Regional Cooperation

The RSPs’ work is based on the tried and tested principles of social mobilization that have touched the lives of millions of people in other countries of South and Central Asia. Increasingly, the RSP approach to social mobilisation, which entails the clustering of small community organisations, a reliance on community activists and the fostering of strong links with governments, has expanded across the South and Central Asia Region. Through the aegis of the Aga Khan Foundation, lessons from AKRSP in Gilgit were taken to Tajikistan in the 1990s, to be espoused by the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP). In 1994, under UNDP’s South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programmes (SAPAP), the RSP pioneer and now Chairman of RSPN, Shoaib Sultan Khan worked with the UNDP to set up pilots in the region to replicate the RSP approach. In Afghanistan, the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) was built on the principles espoused by Akhtar Hameed Khan and the AKRSP in northern Pakistan.

While the social mobilisation approach has been replicated on a large scale across these Regions, active collaboration between the Pakistan RSPs and others in the Region is also taking place to strengthen and scale up their programmes. Over the past year, RSPN staff has provided consulting services to UNDP Myanmar and the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Tajikistan to strengthen their social mobilisation. RSPN is also engaged with the Bangladesh based organisation, BRAC, in a research project which aims to capture learning’s from scale up efforts across South Asia and do a thorough, real-time documentation of the innovative projects of the RSPs in Pakistan. Other key forms of collaboration have been through experience sharing visits between staff as well as some village activists, who have visited other countries using social mobilisation.

The largest scale replication of the RSP approach is in India. This process started in 1994 with the South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programme in the State of Andhra Pradesh (the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty – SERP) and has been scaled up nationally. Since 2010, SERP’s approach has been replicated in India through one of the largest poverty reduction programmes in the world via the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM).

The link between NRLM, SERP and RSPN is strong and we seek to continue to increase this collaboration going forward. RSPN and some RSP staff and activists have also visited Tajikistan in 2009 and 2010, and the first visit to the NSP in Afghanistan took place in late 2012, with NSP and Aga Khan Foundation staff and village activists visiting the RSPs in 2013. Similarly, there is active exchange between MSDSP Tajikistan and RSPN. In January 2014, a ten member team from Tajikistan comprising local government and MSDSP staff visited Pakistan for ten days to see the RSP approach first hand. The Tajik team visited Local Support Organisations in the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Social mobilisation is not only a successful approach to reducing poverty; it has potential to be a strong link between Pakistan and its neighbours. Key elements of India’s programme have now been adopted by Pakistan’s RSPs and are funded by the Pakistan government, through the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), provincial governments and other donors. This process was started after RSP senior management and some Pakistan government officials visited Andhra Pradesh in 2007. On this visit, learning took place ‘in reverse’ as it were. The RSPs adopted key lessons from SERP which assisted them in scaling up their programmes through community activists, federating smaller community organizations into union council level Local Support.

Organisations; increasing the number of women in Community Organisations and adopting a new mode of financial services for the poorest, through Community Investment Funds. More recently, in late 2013, a thirteen member team of women cooperative members and entrepreneurs from Afghanistan visited Pakistan and had an opportunity to meet with community women involved social mobilisation and micro enterprise development.

In Pakistan between 2007 and 2014 the number of organised households as members of community organizations rose from 1.7 million to almost 5.9 million, whereas the ratio of women’s participation rose from about 30% to 48%, having been inspired by SERPs success of working only through village women. A total of over 974 LSOs have been formed to date. RSPN is grateful to DFID/UKaid which supported initial pilots in all provinces and areas, in order to replicate SERP successes in Pakistan. Sharing the success that the social mobilisation has had even beyond South and Central Asia, RSPN’s Chairman, Shoaib Sultan Khan visited the United States in June, where he spoke at the Harvard Kennedy School as well as at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on the RSP approach to confronting poverty by harnessing the innate potential of communities.

Similarly an eleven member team of Aga Khan Foundation Afghanistan visited Rural Support Programmes Network and Rural Support Programmes in March 2015 primarily to learn about the three tier structure of Community Organization, Village Organization and Local Support Organization with the view of possibly adapting the approach in Afghanistan. The team met the senior management of RSPN including the Chairman Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan and the management of RSPs at the head office to learn from their experiences and to gain knowledge about the strategic importance of the approach as a sustainable methodology for building people’s own institutions. The team also visited LSOs at Haripur and Gujar Khan to see the change being brought by the endeavours of the LSOs. The AKF team enjoyed their exposure visit and found it quite interesting with possible adaptation in Afghanistan.

Likewise in January 2015 his Excellency Mr. JananMosazai, Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan, and Her Excellency Mrs. NurjehanMawani, His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diplomatic Representative to Afghanistan visited RSPN and NRSP. Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan, Chairman RSPN, Dr. Rashid Bajawa, CEO NRSP and Mr. Khaleel Tetlay, Acting CEO RSPN gave a briefing about the history and milestones achieved by RSPs in Pakistan. The guests also met with the community representatives of LSO CHIRAH in Islamabad Capital Territory.

In March 2015, Mr. Khaleel Tetlay, Acting Chief Executive Officer/Chief Operating Officer RSPN was invited by BRAC to participate in the Frugal Innovation Forum: Scaling Sustainability at Dhaka during March 21-26, 2015. Over 150 participants from Bangladesh, India, Great Britain, United States, Myanmar, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania took part in the Forum. Participants came from government organisations, civil society organisations, social enterprises, corporate organisations, social equity fund management organisations and academic institutions. The focus on the two-day Forum was learning about social innovations and how these can be scaled up sustainably for impact. ACEO/COO participated in a meeting of 60 key stakeholders at the Prime Minister’s Office in a session on Scaling up Rural Community Mobilisation Models. The session was chaired by Professor Syed Hashemi (BRAC University). ACEO/COO spoke about the Rural Support Programmes in Pakistan and how they have built upon work of Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan and the key principles drawn from the Comilla Project by Mr.Shoaib Sultan Khan (Chairman RSPN). He emphasized that the work and scale up of RSPs in Pakistan is driven by the socio-economic context of the country with a very heavy incidence of poverty and also on the opportunity to support the rural people through the proven social mobilisation approach. At the end, Professor Hashemi briefly spoke about Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan and his innovative work in Comilla and how that work even today continues to inform the rural development approaches not only in Bangladesh but also in other South Asian countries.

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