Issues & Analysis
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China has already secured major oil and copper mining concessions in Afghanistan

China pledges ‘selfless help’ for Afghanistan

06/08/2012 04:36 GMT

Beijing, June 8, 2012 (AFP) – China’s president pledged “selfless help” to Afghanistan on Friday and the leaders of the two nations agreed to upgrade their ties, as NATO-led forces prepare to withdraw from the war-torn country in 2014.

Hu Jintao told visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai that China would “continue to provide sincere and selfless help to the Afghan side” as it entered “a critical transition period”.

China agreed to provide 150 million yuan ($24 million) in aid to its impoverished neighbour, said a statement in which the two nations agreed to upgrade relations in the political, economic and security spheres.

Afghanistan is preparing for the bulk of the 130,000 NATO troops fighting the Taliban insurgency to withdraw by the end of 2014, and the country’s future was one of the main topics of discussion at a regional security summit in Beijing this week.

China, which shares a small border with Afghanistan’s far northeast, has already secured major oil and copper mining concessions in Afghanistan, which is believed to be sitting on more than $1 trillion worth of minerals.

The scramble for influence in Afghanistan is expected to intensify as 2014 draws nearer, with its central position in a volatile region having shaped its history for centuries.

India, Iran and Pakistan have moved to secure what they see as their interests in the country.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a grouping led by China and Russia, set up to counterbalance US and NATO influence in the region, on Thursday granted Afghanistan observer status at the end of the two-day summit.

For its part, Afghanistan reaffirmed Chinese sovereignty over Xinjiang — a region dominated by the Muslim Uighur minority, a Turkic-speaking ethnic grouping with close ties to other Central Asian nationalities.

“The two sides expressed strong rejection of all forms of terrorism, extremism, separatism and organised crimes,” the joint statement said.

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“Media-Fueled Impact” – 7/8, Michael Sheridan presents at Making Media Now Conference

Thriving in a Changing Media Landscape, Making Media Now Conference
Boston, MA: Michael Sheridan is speaking at Making Media Now, a film industry conference hosted by Filmmakers Collaborative. Come hear the panel discussion about Media-Fueled Impact – and more!Click here for further details about the all day conference.

TOMORROW, June 8, 2012, 11:30-12:30, (full conference 9am-6pm)

Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Tower Building
621 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

Panel: “Media-Fueled Impact”

Media has always had the potential to influence and transform society, and today’s multiplexed media world offers more opportunities than ever before to catalyze social action. Come join some of the country’s top media makers and thinkers as they share their methods for engaging audiences to action.

Moderator: Anne Zeiser, Panelists: Johanna Blakley, Beth Murphy, Michael Sheridan

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Presentation and Screening Falmouth, MA – Tuesday, June 12

Afghan Perspectives in Film
Falmouth, MA: Join CSFilm director Michael Sheridan for a screening and presentation of The Fruit of Our Labor and a Q&A about the films, issues and CSFilm’s Compassion Campaign for Afghan Civilians.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 7-9 PM
Falmouth Public Library
Hermann Foundation Meeting Room
300 Main Street
Falmouth, MA 02540

Presented by the Friends of the Falmouth Public Library (FFPL). Special thanks to Lou Turner for initiating and coordinating this event.  Please contact Jane Hewitt, President of FFPL, with any questions, 508-540-5645.

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Amnesty International calls to protect Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

Amnesty International calls to protect Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

“We all want stability and peace, but not at the price of women’s rights. We’re told that women’s rights are a development issue, not a security issue. But women’s rights are part of what the fighting is all about.”
-Afifa Azim, coordinator of the Afghan Women’s Network, an umbrella organization of over 84 NGOs and 5,000 individual members.

“We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always…[it is] essential that women’s rights and women’s opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled in the reconciliation process.”
-US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton speaking to female Afghan officials in 2010

Hard-won gains for women could be seriously compromised as the Afghan government and its international partners pursue reconciliation and peace negotiations with leaders of the Taleban and other insurgent groups, without ensuring mechanisms to guarantee human rights.

Many Afghan women fear that their rights may be sacrificed in the search for a settlement with Taleban leaders. In areas they currently control, the Taleban continue to curtail women’s human rights severely. They have carried out a concerted attack on girls’ education and have murdered women prominent in public life. Afghan women’s human rights defenders fear that their newly won rights will be severely eroded if the Taleban are brought back into government.

Read more in “Afghanistan: Don’t trade away women’s human rights

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CSFilm presents at NATO Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice – Chicago, May 18th and 19th

NATO Counter Summit: Arts Panel

CSFilm will present at two events in Chicago at the  NATO Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice.

