Afghan Peace and Reconciliation
Years active: 2014-2016
Afghanistan’s turbulent recent history has left millions dead, many more displaced, a country in ruins and a legacy of bitterness that will take years to overcome. The limited reach of central government, the volatile mix of political, regional and ethnic loyalties, and the heavily militarised social environment make it difficult to move beyond the continuous cycle of conflict.
The new administration of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani will have to work hard to break this pattern. The High Peace Council and its predecessor, the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, have persuaded hundreds of former insurgents to come over to the government’s side, but there is still a long way to go. Continued suicide bombings and other attacks underline the enormity of the task ahead.
A new IWPR initiative called Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society is designed to facilitate this process. Building on the format of IWPR’s Youth and Elections project, the idea is to draw Afghans into a nationwide discussion on peace-building and reconciliation.
“Citizen watchdog groups” led by Muslim clerics, civil society leaders and journalists will be set up across Afghanistan to serve as bridges between the community and local government and hold the latter accountable. At the same time, some 180 public debates are taking place in all 34 provinces, reaching an anticipated 18,000 people. A series of inter-provincial debates will allow people in different parts of the country to talk to one another directly and then take part in phone-in radio shows.
A series of training seminars will offer provincial spokespersons of the High Peace Council ideas about how to engage with the public and the media on peace and reconciliation issues.
The key objectives of this work are:
- To help Afghans understand that reconciliation is critical to a stable, functioning society, and that as individuals, they can play a role in the peace process as campaigners, watchdogs or mediators;
- To improve the capacity of High Peace Council spokesmen to speak to the media and the general public;
- To build bridges between civil society organisations in different parts of Afghanistan and help them improve their outreach and advocacy;
- To counter extremist propaganda that is designed to silence anyone who supports democracy and tolerance.
Speakers say that public trust can only be won through a higher degree of professionalism.
Diplomat hints that Moscow may share common interests with the insurgent group.
Sessions held on building public trust and reporting news clearly.
Experts argue that vital resource could be worth of billions of US dollars to the country.
Young people turn to narcotics to escape lives of poverty.
Workshop focuses on teaching better ways to communicate with the public.
Government needs to confront factors that lead young people into violence.
Events offer rare chance to speak frankly with officials.
Calls for more clarity on who might qualify as a negotiating partner in peace talks.