Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan: The case for a national strategy | Peacebuilding

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Peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan have not been successful, not just because of the revival of the Taliban, it is due to the non participatory approaches currently employed in these strategies which excludes fundamental units of the Afghan society such as families, communities and tribes. This report builds a case for community involvement in peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan in which Afghan people will form the core of such initiatives to achieve long lasting peace. The paper is based on various research findings previously collected by Oxfam on security in various countries, particularly the Oxfam security survey of 2007 in Afghanistan where 500 randomly selected Afghan respondents participated. Six provinces including Herat, Nangahar, Balk, Gazni, Daikundi, and Kandahar were investigated for their security status and classed according to UN categorisation of access risk. The report concludes that participatory approaches to peacebuilding is the key to long lasting security in Afghanistan.
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  Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan The Case for a National Strategy Matt Waldman Oxfam International OXFAM RESEARCH REPORT    Contents  Endorsement.....................................................................................................................2   Summary...........................................................................................................................3   Governmental and international responses to insecurity............................................6   Disputes and insecurity...................................................................................................8   Existing mechanisms for dispute resolution and conflict management..................13   Peacebuilding.................................................................................................................16   Community peacebuilding in practice..........................................................................17   Towards a national strategy..........................................................................................22   Challenges......................................................................................................................26   Conclusion......................................................................................................................28    Appendix: Oxfam Security Survey................................................................................29   Bibliography....................................................................................................................31   Notes................................................................................................................................33   1  Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan  Oxfam International Research Report, February, 2008  Endorsement The following 15 Afghan organisations, each of which works in the field of peacebuilding, have provided their endorsement of this report: Afghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF) Afghan Defence of Women’s Rights of Balkh (ADWRB) Afghan Development Association (ADA) Afghan Organization of Human Rights and Environmental Protection (AHOREP) Afghan Peace and Democracy Act (APDA) Afghan Women Education Centre (AWEC) Afghan Women’s Skills Development Center (AWSDC) All Afghan Women Union (AAWU) Coordination of Afghan Relief (CoAR) Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA) Co-operation for Peace and Unity (CPAU) Education Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ECW) Sanayee Development Organization (SDO) Training Human Rights Association (THRA) Tribal Liaison Office (TLO) 2  Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan  Oxfam International Research Report, February, 2008  Summary Existing measures to promote peace in Afghanistan are not succeeding. This is not only due to the revival of the Taliban, but also because little has been done to try to ensure that families, communities, and tribes – the fundamental units of Afghan society – get on better with each other. War has fractured the social fabric of the country and, in the context of severe and persistent poverty, local disputes have the potential to turn violent and to exacerbate the wider conflict. But there is no effective strategy to help Afghans deal with disputes in a peaceful and constructive way. The nature, causes, and effects of insecurity in Afghanistan vary widely, and there is a corresponding variation in the most effective means by which insecurity can be addressed. Often a range of steps are required in different degrees, such as to strengthen the rule of law, build professional security forces, reduce poverty, or improve governance. Peacebuilding is one important means of addressing insecurity, yet most of the peacebuilding work in Afghanistan has been at a political level, where there are links to warlordism, corruption, or criminality, or it has been target-limited, such as the disarmament programmes. Other initiatives, such as the Action Plan for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation and the Peace Commission, are significant, but lack clarity and are primarily concerned with peace and reconciliation at a national level. With sufficient resources and political will these initiatives have the potential to improve security, but they only marginally, indirectly, or partially concern the  people  of Afghanistan. The capacity of Afghan communities to resolve their own disputes, and build and sustain peace, has largely been neglected. The recent deterioration in security, particularly in the south and south-east of Afghanistan, is evidence that ‘top-down’ approaches are by themselves inadequate without parallel nationwide peace work at ground level. Moreover, insecurity in Afghanistan often has local causes. Decades of war have not only undermined social cohesion at local level, they have also exacerbated poverty, which is itself an underlying cause of insecurity. Nearly 20 years of Oxfam programme experience in Afghanistan, interviews with peacebuilding practitioners, and a recent Oxfam Security Survey of 500 people in six provinces, show that local disputes are often related to resources, particularly land and water; to a lesser degree, they also relate to families and women, or to ethnic, tribal, and inter-community differences. This is aggravated by a range of factors such as natural disasters, refugee flows, badly delivered aid, corruption, abuse of power, or the opium trade. In many cases, local disputes lead to violence, and while the strength and importance of family and tribal affiliations in Afghanistan can be a source of stability, they can also lead to the rapid escalation of disputes. The resulting insecurity not only destroys quality of life and impedes development work, but is also exploited by criminal or anti-government groups to strengthen their positions in the wider conflict. Perceived security threats also impact on local security: such threats are diverse and configured differently in different localities. The Taliban are not the only threat, as is sometimes portrayed, but warlords, criminals, and international and national security forces are also perceived as posing significant threats. The Oxfam survey shows that predominantly local mechanisms are used to resolve disputes or address local problems. In terms of formal mechanisms, those most often used are the police, for immediate purposes, and district governors, while the courts are approached comparatively infrequently. The type of mechanism used for the resolution of any given dispute depends on local factors and on the nature of the dispute, but the most favoured mechanism, particularly in rural areas, is the community or tribal councils of elders (known as  jirgas  or  shuras ). There is a clear need for community peacebuilding, which has been undertaken with much success in other developing countries. For example, Oxfam’s long-standing peacebuilding programme in 3  Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan  Oxfam International Research Report, February, 2008
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