Friday, May 18th at 7pm
The Molly Cafe, inside The People’s Church
People’s Church: 941 W LawrenceChicago, Illinois

Community Supported Film will present The Fruit of Our Labor and the newly released Compassion Campaign for Afghan Civilians, along with American Friends Service Committee’s screening and discussion of If I Had a Trillion Dollars.  Read more here.

Windows and Mirrors
Saturday, May 19th: 11am – 12:45pm
People’s Church: 941 W LawrenceChicago, Illinois

CSFilm Program Coordinator Ali Pinschmidt, Afghan Program Coordinator Jamal Aram – joining by live Video Conference – and one other Afghan development specialist (TBA),  will join the American Friends Service Committee and their panelists of mural artists to illustrate the importance of including Afghan Civil Society perspectives in conversations about the short- and long-term future of Afghanistan.  Featuring Afghan-made films from the collection The Fruit of Our Labor and murals and drawings from the Windows and Mirrors exhibit about the Afghan war, this workshop will use the power of the arts to create a bridge between the people of our countries.  CSFilm will also discuss its recently released Compassion Campaign for Afghan Civilians.

 

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Congressional Briefing – Launch of Compassion Campaign for Afghan Civilians

Community Supported Film, in partnership with American Friends Service Committee and 3P Human Security, presented a briefing to Members of Congress that included a live video conference with Afghan NGO directors and CSFilm trainees/filmmakers, statements by Members of Congress, a screening of a selection of the Afghan–made documentary shorts from the The Fruit of Our Labor, and a panel discussion.

“The tendency in Washington is to think we know everything and we know what is best for everybody and the reality is we don’t. We don’t listen all the time. It is important to hear the perspectives of the people who are living there.”
– U.S. Representative James McGovern.

Watch these clips to hear from Afghans, Members of Congress and regional experts about the way forward in Afghanistan:

Video 1: The Afghan Experience, 3 min

Zahra Sadat grew up in Iran as a refugee – just like 1 million other Afghans who had to flee the civil war. After returning to Afghanistan post-Taliban she found her identity as an Afghan and her passion as a journalist and a leader in cultural development.

“After the fall of the Taliban I returned to Afghanistan and found my identity – which I couldn’t do as a refugee in Iran.” 
– Zahra Sadat

Jamal Aram, Program Coordinator for CSFilm and assistant trainer and translator, discusses his life under three different regimes – from enduring the threat of rocket attacks as a young student, to the relative safety but oppression under the Taliban, to the dawn of new opportunities with the fall of the Taliban.

I’ve experienced three different regimes.  I went to school during the civil war.  Most of the time classes were dismissed because of all the rockets fired all over the city. … When the international community moved into afghanistan new windows of opportunity opened for Afghans and especially for young Afghans from my generation.
– Jamal Aram, filmmaker and Coordinator for Community Supported Film

Video 2: Statement by Congressman James McGovern, 1 min

Representative James McGovern (D-MA) shares his gratitude for the opportunity to hear directly from Afghans and emphasizes that “those of us who want to see an end to war are not saying let’s abandon the people of Afghanistan.”

“Afghans that I work and engage with are asking for a responsible and sustained engagement by the international community.  Afghans fear that the international community will abandon them to another blood bath and humanitarian crisis.”
– Michael Sheridan, Founder and Director of Community Supported Film

Video 3: The Third Way, 1 min


Lisa Schirch, director of 3P Human Security, recommends “the third way” in Afghanistan, one that focuses on population protection instead of combat and includes civil society in all peace negotiations.

“There is another path that we are not looking at, that does not abandon Afghanstan and does not think that waging war is the only way.”
– Lisa Schirch, Director, 3P Human Security

Video 4: Recommendations for the way forward, 3 min

Zahra Sadat suggests that American troops shift from a war against insurgents to maintaining stability and involving everyone in peace negotiations. Jamal Aram agrees that more attention needs to be paid to peace talks that include the Afghan government, the international community, the Taliban, and neighboring countries. Lisa Schirch substantiates that many Afghans desire a protection force – one that is smaller, international, and more legitimate in the Muslim world. Peter Lems agrees that dialogue between all parties is necessary and must include Afghan Civil Society.

