The Heart of Asia Society (HAS) has operated within Afghanistan, based in Kabul, but active throughout the country and in the Heart of Asia region for several years. When Kabul fell to the Taliban in August 2021, HAS responded quickly to protect our staff and continue our programmes in spite of the dramatically altered reality on the ground. We felt that it was more important than ever to continue to find ways to bring people together to promote regional security and preserve the gains to society that have been made over many years of sacrifice by the Afghan people and generous support by the international community.
We recognized that, in addition to helping our key staff get to safety and taking other precautionary steps, we needed to establish a new base of operations offshore from which we could operate in safety and without interference from the new regime.
We decided to establish a new Heart of Asia Society organization in Ottawa, Canada, where several key staff reside, as a convenient and secure location, while continuing to operate the original Afghanistan-based entity as long as possible. So, we have incorporated a parallel NGO in Canada (HAS Canada), governed by Canadian law and run by a Board of Directors that includes some overlap with the HAS Afghanistan Board, and set up new bank accounts to secure donor funds and enable payments for staff and projects outside Afghanistan. The Executive Committee of both organizations is identical. The two HAS organizations have passed joint resolutions of mutual cooperation to ensure the continuation of programming and efficient sharing of resources and staff. Staff can work interchangeably on projects for either organization.
Having legally registered organizations and bank accounts both inside and outside Afghanistan enables HAS to continue its work and to pay staff wherever they are located. For the purpose of reporting to donors and satisfying audit requirements, financial reporting will cover the expenditures of both entities where applicable. The establishment of HAS Canada and its relationship with HAS Afghanistan is designed to create a seamless relationship for donors, staff, external experts and partners. The Advisory Council will serve both organizations.
While the HAS offices in Kabul remain open, most of our staff have left. At the same time, we maintain some of our office assets there, and work our wide network of contacts in the country, which are essential to the continued understanding of the evolving situation in Afghanistan and the region. HAS Canada has adopted the organization’s existing programming and is developing new programmes to respond to the evolving circumstances.
It is important to us that HAS be seen for what it continues to be: an independent Afghan NGO and think tank employing Afghans, working in Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia region on issues important to the country and the entire region around it. To a large extent, this can be done with the support and employment of persons outside the region. Clearly the collapse of the Islamic Republic has resulted in the departure of many talented Afghans – academics, civil society leaders, officials, technical experts. Canada has become the home for some of them but the Afghan diaspora is now located around the globe. HAS is working with Afghans who have left the country but who retain an interest in work dedicated to creating a better future for their homeland.
At this critical juncture in the fortunes of Afghanistan, HAS intends to be a catalyst for positive change, drawing on the talent and dedication of Afghans and those who support Afghanistan. HAS Canada is integral to achieving success in this mission.