How communities in Kandahar are resolving violent conflicts and building peace

21 Sep 2017

How communities in Kandahar are resolving violent conflicts and building peace

KANDAHAR - In the southern region of Afghanistan, communities are rallying around peace through dialogue and consensus building on how best to resolve violent conflicts.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been working with local radio partners in Kandahar and around the country to create media platforms for communities to engage and dialogue with each other on local peace.

A radio series, run by Zma radio and backed by UNAMA regional office in Kandahar has been fostering communities to openly discuss causes of violent conflicts and how to solve them. The discussions focused on prevention of violent conflicts and the roles of different community members such as tribal elders, mullahs and women in brokering peace and mediating between warring parties.

Panelists who included tribal leaders, provincial authorities and civil society, drew examples from Panjwai and Arghandab districts, which were once battle fields, but now live in relative harmony following a communal led peace process.

Tired of war and devastation, local communities in the two districts, tasked Shuras or councils made up of 30 people selected by the communities, to visit every village and enlist elders, families, youth to engage with insurgent community and family members under the message of ‘leave or reintegrate.’ The Shuras also mediated between security forces and local communities to build trust. The result was a social movement which not only brought peace, but economic development. Having found peace, the two grape cultivating districts then lobbied government to construct a road and improve provision of water services, both of which are crucial to their grape production.

Similar peace processes led by local communities have been taking place in other parts of the country, such as the eastern province of Kunar, where a group of women nominated a delegation to engage with the Taliban in order to bring peace to their community.

“In Afghanistan, there are many small examples that display an inclusive attitude - one that is essential to a lasting peace. We at the UN have a mandate to assist Afghans as they seek a solution to their conflict” says UN envoy in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto.
Using an analogy of an Afghan carpet to describe the peace process, Yamamoto says that peace must always include a social component, “a stitching together of a social fabric that has been shredded by war, any future peace must be inclusive, drawing on the threads in a patchwork peace process from province to province, district to district” he says.

“Many Afghans I listen to are demanding an end to violence and any further destruction of the social fabric. Their stories, woven together, give me hope that, in the coming months, more Afghans will work together at a grass roots level to repair trust and drive reconciliation” said Yamamoto.

UNAMA has been working with media in the country’s south to build support for Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts. With educational facilities and government services have fallen prey to heavy fighting, there are about 30 independent radio outlets and four private television stations that remain operational in the five provinces of the region. 

In addition to media partners, UNAMA actively engages with local peace brokers including the Kandahar peace committee, civil society, tribal elders, journalists, maliks, women and youth. Several programmes including a recent television debate, brought together youth to discuss their role in building peace. Youth are among the most affected by violent conflict, due to high levels of poverty and unemployment, making them susceptible to recruitment by insurgents. Zma Radio, the media outlet broadcasting the radio series, is keeping the discussion going through its social media platforms.

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 that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent national and 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.