“More attention should be given to peace talks.  The Afghan government should take the initiative, backed by the international community, to negotiate with the opposition and with the neighboring countries.”
– Jamal Aram, filmmaker and Coordinator for Community Supported Film

Video 5: What we can do, 2:30 min

Lisa Schirch calls for Congressional hearings and oversight of the mission in Afghanistan, which is being articulated and implemented differently by the White House, Congress, the departments of State and Defense and the CIA. Peter Lems emphasizes that the military budget should be reduced to take away the incentive to use military force as the first response rather than as a last resort.

Video 6: CSFilm’s Compassion Campaign, 1:30 min

An articulation by Michael Sheridan of the “Compassion Campaign for Afghan Civilians.” Beyond the important conversation about getting troops out and bringing money home, Sheridan urges the audience to prioritize strategies that will prevent renewed civil war and a humanitarian crisis.

“In our eagerness to correct the mistakes of the last 10 years, we should not call for action that we will regret 10 years from now because it left Afghans vulnerable to extremists, renewed civil war and a humanitarian disaster.”
– Michael Sheridan, Founder and Director of Community Supported Film

Panel Participants

Jamal Aram, Filmmaker and Program Coordinator, Community Supported Film. Mr. Aram was born in Kabul and went to elementary and high school during the civil war and Taliban regime. During his career he has worked as a research assistant and translator at Afghan Public Policy Research Organization, with the Agha Khan Foundation and other development and microfinance institutions.

 

Peter LemsPeter Lems,Program Director for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran at the American Friends Service Committee, designs, coordinates, and implements educational and advocacy campaigns around U.S. foreign policy.

 

 

Zahra Sadat, Director, Hands of Health, from The Fruit of Our Labor collectionMs. Sadat was a refugee in Iran during the civil war and Taliban regime. Since returning to Afghanistan she has worked as a freelance journalist and founded the Opening Society Organization that works on cultural development.

 

 Lisa Schirch, Director of 3P Human Security – a partnership of organizations connecting policymakers with global civil society networks – facilitates civil-military dialogue and provides a peacebuilding lens on current policy issues. Ms. Schirch’s recent study, Designing a Comprehensive Peace Process for Afghanistan provides evidence of the importance of including Afghan Civil Society in building a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.

Michael Sheridan, Director and Founder of Community Supported Film – has worked in Afghanistan over the last 3 years to train and mentor Afghans in documentary filmmaking. The focus of the stories and the collection of short films produced, The Fruit of Our Labor, is on local economic and social development issues.

 

 

 

Congressional Briefing Photo Gallery: Click thumbnails to view larger.

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Congressional Briefing on Afghanistan

Click here to learn more about the Congressional Briefing on Afghanistan.

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Flash flood kills 28 in Afghan north

Agence France-Presse, KABUL, May 11, 2012 (AFP) – Flash floods swept through four villages in northern Afghanistan, killing 28 people and leaving 20 others missing, officials said Friday.

“Heavy rains overnight triggered flood waters that broke through four mountainous villages in Ishkamish district of northern Takhar province,” Takhar provincial governor, Abdul Jabar Taqwa, told AFP.

“It hit around midnight and it was very powerful,” said Taqwa.

“We have 28 deaths in Ishkamish district and 20 others are believed to be missing,” the governor said.

“It is a big disaster he added,” warning that the death toll was likely to rise.

Dozens of houses were washed away and roads blocked, he added. The flood-hit areas are accessible only by air.

Rescuers are trying to reach the area by helicopter, taking food, blankets and tents to the victims.

On Monday, at least 26 people were killed and more than 100 missing after flash floods hit a wedding party and three villages in Sari Pul province.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls, and experts predicted melting snow was likely to cause floods in the mountainous north in the spring.

According to IMMAP, a data-analysis and mapping company, 15 percent of Afghanistan’s population is at high risk of being affected.

In March, the UN humanitarian office for Afghanistan said at least 145 people were missing and “presumed dead” after an avalanche hit a remote village in northeastern Badakhshan province.

Despite the billions of dollars in aid from the international community after the collapse of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains among the poorest nations in the world, weakened by decades of conflict.

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Afghanistan, Development: 5.6 million returned refugees, another 5 million still in neighboring countries, and 500,000 internally displaced

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Reiterates Commitment to the Afghan People

(Kabul/New York, 11 May 2012) Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, reconfirmed the commitment of the humanitarian community to the people of Afghanistan at the end of her four-day visit.

“Afghans in acute need require timely relief and assistance, delivered impartially. We are and will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance where it is needed, but clearly this alone is not enough,” she stated.

More than a third of Afghanistan’s population has personal experience of displacement, including the 5.6 million returned refugees, another 5 million still in neighboring countries, and 500,000 internally displaced as a result of on-going conflict, recurrent and debilitating natural disasters, and the lack of rural development.

