Ghor leaders strategize on building community cohesion, foundations for peace
LAL WA SARJANGAL - Government officials, religious scholars, activists and other community leaders in a remote district of Ghor gathered at a UN-backed symposium to strategize on ways to promote social cohesion, both locally and nationally, in the interest of advancing peace.
More than 20 community leaders from Ghor’s Lal Wa Sarjangal district attended the event, organized by UNAMA’s Bamyan regional office, to exchange ideas about the main factors eroding social cohesion in the western province and across Afghanistan, and to chart out possible next steps toward peace.
Speaking at the event, Haider Khairkhwa, a civil society activist, said that the relative peace in Lal Wa Sarjangal district is due, in part, to community cohesion. “Community engagement is crucial to achieving peace because only communities will be able to safeguard any efforts to resolve conflict,” he stressed.
Lal Wa Sarjangal, situated roughly 300 kilometres west of Kabul in the eastern part of Ghor, is relatively peaceful compared to other parts of the province. But insecurity in neighbouring districts, especially on the road further west to the province’s capital of Firuzkoh, is a concern for communities in Lal Wa Sarjangal.
Khairkhwa noted that conflict in the area has been affecting the community’s access to higher education, better healthcare services and economic opportunities in the provincial capital. “Improved efforts to promote community cohesion will improve security,” he said.
Other participants at the daylong symposium offered similar perspectives as they discussed corruption, unemployment and lack of women’s participation in public life as factors affecting community cohesion.
“We can promote social cohesion and peace by improving social justice for all segments of society, especially women, who continue to suffer from gender-based violence and limited access to higher education and employment,” said Zahra Rezai, a rights activist.
“If we want a peaceful and progressive society, we must empower women and engage them in political processes,” she added, pointing out that there are no female employees working in the district’s government departments or police force, which she said makes it difficult for women victims of violence to find support when they choose to file a complaint.
Lal Wa Sarjangal’s district governor, Farid Afghanyar, echoed these sentiments, and urged community leaders to promote women’s rights. “The local administration is committed to promoting women’s participation in decision-making processes,” he said.
At the conclusion of the event, the participants jointly resolved to carry the discussion forward among their respective communities in future events and engagements.
The Lal Wa Sarjangal symposium is one of many other similar programmes, events and initiatives resulting from UNAMA reaching out to a range of groups across the country to create spaces, both physical and on social media, for them to come together and discuss issues that are of critical importance to them, and to strategize on the best way forward.
At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussion and debate for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.
UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.