fourth policy brief was titled “Afghan Migration: What Literature Says and What Afghans Believe” published by DROPS in November 2018.
- The fifth policy brief was titled “Ensuring Electoral Transparency on Election Day: The Role of Observers” and was published by DROPS in October 2018.
- The sixth policy brief was titled "Substantiating the Role of Women in the Afghan Peace Process" and was published by DROPS in August 2019.
B: In-depth Researches Studies:
The organization has thus far published the following research studies:
I: Integrating Afghanistan into Belt and Road Initiative: Review, Analysis and Prospects
DROPS conducted an in-depth research project with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) on "Integrating Afghanistan into Belt and Road Initiative: Review, Analysis and Prospects." The 15-month long research looked into how Afghanistan can utilize its geographic potential and resources to connect itself to major regional economic initiatives, primarily assessing its potential to benefit and link itself to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its implications for the country accompanied with policy recommendations for the Afghan government and relevant stakeholders. The research was published in August 2018 by FES and DROPS.
II: Assessment of the Implementation of First Phase of NAP 1325 (2015-2018) in Six Provinces of Afghanistan: Progress, Challenges and Recommendations
The National Action on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, or NAP 1325, was adopted by Afghanistan in June 2015 and has an implementation timeline from 2015 to 2022 in two phases, each for four years.
DROPS undertook this research study to assess the progress in the implementation of the NAP 1325 in its first phase, identify existing bottlenecks and deeply rooted challenges that has prevented the implementation of the NAP 1325 in its first phase, and propose concrete policy recommendations based on grassroots level expertise and experiences gather from a wide range of stakeholders. The recommendations are meant to help the Afghan government and the international community to address these gaps during the implementation of the second phase of NAP, and move beyond just the rhetoric of NAP to actualization of the NAP 1325.
This study was published by DROPS in October 2018 and was funded by the IRI based in Washington D.C.
POLICY STUDY AND CAPACITY-BUILDING WORKSHOPS
DROPS provides capacity building trainings in the area of research methodology practices and policy analysis for Afghan youth. Both men and women are affected by the lack of research methodology trainings and courses at the university and institutional levels across Afghanistan which is a challenging gap. To plug this gap, DROPS has regularly provided a series of focused trainings designed to build the capacity of women and youth, in particular, in research methodology and application of gender lens in research.
I: 3-Day Research Methodology and Gender Lens Program:
In 2014, DROPS started its 3-Day Training Program on ‘Research Methodology and Gender-Lens’ for female BA and MA students in Kabul. Till date as part of this training program, DROPS trained 70 female youth on basic research methodology tools from a gender and critical lens. Its most recent trainings on critical thinking, research methodology, and gender lens was carried out for students at three private universities in Kabul: Khurshid University, Gawharshad University and Afghanistan University in August 2017.
II: 7-Month Policy Study Workshop:
To compliment its 3-Day training programs, address the need for a more process-led intervention, and to create a sustainable environment where the culture of research could flourish, DROPS developed a 7-month extensive capacity-building program in 2016 on “How to Develop a Policy Study.” This program equips participants, majority of whom are youth representing the government, civil society, and the academia with an in-depth understanding of the importance of policy analysis, design and implementation. The program also imparts knowledge of the textual components of a policy brief and gives trainees a practical platform to apply the knowledge they learn by simultaneously developing a policy brief on a timely policy issue which is published and advocated for at the end of the program. To this end, DROPS has so far trained 40 Afghan youth on policy development.
III: Farkhunda Trust Mentoring Program:
In partnership with Farkhonda Trust which is based in the United Kingdom, DROPS is implementing Farkhunda Mentoring Program in Afghanistan. Farkhunda Trust sponsors fifteen young girls to study their undergraduate degree at Gawharshad and Dunya private universities in Kabul, Afghanistan. Farkhunda Mentoring program, which is a complementary program to the scholarship, aims to support Farkhunda scholars to successfully complete their graduate degree with distinction through mentorship on a personal and academic level. The mentorship will be undertaken in partnership with the universities involved to specifically address their academic needs. An important aspect of mentoring will focus on pastoral care to build their skills and confidence to successfully manage challenges arising from academic life and personal problems, as well as ensure appropriate support for any protection issues for young women arising in the academic environment or impacting on them from the public or family life.
Key objectives of our mentorship program include:
- The primary objective is to ensure that the scholars graduate and succeed academically by providing them with pastoral care on support, advice, skills and tools necessary to negotiate the challenges they may face in the academic environment, publicly and privately during their academic studies
- A secondary objective of the mentorship program is to build solidarity among and between the scholars through peer-to-peer support, and to maximize their potential to overcome barriers be they academic or personal.