In parallel to humanitarian efforts, longer-term investment in human development and prevention measures are urgently needed to reduce vulnerability in the face of these challenges.

“We must also invest in efforts to strengthen the resiliency of communities themselves and the capacity of service delivery institutions,” she added.

“Much has been achieved over the past decade but Afghanistan remains near the bottom ranking of all human development indicators. There is still much more to do,” she said.

During the transition period the humanitarian needs of the people in Afghanistan must not be forgotten.

“Security is a priority. But for the Afghans I met, security is not just about physical security. It is also about the importance of investment in human development and the delivery of critical functions such as livelihoods, primary education, healthcare and the functioning rule of law. They need and deserve our continued support,” Ms. Amos stated.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit http://unocha.org/

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Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014

World Bank, May 2012: It has been said many times that Afghanistan is at a crossroads. This has never been truer than now. The withdrawal of most international troops by 2014 will have a profound and lasting impact on the country’s economic and development fabric. The Afghanistan in Transition report explores some of these ramifications. The decline in external assistance will have widespread repurcussions for Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape well beyond 2014.

Development progress since 2001 has been mixed. The country has recorded some major achievements such as rapid economic growth, relatively low inflation, better public financial management, and gains in basic health and education. Key social indicators, including life expectancy and maternal mortality, have improved markedly, and women are participating more in the economy. Yet in other respects, particularly governance and institution building, the country has fared less well, and many indicators have worsened in recent years.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s least developed countries, with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of only $528 in 2010-11. More than a third of the population live below the poverty line, more than half are vulnerable and at serious risk of falling into poverty, and three-quarters are illiterate. Additionally, political uncertainty and insecurity could undermine Afghanistan’s transition and development prospects.

The large aid inflows that have benefited Afghanistan have also brought problems. Aid has underpinned much of the progress since 2001—including that in key services, infrastructure, and government administration—but it has also been linked to corruption, poor aid effectiveness, and weakened governance. Aid is estimated to be $15.7 billion—about the same as the size of the GDP in fiscal year 2011.

Despite the large volume of aid, most international spending “on” Afghanistan is not spent “in” Afghanistan, as it leaves the economy through imports, expatriated profits of contractors, and outward remittances. Other countries’ experience shows that the impact of large aid reductions on economic growth may be less than expected. The main issue is how to manage this change, mitigate impacts, and put aid and spending on a more sustainable path.

This first report is intended to be comprehensive, so it also discusses the broader historical and political economy context of development in the country, and how Afghanistan compares with other countries that have undergone their own transitions over the past 30 years. While many features of the Afghan story and the current challenges that Afghanistan faces are unique, other countries share different elements of that story—and may offer lessons on how to move away from violence and establish an enduring and stable transition to a better future.

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Live Webinar: Real Stories from Afghanistan, and how YOU can make Real Change – May 14th, 3pm EST

Women’s Action for New Directions, in partnership with Community Supported Film, is proud to present…Scene from "Bearing the Weight" Film

“Real women. Real stories. The real Afghanistan.”

Please join us for this live interactive webinar in which participants use their personal computer to hear a short presentation on Afghanistan, watch excerpts of Afghan-made documentary shorts, and learn easy ways to take action for a peaceful Afghanistan.  The webinar will feature video excerpts about women’s issues from the Afghan-made collection, The Fruit of Our Labor.

Participants will see how the stories in these films connect to policy goals for a comprehensive U.S. peace-building strategy in Afghanistan, based on shifting from combat to population protection, the promotion of women’s rights, and a long-term investment in development.

Webinar - Real Stories from Afghanistan

 

DATE – Monday, May 14, 2012
TIME – 3pm – 4pm EST
COST – Free!

 

Register now for your chance to learn about Afghanistan from Afghan-made films, and see how you can use these tools to pressure Congress to bring the war to an end responsibly – for Afghans as well as for Americans.

The films are a part of “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film,” a collection of ten Afghan-made documentary shorts that brings to life Afghans’ efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions.  As described by NPR’s Robin Young, these films provide “an unprecedented intimate look at Afghan life with exchanges no outsider has been privy to before.”

Click here to register!

Please share this event on facebook by clicking below!

In a time when the majority of the American public is in favor of bringing American troops home from Afghanistan, this webinar will discuss the importance of prioritizing the safety of Afghans, as well as their local development initiatives, perspectives and concerns.  CSFilm founder and director Michael Sheridan will discuss his experiences working in Afghanistan over the last 3 years, and will screen excerpts from documentary shorts made by 10 Afghans as a result of CSFilm’s intensive training in documentary filmmaking.  The films offer unique Afghan perspectives on local challenges and solutions, with a particular focus on women’s lives and initiatives.

