Issues & Analysis
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Afghan donors must address media repression

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, left, is welcomed by Japan's Emperor Akihito in Tokyo in 2010. Japan is one of Afghanistan's biggest donors. (AP/Koji Sasahara)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, left, is welcomed by Japan’s Emperor Akihito in Tokyo in 2010. Japan is one of Afghanistan’s biggest donors. (AP/Koji Sasahara)

One thing that had better be high on the agenda this weekend at the meeting of 70 or so international aid donors for Afghanistan in Tokyo is the recently released official draft versionof the Mass Media Law (a copy of the draft can be found here). I mentioned the new draft in a June blog, “Afghan media is under political and economic pressure.” The real thing is even worse than expected.

Whatever aid money is agreed on this weekend is supposed to be contingent on the Afghan government commitment to attacking the country’s endemic corruption and upholding and improving human rights standards–something the draft media law does not seem terribly concerned with.

The proposed new law will go in front of the legislature with little or no advice from the vibrant Afghan media community that has grown up since 2001, said Danish Karokhel, the head of Pajhwok Afghan News, who was the lead-off topic in that June 11 blog. He told me overnight that the best tactic the Afghan media community can come up with is, “Stop it from getting to Parliament.” One positive of the 2009 law now in effect was that local media were involved in its construction. Karokhel said he believes that if the new draft ever does become law, anti-media MPs (of which there are many) would seek to make the restrictions even worse, either before it is passed or later, with amendments.

Here are some of the concerns I’ve been hearing from Afghan journalists:

  • The number of journalists on the non-governmental Mass Media Commission would be significantly reduced.
  • The information and culture minister would sit at the head of an unnecessarily complicated group of bodies regulating the media, ruling as the director of a High Media Council. He would be vested with vast regulatory powers that could be enacted by decree.
  • A powerful new Media Violation Assessments Commission, with a predominance of government representatives, would be established, along with special media prosecutors and courts for civil cases regarding media issues.
  • The government would have much wider power to limit foreign broadcast programming–just as foreign influence would wane with the 2014 NATO troop drawdown and the government could swing to a more conservative political approach. Bollywood movies and Turkish soap operas are widely popular, but even their modest standards may be too racy for the post-2014 Afghanistan.

And, as Human Rights Watch mentioned this week in their analysis of the draft, “Afghanistan: Draft Law Threatens Media Freedom

Even the word choice of media outlets would be controlled by the government. Print media and websites would be required to observe a “guideline of phraseology and orthography which has been determined by an authorized committee according to an approved procedure by combined board of High Media Council, High Council of Ministry of Higher Education, Academic Council of Ministry of Education, and High Council of Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan.”

Also, the draft includes no mention of establishing guidelines for safety training or professionalization of the press corps–two pressing issues that must therefore be addressed at the upcoming Tokyo donors’ meeting.

Which brings us to another issue: International aid donors and the sustainability of Afghan media. The Center for International Media Assistance published a report, “An Explosion of News: The State of Media in Afghanistan,” in February. It points out that only a small number of news organizations will be able to survive in a commercial, free market. The majority still depend on support from international aid donors or powerful business, political, and militant groups within Afghanistan. (Some of these are called “Warlord TV,” though there are plenty of print outlets that could come under that title too.)

Agence France-Presse reports that donors in Tokyo will pledge $15 billion, which is supposed to carry through 2015. If that sounds like a lot of money, Reuters captures the reality in a story today, “As foreign aid dries up, Afghan NGOs fight to survive.” And when you think “media” in Afghanistan, for the most part you still have to think of NGO or foreign government support.

On Monday, William Byrd, who has spent much of the last 10 years organizing conferences like that coming up in Tokyo, wrote on Foreign Policy‘s AFPAK Channel “When too much is not enough,” about the “plethora of high-profile international meetings, occurring with increasing frequency in recent years” introducing the concept not just of donor fatigue but “meeting fatigue.” The first on Byrd’s list of recommendations is “keeping to realistic expectations about what meetings can accomplish.”

Maybe one realistic expectation for Tokyo is that the international community can pressure the Afghan government into reassessing its proposed regressive changes to media law, and at least insist that Afghan journalists and media owners be given a large voice in determining just what new laws will look like.

