Issues & Analysis
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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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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!

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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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