Economic development and security the focus of UN-backed event in western Afghanistan
HERAT - Strategies to address the link between economic development and security were discussed by panellists at a UN-backed debate in the western province of Herat last week.
The debate, which was the third in a series of similar events supported by the Herat regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), drew an audience of around 20 people, including community elders, religious scholars, civil society representatives, government officials and journalists, each of whom raised issues and asked questions of the panel.
“Afghanistan has tremendous capabilities and resources, and if these resources were managed properly, the insurgency would diminish,” said Abdul Rahim, a Herat community leader and one of the panellists.
Nasir Ahmad, another panellist, said that beyond the need for economic development as one of the important factors in tackling insecurity, justice must be central to any peace negotiations.
Panellist Amina Ehrari, the head of one of Herat’s women’s councils, pointed out that more effective justice mechanisms should be put in place to reduce community tensions, and stressed that women must play a role in these efforts.
“I am sure nothing will drive the country toward a peaceful future until marginalized communities have an opportunity for equal engagement,” said Ms Ehrari.
The lively discussion, which later was broadcast by television and radio to an audience estimated at 400,000 people in and around Herat city, ranged from the role of communities in backing local-level peace efforts to increasing access to government services such as education and healthcare.
Organized by UNAMA with the provincial government, the debate was part of broader outreach programme designed to promote community cohesion by giving ordinary Afghans a platform to voice opinions on issues that affect their daily lives.
Herat lies on old trade routes, with roads running from Herat to the bordering countries of Iran to the west and Turkmenistan to the north. The mostly rural and agricultural province is Afghanistan’s primary trade gateway to Iran.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.