Afghan media is under political and economic pressure

Danish Karokhel (AP/Stuart Ramson)

Danish Karokhel (AP/Stuart Ramson)

Danish Karokhel, who won a CPJ International Press Freedom Award in 2008, messaged this morning concerned that the news agency he runs, Pajhwok Afghan News, and some other media outlets have been referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the Ministry of Information and Culture for reporting on an alleged bribery scandal involving a member of Parliament. The action was taken by the ministry’s Media Monitoring Commission, and could lead to criminal charges.

The May 24 story that angered the ministry revolved around unnamed government officials claiming that Iran paid large bribes to Wolesi Jirga member Hazrat Ali, encouraging him to organize parliamentary opposition to approval of the strategic cooperation agreement between Afghanistan and the United States. The Wolesi Jirga (Assembly of the People) is the lower house of Afghanistan’s Parliament. On May 25, the Afghan-U.S. pact was approved, and on May 26, Pajhwok ran Ali’s robust denial of accepting the Iranian money, which Pajhwok and other media said ran to $25 million. Pajhwok had already run the Iranian Embassy’s denial of the accusation in its earlier item.

This is just the sort of story that makes media so important in emerging democracies like Afghanistan. Corruption and allegations of corruption in the country are commonplace, and the political motivations of the accusers and accused make for murky circumstances. Making the attempt to report fairly on them should not mean that journalists run the risk of possible civil or even criminal charges, should it come to that. But there are few rules to play by.

In early May, the government published its most recent draft media law. The first was introduced in 2003, followed by versions in 2007 and 2011. And in January 2008, we wrote to President Hamid Karzai after he declined to endorse the proposed 2007 media law that had been debated by a joint commission of the upper and lower houses of parliament, after getting input from journalists and media commentators. We said the new law represented a promising  step toward reaffirming media freedom. It was a step that was never taken, and subsequent drafts have tended to grow more restrictive.

There is cause for unease for the future of Afghan’s media, as for much else in Afghanistan as NATO forces prepare for withdrawal. In the country’s review in the 2011 edition of our annualAttacks on the Press, we pointed out that, while international aid organizations continued to pump resources into developing local media, many Afghan outlets faced severe challenges in sustaining their work.

In its own analysis of Afghan media, Pajhwok wrote:

The prospects for Afghan media are fraught with uncertainty as the country prepares for the withdrawal of international forces in 2014. Consumer markets are still too weak to support the level of advertising necessary for sustainability, and the prospect of post-withdrawal recession will only deepen the threat to outlets’ viability. At the same time, the cost of labor, operations, and basic reporting have all skyrocketed. Print, radio, and television outlets have been forced to shrink their news coverage, and vital information never reaches Afghan citizens because media outlets can’t afford to report it.

In the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with several other media organizations in Afghanistan, and some of the international organizations that support them. Few were willing to speak as frankly on the record as Pajhwok, but most alluded to similar difficulties.

And it’s not just the economics that are worrisome. Some of the news organizations that look most likely to survive are those set up by political or religious leaders and sometimes called “warlord media” (maybe an unnecessarily politically loaded term–one person’s warlord is often another’s political faction leader). What is really under threat is the effort to create a non-partisan national media for Afghanistan where news organizations make the attempt to operate neutrally, trying to meet the ideals of a free and independent press.

Despite the terrific efforts of some local journalists and international organizations to build Afghan media since the Taliban’s removal from power in 2001, without continued economic support, more professional training, and a more concentrated effort from Afghan journalists to organize themselves into resilient national professional organizations, all those efforts could disappear, with or without a national media law.

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e-book release: Snapshots of an Intervention. The Unlearned Lessons of Afghanistan’s Decade of Assistance (2001–11)

The idea for this volume was born in the summer of 2010 during a discussion of the cyclical nature of many of Afghanistan’s programmes. Years of following the international efforts had left us with an increasingly strong sense of déjà vu: another conference to demonstrate momentum, another strategy to surpass the ones before, another project that would come and go and be forgotten the moment its progress was no longer being reported on, only to resurface in a new guise a little later.