Webinar participants will learn how to use these Afghan-made films to pressure Congress to bring the war to an end responsibly, by incorporating economic, political, and peacekeeping objectives into legislation in order to help prevent a humanitarian crisis.

Community Supported Film is proud to be partnering with WAND – Women’s Action for New Directions – for this webinar and other forthcoming collaborations.  WAND has been working towards building a comprehensive transition to peace-building in Afghanistan, supporting a strategy that enhances security through demilitarization and promotes women’s rights through inclusive peace processes and development initiatives.

This program is a part of CSFilm’s Compassion Campaign for Afghan Civilians.

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“Security…is also about…investment in human development”

UN Humanitarian chief calls for continued investment to save lives

10 May 2012,

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, ended her visit to Afghanistan with a call for continued investment in human development and livelihoods.

Speaking today at a news conference in Kabul, Ms. Amos said investment in human development and prevention measures was needed to reduce vulnerability to the impact of conflict and natural disasters.

10 May 2012, Northern Afghanistan: ERC Valerie Amos meets the women of Buzareg village. Credit: UNAMA “During my time here, much has been said about the transition and the departure of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] forces. The needs of the people in Afghanistan remain vast,” said Ms. Amos.
“Security is indeed a priority. But for the Afghans I met, security is not just about physical security. It is also about the importance of investment in the human development and the delivery of critical functions such as livelihoods, primary education, health care and the functioning rule of law.”
“We … will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance where it is needed, but clearly this alone is not enough,” Ms. Amos said. “In parallel to our humanitarian efforts, longer-term investment in human development and prevention measures is urgently needed to reduce vulnerability in the face of recurrent challenges. We must also invest in efforts to strengthen the resiliency of communities themselves and the capacity of service-delivery institutions.”
Ms. Amos said she had been shocked by conditions at an informal settlement she visited in Kabul.
“These are the poorest of the poor and deserve our collective support. I also support longer-term support efforts to come up with durable solutions that address underlying issues such as land tenure, basic service provision and economic opportunity,” she said.
Ms. Amos noted that more than one third of Afghanistan’s population has personal experience of displacement, including 5.6 million returned refugees, 5 million people who are still in neighbouring countries and 500,000 internally displaced people. She called for timely relief and assistance, delivered impartially to those in acute need.
Ms. Amos spoke of the heart-wrenching stories about the impact of conflict that she heard from internally displaced families during a visit to Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
“After decades of war, people want peace, stability, and an environment free from fear and torment. I again call on all parties to the ongoing conflict to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and for more to be done to ensure civilians are kept free from harm,” she said.
During a visit on Thursday to the banks of the Amu Darya river in Buzareg village, Balkh Province, Ms. Amos saw the destruction caused by riverbank erosion. This consumes more than 500 metres of land each year, destroying homes, agricultural land and livelihoods, schools, roads and clinics.
“Natural disasters occur in Afghanistan on a regular basis. Annual flooding is the norm and there have been eight droughts in 11 years. More must be done to help local authorities prepare better, and we must make a greater effort to build the resilience of communities,” Ms. Amos said.
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UN seriously concerned that protection of civilians, especially children, are being violated

May 8, 2012

UNAMA condemns recent attacks against schools in Afghanistan

UN Assistance Mission in AfghanistanDownload PDF (204.31 KB)

KABUL, 12 MAY 2012 –United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is seriously concerned that the protection needs of civilians, especially children and their right to education are being violated through reported attacks by anti-Government elements targeting schools and education officials over the past few weeks. It is imperative that all parties to the conflict respect the civilian status of schools and work to protect and promote the rights of children, particularly girls, to education.

Over the last year UNAMA has monitored unacceptable levels of violence by anti-Government elements directed against schools, education institutions, their staff and/or students. Last week, insurgents targeted education officials traveling in Paktika province that left five civilians dead and seven others injured. In Khogyani District of Nangahar province on 8 May, anti-Government elements set fire to a secondary school for girls in Wazir village. Two school buildings and school equipment were destroyed. Anti-Government elements have also conducted a campaign of intimidation against community leaders and staff at the school to force its closure. UNAMA condemns these attacks that aim to limit access to education and to intimidate civilians.

These attacks and acts of intimidation demonstrate a disregard for the protection of civilians, especially children, and of civilian institutions. They are a serious violation of international humanitarian law and of the right to education including for girls.

