Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
IWPR Trains Afghan High Peace Council
Attendees at the two-day IWPR training workshop for High Peace Council representatives in Kabul. (Photo: IWPR)
Representatives of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), the body tasked with forging reconciliation with the Taleban, have received training in essential communications skills during a two-day IWPR workshop.
Public awareness officers from 12 provincial departments attended the January 25-26 training at the Inter-Continental hotel in Kabul.
The Council mediates between the government and the insurgents, and has suffered numerous casualties as a result of its work.
“Since the establishment of the High Peace Council five years ago, the council has lost 100 of its members,” Abdul Rahman Hamid, its head of public relations, told the inaugural workshop session. “However, we continue our work for bringing peace.”
In addition to violence, the HPC also struggles with a lack of public trust in its work.
(See also Afghanistan's High Peace Council: Five Years On).
IWPR is working with provincial HPC spokespersons to help them engage with the public and the media on peace and reconciliation issues.
“We can build peace by understanding ways that would lead to peace initiatives. Training programmes are a necessary component of enabling HPC’s provincial outreach staff in their communication efforts,” said Abdul Qahar Jawad, IWPR Afghanistan deputy country director.
The workshop covered how to report and write stories, how to take photographs and how to develop strategies for public relations.
IWPR Afghanistan project manager Munir Mehraban began by introducing participants to the principles of journalism.
He emphasised that articles needed to be clear, accurate and comprehensive while capturing the reader’s imagination. Reporters needed to bear in mind the potential impact their words could have on the thoughts and behaviour of their audience, he told the workshop.
The second part of the workshop dealt with photojournalism. Mir Zaki Ansari, a journalism lecturer at Kabul university, explained how to take news photos and touched on other practical aspects of reporting.
For the final session, Hamid Obaidi, another journalism professor at Kabul university, showed participants how to develop a strategic plan.
“One of the topics necessary for the staff [to consider] is what kind of plan we make for a public awareness programme. This specifies our activities for one year, two year, or a five year period.”
Obaidi said the workshop had focused on developing a one-year plan.
“First, we considered what goals we want to achieve. For instance, integrating insurgents into the peace process. We should utilise the influence of local leaders, so as we bring in some of these people into the process.”
He said that recruiting the help of these powerbrokers could sometimes be more effective than trying to raise public awareness through television and radio.
The insurgents tended to trust local leaders more than the media, which they regarded as a tool of the government.
HPC provincial coordinator Toorialai Ameen said, “This workshop was very helpful for our provincial heads of public awareness because most of them are not professionals in this field. They still lacked all the necessary skills to raise public awareness.”
Ameen called for IWPR to carry out further trainings in other areas for Council staff.
Mohammad Zahir Khaliqyar said that for the last three years he had worked as the HPC’s public awareness officer in Bamyan province.
“Before attending the IWPR training, I did not know how to formulate or receive a message or how to promote it to others,” he said. “I also learned from IWPR how to make a strategic plan and what methods and means I can use to convey my message to the public.”
“I learned many things in this IWPR workshop,” agreed Sardar Wali Sarhadi, the head of public awareness in Zabul province. “Following it, [I am sure] my performance will improve.”
Sarhadi added that he hoped IWPR would follow the media training workshop with one on legal issues, as this would be of great use to HPC personnel.
Sher Afzal Popal, the head of public awareness in Herat province, said that his only criticism was that the workshop had been too short.
“We still learned things that I never knew before,” he said.
This report is part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.