In cooperation with the Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (APPRO) and Mediothek Afghanistan, FES has started to organize reoccurring sub-national peace forums in several regional nodes as well as one national forum for peace in Kabul.
The Project "Reaching out for Peace" will engage Afghans “where they are” to identify local and provincial impediments to peace in open dialogues on community-based conflict resolution and transformation. Consistent with experiences of Track 2 and Track 3 in other contexts, events under this project at the sub-national and national levels will create spaces and opportunities for multiple stakeholders to share experiences of conflict and search for a vision of sustainable peace in their immediate communities as well as at the national level. The outcomes of this project will reflect the ideas and perspectives of citizens at the sub-national and national levels regarding the needs for an inclusive and comprehensive peace process and the long-term stability needs in Afghanistan.
By #ReachingOutForPeace, we want to
The first event convened seventy civil society activists, government officials, academics, and media representatives from the southern provinces of Kandahar, Zabul, Helmand, and Oruzgan. Speakers included Mr. Haji Agha Lalai Dastagir, Deputy Governor of Kandahar, Ms. Mariam Durrani and Ms. Wazhma Tokhi, women activists from Kandahar and Zabul, as well as Mr. Zabiullah Zahid, Lecturer at the Mirwais Nika University.
Throughout a day of discussions in the plenary and small group sessions, the participants described their vision of a post-settlement reality in Kandahar as well as the main obstacles and barriers to peace in their own communities. Many participants emphasized the importance of socio-economic factors like the fight against corruption, and successful struggle against unemployment, injustice, and discrimination. These expectations matched their understanding of what currently impedes their prospects for peace: many named instances of misuse of power by authorities and power brokers accompanied by a weak performance of governmental offices, others pointed to the lack of economic and employment opportunities as a reason for a growing distance in state-society relations.
The event was attended by civil society representatives, women and youth groups, government officials, academics, and media representatives from the western provinces of Herat, Badghis, Farah, and Nimroz. Speakers included Ms. Maria Basheer, Head of the Office at Wahdat Zanan Organization, Mr. Tariq Nabizada, Lecturer at Herat University; Mr. Mohammad Anwar Mateenzada, Social & Cultural Affairs Officer at Herat Provincial Council and Sayeed Wasi Saeedi, Director of the Warsa Organization.
The participants exchanged ideas in group work sessions on how to achieve sustainable peace and long-term stability by addressing local conflicts and discussed their findings during a panel discussion. Many raised the issue that there are not enough equal educational opportunities for citizens. This low quality of education also causes conflicts among ordinary people. Ethnic prejudices and senses of ethnic superiority towards others were also named as reasons for communal conflict. Participants also raised the fact that the lack of the rule of law or equal application of laws created even more inconsistencies. Beyond all, participants saw growing extremism and lack of state control as a significant concern. Participants believed that peace would not be reached in the western region if the state does not consider solving these and other issues seriously and the public does not cooperate efficiently.
The third event was participated by civil society and representatives of disabled people, women and youth groups, government officials, academics, and media from the northern provinces of Balkh, Samangan, Saripul, Jawzjan, and Faryab. Speakers included Mrs. Robaba Naibee, Deputy for Social and Economic Affairs at the Balkh Provincial Office, Dr. Afzal Hadeed, Head of Balkh’s Provincial Council, Mr. Abdul Hameed Safwa, Director of Balkh’s Civil Society Union, Ms. Gulchehra Baheen, Lecturer at Balkh University, and Mr. Abbas Naqawaat, Lecturer at Samangan University.
The participants joined the discussion in groups and panels to exchange ideas on significant conflict factors in their communities and their vision for societal transformation after a peace agreement. The working groups addressed four main factors of local conflict: disputes among government authorities, unfair procurement processes for development projects, unfair distribution of political power, and administrative corruption. Participants argued that equitable power distribution in the sub-national authorities and among all ethnic groups helps to form a united nation and a powerful country. They also suggested a decentralized governance system as an option and that digitalization of governmental entities and registration of authorities’ property will decrease corruption. Panelists and participants demanded that national developing projects should be fairly distributed between all provinces. Participants emphasized that long term stability and peaceful society is the key to handle all these conflicts.
The fourth event was participated by civil society, women and youth groups, government officials, academics, and media from the northeast provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, and Baghlan. Speakers included Ms. Storai Yazdan Parast, Deputy at Civil Society Organization of Badakhshan; Mr. Haqdaad Sharifi, Field Observer at Human Rights Commission in Badakhshan; Ms. Zainab Tariq, University Lecturer, and Mr. Ziaullah Zayeed, Representative of Haj and Endowments.
