'Every transitional process faces challenges in the initial stages. The same goes for the peace process. There are many problems and obstacles in the way of efforts to bring nationwide peace to Afghanistan.' - Anarkali Hunaryar, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, 2014
Afghanistan and its people have lived with constant conflict for over 30 years. With 2010 statistics stating over 70% of the population under 30 years old, the majority of Afghans today have lived only in conflict. 68% of those polled in The Asia Foundation’s Afghanistan in 2016 report said they always, often, or sometimes fear for their own safety or security or that of their family - the highest in a decade. Afghanistan was ranked the 4th least peaceful country in the 2016 Global Peace Index, representing a deterioration in the country's score due to increase terrorism and conflict deaths.
Peace is critical for development in Afghanistan to be effective. Instability in the country and the increased criminality that often comes with this, not only threatens to kill or injure civilians; it also denies them access to essential services, from providing an income for their families, and the ability to plan for the future.
Peace negotiations with the Taliban
It is generally accepted by peace practitioners that a political agreement between both sides to a conflict is required. Efforts for peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government have been underway for a number of years.
However, an absence of transparency in the process has led many Afghans to distrust it. And women’s rights activists have called time and time again for women to be given a meaningful role in the peace talks and negotiations. Whilst a late-2016 peace agreement with the Hizb-e-Islami insurgency was cautiously welcomed by Afghan civil society, there are concerns about the government’s willingness to readily offer amnesty to those accused of committing past war crimes.
Civil society may be divided on some aspects of the negotiations, but there is a consensus that as a group representative of the people, they should be offered a significant role in shaping them.
Reconciliation and reintegration
The Bonn Accord of December 2001, an agenda prepared by world leaders and prominent Afghans after the US intervention of that year, was established to guide Afghanistan towards ‘national reconciliation, a lasting peace, stability, and respect for human rights’.
There have been concerns that the reconciliation approach of recent years has shifted to the search for political approaches for stabilization – for winning the war. However, broader efforts continue through bodies such as the Afghanistan National Independent Peace and Reconciliation Commission, the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme, the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace, and other efforts led by civil society.
Community-based peace building and the role of civil society.
When a society has been normalised to unacceptable levels of violence, peace will take a long time to manage. It is a process and it involves many groups. Important efforts are being made at the community level. These include the training of community members in conflict resolution and mediation techniques, some of whom are then supported to form Peace Councils to address local grievances and disagreements. There are also school-based programmes which promote a culture of peace, reconciliation and peaceful conflict resolution amongst students, their teachers and parents. Other programmes seek to empower women to participate in community-based peace building activities.
Afghan civil society organisations deliver many of these programmes. They play an important role in bringing together local stakeholders, in education and awareness raising. They can also play an advocacy role with the Afghan government and, as enablers of dialogue, inspire greater confidence in the peace process.
What BAAG is doing
Delivering effective and long-term development programmes or emergency responses is severely hampered in an insecure environment. But our peace building messages are wider than this. Peace is more than the human right to feel safe and protected; peace is the foundation on which all other services and structures must be built. BAAG therefore include advocacy for a widely-consulted, transparent and inclusive peace building process as a cross-cutting theme in many of our activities.
BAAG’s work on the peace building agenda has included conferences, round tables and position papers. We connect to leading and innovative peace building professionals and organisations, both in Afghanistan and internationally. During our five-day Dublin Peacebuilding Workshop in 2012, civil society representatives identified a set of core principles for a peace strategy in Afghanistan, and BAAG continue to explore opportunities to advance these.
What our member agencies are doing
Specifically peace-focused programmes are generally delivered by Afghan civil society organisations, rather than international NGOs. However, a number of BAAG member organisations advocate for the inclusion of women in the peace process.
One thing is clear: in order to forge a lasting peace in Afghanistan it is necessary to address past injustices - Civil society position paper for the 2016 Brussels Conference on Afghanistan
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