UNAMA calls on anti-Government elements to stop such heinous attacks targeting children and education officials. UNAMA calls for the respect of international humanitarian law and for the right to education for all Afghans. UNAMA also calls on the Government of Afghanistan and international military forces to ensure that effective security measures are in place to protect schools, students and teachers. UNAMA strongly urges anti-Government elements to uphold and demonstrate the commitments to education they have made in public statements.

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Support an end to war that secures peace for Afghans

May 8, 2012

Afghan civilians are asking for a responsible and sustained engagement by the international community that will secure their peace and not only the end of the international community’s war.  Every week I hear from Afghan friends and colleagues about their fear that the international community is abandoning them to another civil war and humanitarian crisis.

What Afghans see everyday on their news, is a situation that looks more and more like a return to the 80s and 90s when their plight was ignored, 32+% were displaced as refugees and 10s of thousands of civilians were killed. Afghans hope we will not promote outcomes that lead them to look back 10 years from now at an Afghanistan once again left to civil war and humanitarian disaster.

As Zahra Sadat, Afghan NGO leader and maker of the film Hands of Health, stated during on congressional briefing, “American troops … are fighting a war rather than creating stability and peace. [The US] should focus their attention more on diplomatic approaches and dialogue rather than fighting a war.”

We should help Afghans achieve the following:

1. NATO shifts its combat mission to a population protection strategy until a long-term international and culturally sensitive stabilization force is mounted and deployed;
2. The UN leads all-party regional peace talks to extricate Afghanistan from its geopolitical conflict;
3. The international community transfers a fraction of the billions spent on a failed military strategy to fund cost-effective and locally implemented economic and social development projects that have proven their value and efficacy and are essential for long-term peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.

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Flash floods kill 26 at Afghan wedding

May 7, 2012

Agence France-Presse, 05/07/2012 13:07 GMT

Kabul, May 7, 2012 (AFP) – At least 26 people were killed and more than 100 missing after flash floods hit a wedding party and three villages in northern Afghanistan, an official said Monday.

Most of the victims were women and children as the floods, caused by heavy rains, swept through areas of Deh Mardan district in Sari Pul province, said Fazlullah Sadat, head of the provincial disaster management authority.

“We have found 26 bodies mostly women and children — and more than 100 others are still missing,” he told AFP.

Wedding parties are traditionally large and joyous occasions in rural Afghanistan, but 21 people from one gathering were among the victims, he said.

“This is a human tragedy. We have a lot of human losses,” said Sadat.

Rescue teams had been dispatched to search for the missing, he added, and the floods also swept away livestock and swamped agricultural lands.

The defence ministry had dispatched two helicopters to flood-hit areas, he said, and disaster management teams assisted by the UN’s World Food Programme were at the scene, distributing food, blankets and tents.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls, and experts predicted melting snow was likely to cause floods in the mountainous north in the spring.

In March, the UN humanitarian office for Afghanistan said at least 145 people were missing and “presumed dead” after an avalanche hit a remote village in northeastern Badakhshan province.

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BTKW – Educational Curriculum about the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, provided by Primary Source

May 1, 2012

Primary Source About Us

Primary Source, an organization that connects educators with history and humanities resources from around the world, has developed an educational curriculum using Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War.  BTKW’s trailer is used as a springboard to analyze post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan, drawing comparisons between the top-down approach of the Provincial Reconstruction Team and the bottom-up approach of the National Solidarity Program.

Please share this curriculum with any contacts you may have who work in education. The curriculum is most appropriate for high school students.

Modern Afghanistan: Making Meaning in the Aftermath of Conflict

Background

In conflict-laden regions, improving the region’s infrastructure is often seen as a key to restoring stability and security. In Afghanistan, a nation that has witnessed more than 30 years of war, a number of different reconstruction efforts have occurred since the U.S.-led military intervention, with varying degrees of success. Using what has been termed a “hearts and minds” approach to military policy, the United States and its allies have focused on rebuilding infrastructure as a way to foster support among the Afghan people. The different reconstruction models in Afghanistan illustrate the various tensions involved when outside nations work to rebuild war torn regions. This activity draws upon a documentary film to consider those issues and asks the following questions: What is the optimal relationship between external aid providers and local participation? What factors are important to consider?

