Within and Without the State

Within and Without the State in Afghanistan

At a glance

Within and Without the State aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of civil society programming in fragile and conflict-affected settings.


By 2015, half of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people will be living in fragile or conflict-affected states.

Within and Without the State is a five-year global initiative enabling Oxfam to pilot a variety of approaches to working with civil society, to promote more accountable governance in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. The programme has a component which captures and shares knowledge and learning about what makes programming in these settings effective. 

The programme in its first phase (2011-2014) has shown that effective governance work is possible in fragile contexts, and can achieve change. It has demonstrated that working with civil society is an appropriate entry point; beyond this, empowering civil society actors to engage with power-holders is essential to achieving good governance and accountability. The programme has also explored: 

• Using the 'social contract' model to enable constructive engagement between citizens and the state
• Considerations about tackling gender inequality
• Understanding informal power-holders and how to influence them 
• Adapting civil society capacity building techniques from long-term development work

Core publications are displayed below, all Within and Without the State resources can be found in our publications section.

Where we work and funding

Within and Without the State works in four focus countries:


WWS has become increasingly aware of the role of religious leaders (Ulema) in shaping attitudes and practices in Afghanistan, and of the possibility of harnessing their potential as change-makers. WWS has therefore worked to make new connections between religious leaders and women leaders. This has helped to shift attitudes and build co-operation; some Mullahs have now suggested that women qualified in Islamic law could work together with them on resolving conflict, tackling harmful traditional practices, and expanding the culture of tolerance.

Occupied Palestinian Territories / Israel (OPT/I)  

In Gaza, WWS is co-financing work funded by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human
Rights (EIDHR). WWS is working to build the capacity of NGOs and community-based organisations to address the impact of the Israeli blockade and advocate for freedom of movement throughout the OPT.

An action research project has been carried out which aims to identify how change happens across OPTI, what opportunities for influence exist in this increasingly restrictive environment, and what Oxfam's role in achieving change should be. 

In the West Bank, WWS has provided co-financing to EU-funded work to strengthen the capacity of Palestinian civil society to identify its needs and priorities, and engage with power-holders around these issues. 

South Sudan

Oxfam in South Sudan has a historical focus on humanitarian programming and had previously undertaken limited development work. WWS has provided an opportunity for the country programme to innovate around governance, and has successfully developed activities to promote accountability between citizens and the state. This involves strengthening civil society's voice and ability to engage effectively with power-holders at various levels. This approach promotes the idea of a 'social contract' between civil society and the state. Each actor has their own roles and responsibilities to fulfil; by engaging with each other, sharing views, experience, and expertise, they can work together to create a more effective state. 

This work has acted as a catalyst for the rest of the Oxfam programme as it has demonstrated that it is possible to start a long-term development programme in a fragile context. Oxfam in South Sudan is now exploring working in challenging new thematic areas, and considering new partnerships. 


Yemen joined the WWS programme in March 2013. In Yemen, WWS works with civil society networks to increase their capacity to engage with power-holders and ensure policies and decisions meet the needs of poor women and men. There are plans to develop a focus on brokering opportunities for youth and women activists to engage with power-holders .


The Within and Without the State programme is funded by UK aid through the Department for International Development's (DFID) Programme Partnership Arrangement (PPA) for work on conflict, humanitarian and security issues.

Within and Without the State blogs

Promoting active citizenship in fragile states - four lessons

Is long term programming possible in fragile states? For the last three years we've been working with civil society in South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan... Read more

Gender inequality as a driver of conflict

Can Oxfam tackle gender inequality in conflict-affected countries? Here, Louie Fooks explains why working on gender inequality is not only possible,... Read more

Building a social contract in South Sudan

Long term governance programming in fragile contexts is painstaking but rewarding work. Rama Anthony shares experiences from South Sudan and... Read more

Governance and Fragility: lessons learnt

This week the Within and Without the State (WWS) programme is sharing its experience from South Sudan at a UNDP expert practitioners meeting in New... Read more

“It is good for young people to know what peace is.” Afghanistan's Youth Peace Debate

Although almost 50 percent of the Afghan population is under 15, it is rare for young people to be involved in the country's peace process or... Read more

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