The edited volume ‘Snapshots of an Intervention’ consists of 25 articles by analysts and practitioners with long histories in the country and who were closely involved in the programmes they describe. The contributions present a rare and detailed insight into the complexity of the intervention in Afghanistan – including the often complicated relations between donors and representatives of the Afghan government (with projects tending to be nominally Afghan-led, but clearly donor-driven), the difficulties in achieving greater coherence and leverage and, in many cases, the widely shared failure to learn the necessary lessons and to adapt to realities as they were encountered.

Download full document (2,08 MB):

Snapshots of an Intervention. The Unlearned Lessons of Afghanistan’s Decade of Assistance (2001–11)

Download individual chapters:

0. Acknowledgements, Foreword, Introduction, Overview – Martine van Bijlert

Part I. Building Political Institutions

1. The Failure of Airborne Democracy: The Bonn Agreement and Afghanistan’s Stagnating Democratisation – Thomas Ruttig

2. The Emergency Loya Jirga: Hopes and Disappointments – Anders Fänge

3. The 2004 Presidential Elections in Afghanistan – Scott Seward Smith

4. External Voting for Afghanistan’s 2004 Presidential Election – Catinca Slavu

5. Toward a More Effective Parliament? The UNDP/SEAL Project – Marvin G Weinbaum

6. A Plan without Action: The Afghan Government’s Action Plan for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation – Sari Kouvo

7. A Brief Overview of the Afghanistan Stabilisation Programme: A National Programme to Improve Security and Governance – Shahmahmood Miakhel

 

Part II. Strengthening the Security Forces

8. Early ISAF: ‘The Good Old Days’ – Steve Brooking

9. The Afghan National Army: Marching in the Wrong Direction? – Antonio Giustozzi

10. 20–20 Hindsight: Lessons from DDR – Eileen Olexiuk

11. The Afghanistan Public Protection Programme and the Local Defence Initiatives – Mathieu Lefèvre

12. Building the Police through the Focused District Development Programme – Joanna Buckley

13. Private Security Companies in Afghanistan, 2001-11 – Steve Brooking

 

Part III. How the Aid Architecture Worked

14. The Early Aid Architecture and How It Has Changed – Anja de Beer

15. National Prestige is Big – Even for Small Countries – Ann Wilkens

16. Throwing Money at the Problem: US PRTs in Afghanistan – Nick Horne

17. The ‘Subnational Governance’ Challenge and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance – Hamish Nixon

18. Urban Recovery, or Chaos? – Jolyon Leslie

19. Questioning the NSP: Agency and Resource Access in Faryab Province – Jennifer McCarthy

20. Capacity Building in MRRD: A Success Story – Frauke de Weijer

21. Trophy Libraries and Strategic Opacity: Information Management Challenges in the Afghan Legal Sector (2004-11) – Royce Wiles

22. An Afghan Population Estimation – Andrew Pinney

23. Beyond the Value Chain Model: Deconstructing Institutions Key to Understanding Afghan Markets – Holly Ritchie

24. Crop Substitution and Narcotics Control, 1972-2010 – Doris Buddenberg

25. Settling for Nothing: International Support for Anti-Corruption Efforts – Heather Barr

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CSFilm to present at Friends General Conference in Kingston, RI – July 4th, 2012

Friends General ConferenceCommunity Supported Film’s Michael Sheridan and Tony Heriza of American Friends Service Committee will present an interest group presentation and screening on July 4th, at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.  The speakers will present the The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film and AFSC’s Windows and Mirrors, a traveling art exhibit that The Fruit of Our Labor is a part of.

The screening and presentation is at 7pm in Swan Auditorium, and is open to conference attendees.

The Friends General Conference is an association of regional Quaker organizations that holds a conference every other year for Quakers and people interested in the Quaker way.

The work of FGC can be summarized into three areas of endeavor:

  • Help meetings deepen Quaker worship and practice
  • Support a loving Quaker community
  • Support Quaker outreach FGC is a volunteer led organization.

 

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Afghanistan is the leading source of refugees in the world

400,000 unregistered Afghan refugees face deportation by Pakistan
Report— Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Some 400,000 unregistered Afghan refugees are facing possible deportation from Pakistan after a deadline for them to register expires on June 30.