Numerous government and nongovernmental organizations have been involved in rebuilding Afghanistan. The documentary film featured here focuses on two of these programs. The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), was established in late 2002 as a collaboration between the military (U.S.-led Coalition and NATO forces) and the civilian population for the purpose of improving security, government, and facilitating reconstruction. PRTs operated in various regions and were designed to create programs that reached local needs and focused on activities such as building or improving power grids, communication, schools, literacy, vaccinations, and creating jobs. Evidence of the program’s impact is limited, however, some critics of the program claim that these teams often built facilities that the nation of Afghanistan could not afford or sustain long-term and that the programs subverted the Afghan central government.

Similarly, the National Solidarity Program (NSP), the largest development program in Afghanistan, was established in 2003 under the Afghan government (with donor partners that included the World Bank, USAID, the United Kingdom, Japan and other members of the international community) to aid in reconstruction. NSP efforts centered on locally-controlled “Community Development Councils” throughout Afghanistan that allowed local villagers to decide what reconstruction projects to pursue. This greater degree of input from and empowerment of the local community bolstered the success of the NSP, and proponents have hailed the program as a model for other nations.

In this activity, students will watch a pre-production reel of the film Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War to examine how the PRT and NSP programs operated in Afghanistan and consider how reconstruction efforts are negotiated in the aftermath of conflict. Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War, produced by Community Supported Film and filmed by Afghans, provides a local Afghan perspective on rebuilding efforts. The film’s trailer provides an overview of some of these reconstruction programs and allows students to consider how foreigners and locals have worked together to make changes that can last.

For the complete curriculum visit Primary Source.

Curriculum by Ann Marie Gleeson

Primary Source

 

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UN says NATO should ensure that protections for women and girls are a central component of transition

May 1, 2012

Inclusion of protections for women and girls central to transition security sector framework for Afghanistan – UN

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan,  Download PDF (208.63 KB), Kabul, 12 May 2012

The Government of Afghanistan and NATO should ensure that protections for women and girls are a central component of transition and post-transition security frameworks for Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund said today. As heads of state and NATO prepare for the NATO Summit in Chicago on 20-21 May, UNAMA, UNFPA and UN Women called on NATO and the Afghan government to fulfill UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which requires all parties to take special measures to protect women and girls in armed conflict and stresses the critical role of women in all efforts to promote peace and security.

“Now is the time to deal with the longer-term security and protection needs of Afghan women who have long borne the brunt of the war in Afghanistan,” said Ján Kubiš, United Nations Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Afghanistan. “Women’s specific protection needs should be central to plans being made as the Afghan national army and police prepare to take an increasing lead in security operations and the NATO–ISAF mission evolves from combat operations to training and assistance to Afghan forces.”

At the NATO Chicago Summit, heads of states and governments will consider how to provide continued support to the Afghan National Security Forces after transition is completed in 2014. This will include an agreement on how the Afghan government, ISAF nations and the international community together can fund professional, capable and self-sustaining Afghan National Security Forces in the future in line with the target set at the NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010. The Chicago Summit will also consider how funding commitments can be linked to fulfilling the Afghan Government’s obligations to realize human rights in compliance with the Constitution of Afghanistan and human rights treaties ratified by Afghanistan.

Women’s rights groups and Afghan civil society have stressed that gains made in the past decade for millions of Afghan women in securing equal constitutional rights, political participation, and access to health and education must not be compromised in any transition agreements between NATO and other international partners and the Afghan government, and in any peace negotiations.

“Protection of women during transition and in post-transition is critical as women are more vulnerable to insecurity and any breakdown in local rule of law,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA. “Transition should prioritize an increasing civilian policing role for the Afghan National Police over its paramilitary functions, including expansion of human rights protection with a particular focus on women’s rights and rule of law.”

UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA stated that protection for women during and after the transition requires the Afghan National Police to be fully resourced, trained, equipped and sensitized to address effectively cases of violence against women and girls under the Afghan Constitution and other legal frameworks, more specifically through the application of the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“It is important that the international and national community puts every effort into breaking the silence and ensuring that the voices of women and girls are heard and that the necessary services are put in place to support those women and girls. The role of field police officers is crucial as they are often the first entry point for those victims.” said Dr. Laurent Zessler, UNFPA Representative in Afghanistan. “Capacity building programs, as part of a long term commitment to develop field police officers’ skills to prevent and respond to cases of violence against women and girls should contribute to creating an enabling environment for women and girls to live in dignity and in freedom from violence.”

Stressing the important correlation between the consolidation of lasting security in Afghanistan and the promotion of women’s rights, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, Country Director, UN Women Afghanistan said, “Security is paramount for improving girls and women’s freedom of movement and access to education and health services. Women understand the drivers of insecurity in their communities and it is crucial to include Afghan women’s groups in decisions impacting on their security during and after the transition of security from NATO-ISAF to Afghan forces. The summit in Chicago needs to make space for women’s concerns and ensure an inclusive response to the security challenges that Afghan society is facing.”

