As the Afghan peace process intensifies, the State Ministry for Peace with support from UNDP is bringing the discussions on the peace process to the communities across the country. To this end a series of open debates involving local government officials, civil society organizations, academia, religious leaders, youth and women representatives, and students have been planned in major cities across the country.
The first two open debates were conducted in Nangarhar and Herat Universities in March 2021 involving around 300 participants from the mentioned provinces as well as from neighboring provinces in the respective regions. The events which were aimed to broaden the discussions on the peace process and the future of the country to the grassroots level were organized by the State Ministry for Peace in collaboration with UNDP’s ‘Support to Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan’ Project
The objectives of these peace debates are to provide a platform for University students and Afghan youths from various ethnic groups with different socio-economic backgrounds to exchange ideas about Afghan peace process and discuss ways to build a sustainable, just and dignified peace, collect opinions regarding the peace process and peace building, promote active participation and inclusion of women and youth in the process, and raise awareness among communities about the peace process. The debates were moderated and managed by the State Ministry for Peace and topics included local initiatives in the peace process, social cohesion for promoting culture of peace, public engagement in the political settlement process, reinforcing the peace narratives, role of debate and freedom of expression in the national dialogue from peace, and public expectation from peace process.
“Conducting such programmes and involving communities, especially universities in this debate can pave the way for sustainable peace” said Monisa Hasanzada, deputy governor of Herat province. “Universities are centers of ideas, knowledge and ideologies, so it is essential to include them in the discussions, which will encourage young people to take part in national processes such as peace process”.
Five more regional debates are planned in the coming weeks in major cities and regional centers bringing representatives from surrounding provinces together for the open dialogue. At the end of each debate, two students (one male and one female) from each 10-member debate team or University will be selected to participate in the National Debate on the Afghan peace process to be held in the capital Kabul later in spring. These groups will represent the communities, youth and women groups, and religious and ethnic groups at the national debate to ensure all voices from across the country are heard and included in the peace process.
The Support to the Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan project provides support to the ongoing peace/political process and to the State Ministry for Peace and other Afghan peace structures to ensure that the peace process is inclusive of all communities, people and voices. The project is intended to provide a window of support to implement the government’s priorities for peace, allow sufficient time to observe the developments related to the intra-Afghan peace talks, and develop programmes in support of a nationally led peace process and possible post-peace agreement phase.
This project is generously funded by United States of America and United Kingdom.