Pakistan is home to some 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees.  Pakistani officials say they can no longer also carry the burden of an additional 400,000 undocumented Afghans in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said police have compiled lists of illegal Afghans and, once the June 30 deadline passes, will arrest unregistered Afghans for a court appearance and deportation back to Afghanistan.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says fighting between Pakistan’s army and Taliban militants in the province’s Swat Valley has displaced more than 1.5 million people since the start of May, putting enormous pressure on state and provincial social services.

Afghanistan is the leading source of refugees, according to UN figures from 2011, accounting for 2.7 million people.

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Afghanistan Annual Report 2011 – UN Development Programme

Report— UN Development Programme
Download PDF (19.81 MB)
Watch video

June, 28, 2011 Kabul – Despite being confronted with major security challenges and a fragile political environment in Afghanistan, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) remains committed to improving the lives of Afghans, many still suffering following decades of war, recurrent natural disasters and a continuing cycle of violence.

The country’s fragile security situation have posed serious hurdles in the delivery of vital assistance in many areas, yet UNDP forges ahead – even in the most remote, rugged parts of the country – working tirelessly to improve the lives of Afghans across the country. With more than 800 staff on the ground and equipped with nearly 50 years of experience working in the country, UNDP has established its role as a provider, supporter and resource of development assistance in Afghanistan.

During the past 10 years, UNDP has been at the forefront of international and Afghan efforts to build democratic institutions, promote human rights, and rebuild the country’s economy. In 2011 alone, UNDP delivered more than US$700 million in development assistance to Afghanistan, much of it focused on crisis prevention and recovery activities, in order to support the government’s efforts in conflict prevention and peace-building.

Working closely with government institutions, UNDP oversees national governance and poverty reduction programmes; rural and urban development projects; and provides support to vulnerable groups, such as returnees and Internally Displaced Persons, ex-combatants, and disabled and vulnerable women – providing the people of Afghanistan with a sense of hope about their future.

The 2011 Annual Report highlights UNDP’s role in supporting Afghanistan’s transition towards and beyond the withdrawal of most international troops by 2014, primarily through activities and programmes which boost security, support democratic elections, and promote human rights.

This includes UNDP’s role in managing the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme (APRP) trust fund, and supporting the Government-led initiative to encourage the Taliban and insurgent groups to renounce violence and reintegrate into the country.

Another important mechanism to pave the way towards peace and stability is the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), a multilateral trust fund managed by UNDP. In 2011, LOTFA continued to support the Government’s efforts to improve security in Afghanistan by training and extending financial support to members of the Afghan National Police force. LOTFA has experienced considerable success in bringing communities and local police together through diverse projects, including recreational activities, and has helped to empower women.

Poverty reduction projects to develop national policies to support the poor in rural areas also helped improve budget transparency in 2011. This was enhanced through UNDP’s Making Budgets and Aid Work Project where UNDP supports the Ministry of Finance in budgeting, aid coordination and management in an effort to improve service delivery.

In 2011, UNDP continued to work with the government to strengthen environment policies and provided infrastructure aid, which served to rebuild schools, roads and wells in under-served parts of country, and increased access to basic services like electricity and water. Some 14 million Afghans have benefited from more than 2,360 completed rural infrastructure projects since 2004 through the National Area Based Development Programme.

Despite all these achievements, UNDP and the Government of Afghanistan recognize that the success of the country’s development depends largely on peace and security – which still remains in short supply across large tracts of the country.

Yet UNDP will continue to evaluate and re-adjust its programmes as needed so that the people of Afghanistan continue to reap the benefits of development aid and go forward in transforming their country into a stable, secure nation where gender equality, human rights and democracy prevail.

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Attack on hotel shows Taleban’s disregard for civilian life

Report— Amnesty
The deaths of 15 civilians in a Taleban attack on a hotel outside Kabul is a shocking reminder of why the Afghan government must work with the International Criminal Court to help bring to justice all those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said.

On Thursday night, armed Taleban fighters stormed the Spozhmay Hotel in the Lake Qargha area near the capital, taking dozens of hotel guests and staff hostage.

In the ensuing siege that lasted almost 12 hours, a fierce gun battle broke out between Taleban fighters and NATO and Afghan troops, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people – including 15 civilians.