- A third objective is to build the capacity of universities through the coordinators (and others) to provide mentorship specifically relating to the scholars academic studies.
- A forth objective is to address protection issues arising for our scholars in the academic environment relating to sexual harassment and corruption practices through establishing confidential and safe systems for reporting and the management of such cases.
SEMINARS ON TIMELY AND RELEVANT POLICY ISSUE
DROPS seminars provide a platform for female researchers and academics to network and establish long-term relationships and harness their accumulated expertise and experiences in the field of research, advocacy and policymaking. DROPS held the launch seminar of Afghanistan-Pakistan Women Policy Brief in cooperation with Afghanistan Institute of Strategic Studies (AISS) early in 2017.
Advocacy has been a core component of DROPS activities and a follow-up step complimenting DROPS researches and policy briefs. DROPS has also advocated for the findings of its Women and Public Policy Journal (WPPJ) by holding regular Policy Round-tables with CSOs, Government Officials, and International stakeholders to get the journal’s recommendations across to relevant stakeholders. Our second journal was launch by the H.E. Rula Ghani, the First Lady of Afghanistan. H.E. Ms. Rula Ghani pointed in her speech:
“It is even more gratifying for me to discover a group of young women determined to play an important role in the building of our country. Today’s launch is a testimony of their ambition and dedication. They make us all proud. This Issue could be the starting point of a national conversation on the future of Afghanistan. We all need to take part in it. Together, we can build this country so that our children and grandchildren can live in peace and prosperity.
Our third journal was launched jointly by H.E. Dr. Habiba Sarabi, Deputy Head of the High Peace Council, and Mr. Scott Smith, Director of Political Affairs Department at UNAMA. During her keynote speech, Dr. Sarabi said: "The journal is a timely effort on the peace process in Afghanistan. I am sure the papers in this journal offer particular approaches for the peace process in Afghanistan."
Mr. Scott Smith said in his speech:
“As you all know, the UNSCR 1325 calls for women to be involved in all stages and at all levels of peace processes. In some cases, and nearly in many cases, women may choose to focus exclusively on protecting women’s rights in an eventual peace settlement. This itself is widely important. I noted it while reading the thought-provoking ideas on women’s participation outlined by Farhat Popal and Mona Hussaini. What is important is that this volume presents women’s perspective on much wider range of issues including consensus building, state legitimacy and regional security regimes among other issues. Therefore, it represents a valuable contribution to a much more inclusive public discourse about peace in Afghanistan.”
Our fourth journal was jointly launched by Professor Hamidullah Farooqi, Chancellor of Kabul University and Advisor Minister to the President in Higher Education Affairs and Ambassador Pierre Mayaudon, Head of European Union Delegation to Afghanistan. In his keynote address, Professor Farooqi said:
“This journal plays an important role the democratization process of the country through elevating and deepening the understanding of citizens and raising awareness among them about political participation and elections.”
Ambassador Mayaudon said in his speech:
“I would never insist enough on the importance of encouraging and fostering public debate on critical matters in Afghanistan. This is, I think, what was missing until today, and today DROPS is doing it in a non-partisan, rigorous and forward-looking manner. The fact that your work is very valuable is not least because it is highly contributed by women which is iconic of the progresses made by Afghanistan since 2001 by women and for women. It is part of a silent revolution, one that is bringing change without much noise but with a lot of impact throughout the Afghan society.”
Moreover, our advocacy for the key findings and recommendations of the journal has reached to lead policy makers including former President Hamid Karzai, Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan, H.E. Abdullah Abdullah, Tadamichi Yamomoto, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, all Afghan Ministries, former NSA, Hanif Atmar, current NSA, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, Dr. Nasir Ahmad Andisha, Deputy Minister for Management and Resources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all Deputy Ministers of Policy and Planning, all Deputy Ministers, all foreign embassies in Afghanistan and key international NGOs working in Afghanistan.
In addition to the advocacy DROPS is undertaking as an organization, it is also part of other platforms and groups to advocate for a more democratic governance. In September 2017, DROPS was selected as one of 15 CSOs from across Afghanistan to monitor the government’s performance in the Open Government Partnership Afghanistan under a Secretariat led by the Office of the President. Afghanistan joined Open Government Partnership on 8 December 2016. To ensure the government identifies achievable and timely goals, delivers on its promises and remains transparent and accountable to the people of Afghanistan, these 15 CSOs will monitor the states progress at Open Government Partnership as a member, the Afghan government established OGP Secretariat under the Office of the President.