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The Aga Khan Rural Support Programmes have employed grassroots democracy, civil society and pluralism as the …

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

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In every endeavour, AKDN collaborates closely with the communities involved to identify the needs which they …

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

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The AKDN Water and Sanitation Extension Programme has facilitated over 700 community-led village …

AKAH Pakistan


For over 30 years, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme has operated various projects throughout …

AKDN / Kamran Beyg

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Pakistan | Civil Society



The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) supports over 5,000 CSOs in Pakistan

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In northern Pakistan, AKAH undertakes disaster awareness training sessions in schools to familiarise students with hazards that could arise in the event of a natural disaster.


Civil Society Strengthening

In Pakistan, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) takes a community-driven development approach. We support communities to address challenges through a highly participatory and transparent planning process that includes women, youth and other key groups . This leads to the creation of local development strategies, including frameworks which outline the long-term goals and directions of community-based organisations and local government authorities.

Our activities include:

  • Building a sound baseline of information on the civil society sector and using the Organisational Performance Index to measure change in performance of civil society organisations over time.

  • Enhancing the competency and sustainability of civil society organisations (CSOs). We use an Organisational Capacity Assessment tool to assist local organisations, particularly those focused on women and gender equality, to identify institutional gaps. We work with them to build their organisational capacity, using face-to-face and video-based training and mentoring. We particularly focus on good practices in such areas as forming partnerships, constituency building, participation, joint planning with stakeholders, mediation, encouraging pluralism and peace building.

  • Exploring engagement with non-traditional civil society organisations such as those that are youth-led or predominantly digital.

  • Fostering ethics and integrity amongst development agencies.

  • Fostering strong and effective collaboration between governments and CSOs. Public-private partnerships show great promise for increasing the impact of development initiatives, but governments often have an unfavourable view of CSOs (especially NGOs).

  • Fostering strong and effective collaboration between the business sector and CSOs. While many commercial sector professionals in developing countries are interested in actions of social responsibility, they are not clear about what they can do. AKDN, which runs project companies as businesses as well as CSOs, can identify compatibilities and connect these often polarised sectors.

Corporate Philanthropy Survey Launch. Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy
Corporate Philanthropy Survey Launch.

Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy

Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy

The Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) was launched from research conducted by AKF in 2000. It focuses on indigenous philanthropy, which the research showed generates up to five times more money than foreign aid. However, many government officials and citizens wonder if CSOs are effective.

To address these concerns, AKF set up an NGO Certification Programme within the PCP that brought together distinguished and experienced people drawn from civil society, business and the government. PCP staff spend two to three weeks reviewing an NGO’s documents and examining its operations before deciding whether to recommend the NGO to the certification panel, which is composed of a majority of private-sector representatives along with two government officials. A CSO gains certification if it maintains the required levels in internal governance, financial management and programme delivery. The process is voluntary and independent of government control. Organisations that fail certification are offered help to create and implement an improvement plan.

In 2005, the World Bank pointed to the PCP as a model: “The Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy’s non-profit organisations certification programme is the first of its kind in the South Asia Region, although it is based on similar initiatives elsewhere, particularly one in the Philippines. The objective is to help non-profit organisations diversify their resource base and expand their programmes while at the same time demonstrating their commitment to best practices in governance and management.”

Certification is recognised by the authorities, and NGOs that are certified also obtain not-for-profit tax-exempt status from the Central Board of Revenue, something that must be renewed every second year. While the certification process is primarily aimed at improving NGO performance and transparency so that donors can better judge which NGOs are reliable, it has the added effect of heightening the credibility of NGOs in general and thus improving the reputation of the NGO sector. Although the process only began in 2005 and is entirely voluntary, it has already attracted the better NGOs as no one wants to be left behind.