It was the most serious single loss of civilian life in Afghanistan since the Taleban attacked Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel a year ago, killing 22 people, again mostly civilians.

“The Taleban’s repeated brazen attacks targeting civilians show an utter disregard for human life and may amount to war crimes which should be investigated and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, as should crimes which may have been committed by NATO and Afghan troops,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Acting Asia and Pacific Programme Director.

Afghanistan is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court since 2003.

“The Afghan government and its international partners must not lose sight of human rights as they pursue reconciliation with the Taleban. Any potential peace deal must not include impunity for war crimes and other grave human rights abuses committed by all parties to the conflict,” she added.

According to UN data, the Taleban appear to be responsible for the vast majority of attacks on civilians in Afghanistan – out of 3,021 civilian deaths reported last year, 77 per cent were attributed to them and insurgent groups.

On 8 November 2011, Taleban leader Mullah Omar ordered fighters to protect civilians and avoid targeting civilian objects. The order seems to have been nothing more than a propaganda ploy, as in the past year, the armed group has increasingly used “soft” targets like hotels to maximize the civilian death toll.

Amnesty International has documented how they and other insurgent groups have increased their use of sophisticated suicide attacks in busy civilian areas – including hospitals, schools, hotels and mosques – and have regularly hidden behind civilians, knowingly putting them in danger.

The Taleban and other insurgents have also specifically targeted women, killing the headmaster of a girl’s school in May 2011, as well as female MPs and aid workers.

International humanitarian law – the laws of armed conflicts – stipulates that nobody should target civilians, regardless of their political allegiance.

“Under international humanitarian law, all parties to a conflict must protect civilians and civilian objects while carrying out their military operations,” said Catherine Baber.

“The Taleban are well aware of this and even refer to it when deemed to their advantage. But their current strategy seems to rely on systematically violating these laws by jeopardizing civilians and maximizing the human cost.”

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Afghanistan flash floods kill more than 30

Report— Agence France-Presse
06/23/2012 15:32 GMT

HERAT, Afghanistan, June 23, 2012 (AFP) – Flash floods in Afghanistan triggered by days of torrential rain have killed more than 30 people, officials said Saturday, with dozens reported missing.

Waters swept through villages and parts of the city of Cheghcheran in central Ghor province early on Saturday, engulfing dozens of homes, provincial spokesman Abdulhai Khatibi told AFP.

“So for I can confirm that 24 people have been killed in these floods, but some are also missing,” Khatibi said.

The floodwaters also destroyed hundreds of hectares of farmland and displaced hundreds of people in the impoverished province, he said.

In the northeast of the country, two days of torrential rains and hail triggered flooding in the remote province of Badakhshan, killing at least eight and destroying up to 100 houses, the provincial head of the national disaster management authority told AFP.

“This kind of rain and hail is not common at this time of year, so people were caught off guard,” Sanaullah Amiri said.

Hundreds of villagers in high-risk areas have been evacuated as a precaution against further flooding, he said.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls and experts predicted that rivers swollen by melting snow were likely to flood in the mountainous north in spring.

In May, flash floods in Sari Pul province, which borders Ghor to the north, killed 50 people, mostly women and children.

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Taliban suicide attack kills 17 civilians and 3 NATO soldiers

06/20/2012 14:17 GMT

by Khan Mohammad

GARDEZ, Afghanistan, June 20, 2012 (AFP) – A Taliban suicide bomber on a motorbike rammed an Afghan-NATO patrol in the town of Khost on Wednesday, killing 21 people, including three NATO soldiers, officials said.

Another 37 people were wounded in the blast in the eastern town close to the border with Pakistan, where Taliban and other Islamist insurgents fighting US-led troops have strongholds, hospital officials said.

It was the second major attack on NATO in Khost in three weeks. The government blamed the Taliban and a spokesman for the insurgent militia later claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bombing will only heighten fears about security as NATO prepares to hand responsibility to Afghan forces and recall the vast majority of its 130,000 combat troops by the end of 2014.

The Taliban, leading a 10-year insurgency against the Western-backed government, have begun their annual fighting season with a series of attacks that forced US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to admit that violence was rising.

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Wednesday’s blast targeted a combined Afghan and coalition patrol passing through Khost, one of the most troubled parts of Afghanistan.

