Calls for Better CSO-Government Coordination in Afghanistan

Kabul administration needs to work hand-in-hand with civil society groups to build consensus.

Calls for Better CSO-Government Coordination in Afghanistan

Kabul administration needs to work hand-in-hand with civil society groups to build consensus.

Wednesday, 11 November, 2015

Closer cooperation between the Afghan government and the non-government is essential to bringing about peace and reconciliation, according to speakers at a series of recent IWPR debates.

At meetings held in the Kabul, Logar, and Badakhshan provinces in October, officials and activists said the government and grassroots organisations needed to engage with one another in order to build a consensus for peace.

Negotiations between the government and the Taleban have so far borne little fruit.

In Logar, to the south of Kabul, some speakers accused the government of failing to build the foundations for a peace deal.

Mohammad Shafiq Popal, a local civil society activist, said the provincial sections of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council were currently the only institutions actively striving for reconciliation.

“The government has been weak and incompetent in ensuring security, and especially in bringing stability to the country,” he said. “For years now, it has failed to give proper support to civil society organisations that are working for peace.”

Mohammad Qasim Khoshiwal, a provincial councilor in Logar, said ordinary people needed to take a lead in reconciliation efforts.

“Each of you residents of Logar province should be an ambassador of peace, rejecting extremism and putting your personal fears aside to work together to rebuild our country,” he said.

At the Kabul debate, provincial council member Haji Mohammad Ali Mohammadi listed NGO-government cooperation among the challenges facing Afghanistan.

“Proxy [externally-backed] conflict, the lack of an intensive strategy for combating corruption, unemployment and drugs, the absence of government cooperation with NGOs, and general security concerns are all major challenges,” he said.

In Badakhshan in northeast Afghanistan, Mohammad Isa Aslami, who deals with NGOs at provincial economy department, said civil society groups had initially made significant contributions to the peace process, but the momentum had been lost.

“There used to be more NGOs that dedicated themselves to peace-building activities, but over time, these activities have diminished,” he continued, naming the Agha Khan Foundation as one of the few organisations still engaged in the issues.

Sayed Amrullah Habibi, head of public outreach with the High Peace Council in Badakhshan, agreed that few NGOs addressed the issue of peace head-on.

“These organisations have done valuable work in every sector, but when it comes to restoring and supporting peace, none of them – with two or three exceptions – has done anything relevant, such as educational work,” Habibi said.

Sakina Khawari, who deals with issues of justice for a women’s rights group in Badakhshan, said NGOs could contribute “by influencing public attitudes, promoting security awareness via the media, holding seminars, and understanding the problems that people face, especially in the villages”.

Shokria Shahrani, deputy head of a professional development service for women in Badakhshan, said NGOs should work closely with government to secure “the public’s cooperation and increased engagement”.

Nasir Anwari, a representative of Oxfam in Kabul, emphasised the importance of involving women and young people.

“There are many organisations working on the peace process in the country. One of them, Equality for Peace and Democracy, works to increase mobilisation of women and young people to play their part in addressing the challenges facing Afghanistan,” she said.

Asked what civil society groups could contribute, Qasim Rahimi, a lecturer at Kabul’s Al-Biruni University, said they should seek to build consensus, and ensure that they were working for the good of all Afghans “with not linguistic, sectarian, regional or ethnic discrimination”.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.


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