The international community should provide increased support to the Gender Units of the Afghan Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence and the Afghan National Police to make these institutions more responsive to the needs of the women and girls. UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA noted that peace is not only about political agreements on power sharing; it is about consultation, inclusion and ensuring that women and men at the community level experience peace and security in their daily lives and that women’s voices are included in all peace negotiations.

Referring to developing the Afghan National Security Forces as a responsible and accountable institution in protecting the civilian population, Georgette Gagnon said “The transition frameworks should allocate sufficient financial resources and build capacity within the Afghan National Security Forces for effective institutional structures to protect and mitigate civilian casualties in all counter-insurgency operations, in particular women and children casualties.”

UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA stated that accountability mechanisms within the Afghan National Security Forces should include the establishment of a civilian casualty mitigation unit that is accessible to women and fully resourced to provide proper monitoring, investigation and compensation for civilian deaths, injuries and property loss. UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA highlighted that compensation is of tremendous importance for women, who after losing their husbands or male relatives are often further exposed to violence and violations of their basic human rights in the highly traditional and patriarchal context of Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Police should also ensure attainment of its target to induct and train more women into the police force to improve its outreach and service to women and girls in communities while assisting victims of gender-based violence in a humane and ethical way.

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Socio-Economic Reintegration and Livelihoods

April 27, 2012

4/27/2012, NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre

During the last decade, the Afghan government and international community worked to promote peace, governance, security and development in Afghanistan. However, as discussed in a report entitled “Talking about Talks: Toward a Political Settlement in Afghanistan” from the International Crisis Group, the current situation is still fragile and volatile. A recent article in The Independent adds that insurgency hampers service delivery, accessibility, development initiatives and employment opportunities and, in doing so, may foster grievances which further fuel violence. In order to address this situation, the Afghan National Security Council passed the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) in July 2010. The APRP, which is introduced in the first piece in the CFC’s introductory report on “Peace and Reintegration”, “provides means for anti-government elements to renounce violence and reintegrate and become a productive part of Afghan society”. As highlighted in the following pages, such processes can draw upon international experience and frameworks regarding the reintegration of armed groups and fighters. This piece introduces the main challenges encountered in many international reintegration programmes and discusses how Afghanistan and other countries have utilised infrastructure-related activities to help combatants transition to civilian life.  Download PDF (586.6 KB)

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World Bank Commits to Sustained Engagement in Afghanistan

April 27, 2012
 World Bank, Press Release No:2012/415/SAR

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2012 — The World Bank’s Board of Directors today discussed its Interim Strategy Note (ISN) for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan which provides a sustained commitment and vision to the country’s development through the period of transition and beyond.

The ISN builds upon a solid track record of results, despite the high risk environment. “Over the past decade, the World Bank, together with the international community, has helped the government make steady progress in many areas, including provision of basic services,” says Isabel M. Guerrero, World Bank Vice President for South Asia. “These visible gains include the development and roll-out of national programs in health, education and village level governance and service delivery, and a functioning and credible public financial management system.”

Going forward, the Bank’s support to Afghanistan over 2012-14 will be based on supporting the delivery of some of the most important national priorities. It is also grounded in helping the Government to manage the critical transition from security and development dominated by the international community to one led by the Government of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Bank group support will be provided around three themes:

  1. Building the Legitimacy and Capacity of Institutions.
  2. Equitable Service Delivery.
  3. Inclusive Growth and Jobs.

Specifically the Bank will continue to expand its support to institutions and processes associated with transparent economic and financial management and community level governance especially through the National Solidarity Program (NSP). Equally important will be to sustain and expand, as possible, World Bank support for important national programs in areas such as healthcare, education, rural connectivity and irrigation.  Read Full Press Release

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Is US-Afghan Agreement a Prelude to Afghan Civil War?

April 26, 2012

Thursday, 26 April 2012 10:14, By Matt Southworth, Truthout | Op-Ed

As we come up on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration is poised to sign a US-Afghan strategic partnership agreement that could be a prelude to Afghan civil war. Unless drastic policy changes are started immediately, reorienting US policy toward legitimate political negotiations between Afghan and regional entities, dark days lie ahead. It’s time to end the US war, but the United States cannot afford to abandon Afghans. Read full OP-Ed

Matt Southworth is the legislative associate for foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislationand an Iraq War veteran.

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