Khost shares a porous border with Pakistan’s tribal belt, which lies outside government control, and where US officials say the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have carved out bases for operations in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network, a militant group close to Al-Qaeda and blamed for some of the most daring insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, is particularly active in the province.

Amir Padsha, the director of Khost city hospital, said the bodies of three police officers and eight civilians, along with 17 wounded were brought in.

Babri Gul, the head of the Babri Gul private hospital in Khost, said he had received six bodies, including four members of the same family, and 20 wounded.

The US embassy in Kabul released a statement confirming that three members of the US-led NATO mission and an Afghan interpreter were killed. An ISAF official told AFP the three personnel were soldiers.

Afghan police and interior ministry officials confirmed that the four dead announced by the Americans were in addition to the 17 Afghan bodies taken to local hospitals.

A Taliban spokesman told AFP by telephone that one of its fighters blew himself up alongside a US military patrol in Khost, killing 10 American soldiers, including a translator, and four Afghan policemen.

The militia are known to exaggerate their claims and did not speak about civilian deaths.

In Khost on June 1, a suicide truck bomber targeted a US-run base in an incident that killed up to 15 people. US media reported that more than 100 American troops were treated for injuries after that blast.

For the past five years the number of civilians killed in the war has risen steadily, reaching a record 3,021 in 2011 — the vast majority caused by insurgents, according to UN figures.

The US-led NATO force is also responsible for hundreds of civilian casualties every year, mostly in air strikes aimed at insurgents in Afghan villages.

In southern Afghanistan, a roadside bomb attack killed at least six civilians, including women and children travelling on a tractor in Puli Alam, the capital of Logar province, deputy provincial police chief Rahis Khan Sadiq told AFP.

“Four children and two women were killed and four others were wounded,” he said.

On Tuesday, Taliban suicide attackers struck two Afghan-NATO facilities in the southern province of Kandahar — the birthplace of the extremist movement and the heartland of its insurgency.

The Taliban have waged a bloody fight against Karzai’s administration since they were ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

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Progress for Afghan Women, WAND Webinar with David Cortright

As the deadline for bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan approaches, it is more important than ever to consider the wants, needs, safety and security of Afghan women. WAND is proud to present a new webinar:

“Progress for Afghan Women”

Featuring David Cortright, co-author of the report “Afghan Women Speak,” the program will include the most recent findings on the gains made by Afghan women since 2001. Despite ongoing political insecurity and oppression, the past decade has seen important advances in women’s education, health care, and life expectancy due to social development programs. Deteriorating security and political instability now threaten this progress. Cortright will share how women’s gains can be preserved and strengthened in the years ahead.

DATE ~ Wednesday, June 27, 2012
TIME ~ 12:00PM EDT
COST ~ Free!

Register for the webinar here!

Based on interviews with dozens of Afghan women parliamentarians, civil society activists, and researchers, “Afghan Women Speak” includes the latest research from Afghan ministries and the most comprehensive national health survey ever conducted in Afghanistan.

David Cortright is Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, a WAND partner. He is the author or editor of 17 books, most recently “Ending Obama’s War.” He blogs at www.davidcortright.net.

We hope you will join us for this informative program.

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Helping Afghans achieve greater autonomy – a challenge for aid organisations

While discussions are underway about the parameters of the international military withdrawal, including the French army, the challenge for aid organisations who have been present in the country for a long time is to ensure that the support to the Afghan people continues, notably through the reinforcement of national and local capacity to take charge of their country’s development. Our training programmes contribute to this effort and are evidence of our commitment to this country and its civil society.

We know Afghanistan well; some of us first went there more than twenty years ago. We witnessed the civil war, the Taliban period and the successes and errors of international policy. We have conducted many evaluations and research projects there. By car, on foot, on horseback, we have crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and the High Lek (highland pastures), the arid plains of the North and South or the irrigated plains of the West and East, the isolated villages of Badakhshan and the Kabul Informal Settlements, the areas of informal urbanization which plague the outskirts of the city. We have met Maleks (great worthies) and Kushis (nomadic people at the bottom of the social scale), ministers and street children, warlords and female heads of households… We have written a lot about this country which we have learned to love, on issues such as the involvement of Afghans in aid programmes, poverty, agriculture, cities and the health system.