The participants joined discussions in group works to identify the local impediments to peace in their communities and major conflict factors in the northeast. As such, they identified four issues: 1) the existence of opposition groups, 2) poverty and unemployment, 3) illegal extraction of mines and minerals, and 4) lack of justice. In their expressions, increased consumption and more imports than exports led to increased poverty and unemployment. They also related unemployment and poverty as a reason for engaging people with opposition groups in the northeast. Participants strongly emphasized that the state should stop and take concrete action against the illegal extraction of mines. They warned that if the state does not pay attention, it will lead to more extensive conflict, and opposition groups will continue to use the illegal trade to empower themselves. Lastly, lacking engagement from Kabul will continue to create greater distance and mistrust between the nation and the government.
The fifth forum took place in Jalalabad, Nangarhar, and convened seventy civil society activists, government officials, academics, and media representatives from the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, and Nooristan.
Mr. Babrak Miakhail, Deputy Governor of Nangarhar, opened the event by stating that “When we try to change our situation, believe me, we will reach a sustainable peace. We must see peace in our culture and should work for it.” The other panelists, Mrs. Shahla Babouri (Women Activist and Nangarhar University Lecturer), Mr. Nematullah Hamdard (Human Right Activist), Mr. Asadullah Shalezi (Director of Humanitarian Aid Strengthening Agency), and Mr. Asadullah Manalia (Laghman University Lecturer), emphasized that besides the on-going Doha talks, it is vital to find sources of conflict on the local level and try to find solutions there.
Throughout a day of plenary discussions and small group sessions, participants described the main obstacles and barriers to peace in their communities. Many emphasized the importance of socio-economic factors like the fight against corruption, especially in governmental offices. They also named the leading causes of conflict and violence from their perspective: corruption, unemployment, injustice, lack of youth and activist participation in local decision-making, and the absence of coordination between governmental offices. This, participants fear, could somehow increase the distance in state-society relations.
The sixth Forum for Peace was attended by governmental officials, academics, civil society, youth and women activists, entrepreneurs, and media from the central provinces of Bamyan, Maidan-Wardak, Daikundi, and Parwan.
Opening the forum Mr. Sayed Anwar Rahmati, Governor of Bamyan, pointed out that Afghanistan is in a very critical stage. It is the responsibility of every citizen to do their part to reach sustainable peace. In four working groups, the participants identified local causes of conflict and violence in their communities. They discussed building adequate capacities and opportunities for conflict resolution to end the conflict and ensure peace and stability in the country. In a subsequent panel discussion with Mrs. Taiba Rezaie (Member of the Provincial Council), Mr. Kabir Tabish (Civil Society Activist), Ms. Fatima Rezaie (Civil Society Activist, Maidan-Wardak), and Mr. Wazir Ahmad Setiz addressed the points raised by the working groups. Together, they discussed ways to resolve and mitigate the conflict, the factors influencing peace and stability, and concluded that poverty, ethnic conflicts, social ignorance, and weak governance were the main factors continuing and deepening conflicts in the country.
The seventh forum convened thirty civil society activists, academics, and some government officials from Southeast provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Logar, and Ghazni in Kabul. Speakers included Mr. Mohammad Khan Katavazi, member of the Paktika Elders Council; Mr. Sayeed Jamal Asifkhil, President of Loya Paktia Cultural Association; Ms. Latifa Akbari, Member of Provincial Council in Ghazni; Mr. Lutfullah Astanikzai, President of Logar Teachers Union and Mr. Nadia Bawari, Director of Women's Rehabilitation Organization.
Participants of the forum emphasized that most of the local conflict and problems are due to less awareness and educational opportunities of youth in the southeast provinces. Throughout a day of plenary discussions and small group sessions, participants described the main obstacles and barriers to peace in their communities and reflected on possible solutions. The lack of accessible opportunities, low level of services, rampant corruption, and crime (especially drug-related) were seen as a cause of distance between state institutions and the local population. Participants ascribed the government only a small role in successfully addressing local conflicts, mainly stemming from insufficient inclusion of locally influential elders and ulama in the decision-making process. On the other hand, they acknowledged that women were even more affected by local conflicts and exclusion due to prevailing cultural norms in these provinces. Participants emphasized that there will not be political settlement without social peace and inclusion.