We have also closely observed the way this crisis has been managed politically, with major reservations about the methods used. In a country where no foreign power has ever won a war and where a truly international military presence was needed, and if possible, including other Islamic countries, why was a mandate given to NATO which added to the perception that it was the Americans who were running operations? Though this allowed NATO’s new strategic concept to be tested, the results have not been very encouraging. From the beginning, we felt that French military engagement in this context was an ineffective and dangerous decision. Today, with the military withdrawal, there is a major risk that the world will lose interest in Afghanistan: once the troops have gone home, the Afghans will find themselves behind closed doors with an uncertain future.

Aid organizations need to remain mobilised to reinforce the capacity of Afghans to implement humanitarian and development programmes. Having already run training courses for Afghan managers from NGOs, UN agencies and ministries, we have taken up this activity again due to the increasing difficulty of gaining access to certain areas and their populations, international institutions’ need for skilled national managers and Afghan institutions’ desire for greater recognition in the humanitarian and development sectors.

Since 2010, in partnership with ACBAR – the Afghan NGO coordination agency – we have run an ambitious training programme [1]. This has included courses on humanitarian project management (collection and analysis of data, writing of initial assessment reports), project design and proposal writing, team management and training of trainers to allow Afghan managers to develop their teaching skills.

Two new modules – one on the Environment and the other on Humanitarian Principles – are currently being developed by Groupe URD. The subjects will be approached both from a general and local point of view as they will partly based on Afghan examples. We are also looking into the issue of Gender and its integration into humanitarian and development projects while, at the same time, respecting the local culture and religion.

In addition, to broaden access to the training courses, sessions are being planned in the provinces. Modules are being translated into Dari and Pashto, so that language is not a barrier. It is therefore planned that, by the end of 2012, these courses will be being given in the local language by ACBAR’s Afghan trainers.

With a dozen sessions having been run since the beginning of 2010, more than 230 Afghans have been trained. We hope to be able to continue to support them, while gradually handing over responsibility to our Afghan partner so that this project can be extended and this commitment pursued in the long term.

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Pathways to peace – new directions for an inclusive peace in Afghanistan

CARE and Peacebuild

Executive summary

The planned withdrawal of the majority of international military forces from Afghanistan, coupled with a recognition that force alone will not lead to success in the destabilized region, demands a serious consideration of a negotiated end to the current war.

To date, negotiations have been limited to closed door ‘talks about talks’ between high-level leaders in the Afghan government and armed opposition groups, as well as among regional governments, armed opposition groups and members of the United Nations mandated, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

There have been limited attempts to demobilize rank-andfile opposition fighters and to initiate a national dialogue through a national Peace Jirga and High Peace Council. While these efforts might lead to a Government-Taliban pact for power-sharing, they are unlikely to stop the fighting and even less likely to lead to a positive peace, as conceptualized by Johan Galtung.

A positive peace would restore relationships, meet the needs of the whole population, provide ways to manage conflicts constructively, and hence be widely regarded by Afghans as legitimate, fair, and worthy of support.

A lasting, positive peace can only be achieved through a comprehensive peace process that addresses the major causes of three decades of war and includes all major stakeholders.

Any peace process will be neither comprehensive nor lasting without the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 and 1889 or without the full inclusion of women. Women play a transformational role in peacebuilding and have a particularly high stake in a more just, open, and tolerant society; a society that allows for their participation in politics and the workforce, and respects the expansion of their rights along with the human rights of all residents. A legitimate peace process should be guided by the core values of accountability, transparency, inclusivity, and transitional justice, along with trust building, nation building, and the rejection of impunity.

Positive peace requires a transformation of society, a process that takes generations. However, the peace process provides a window of opportunity to sow the seeds for achieving this change. A move in this direction would require:

• links between grassroots and national processes through elected representatives, a structured consultation process, and/or the effective mediation of civil society organizations;

• participation of men and women from all sectors of society in local and national dialogues; and

• peace education and trust-building to prepare people for participation in the comprehensive peace process, and to transform a culture and mentality of war into an appreciation for human rights, participatory governance, and non-violent conflict resolution.

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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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