Young Afghans discuss their role in building peace in the country’s southeast

27 Dec 2018

Young Afghans discuss their role in building peace in the country’s southeast

GARDEZ - The active participation of young Afghans in peace-building is necessary for creating a more stable, inclusive and peaceful region, said participants at UN-backed events in the country’s southeast.

In a series of activities arranged by UNAMA’s Gardez office this year, hundreds of young Afghans came together to discuss their role in building peace in their communities and to strategize on ways to participate fully in Afghanistan’s social and political life.

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.

A young teacher, Noor Khan, having listened to the series of radio programmes broadcast in Paktika, told UNAMA he has followed them closely and found some hope for peace in the recommendations that emerged from the discussions.

“These programmes were useful,” said Khan in an interview with UNAMA. “I had no expectation about peace, but when I listened to these broadcasts, it gave me hope and changed my opinion; the very existence of our country depends on peace.”

Khan described how he was determined to start his own discussions about peace with colleagues at the school where he teaches. “We have been talking, all of us expressing different viewpoints, but still everyone, no matter their perspective, has a real thirst for peace,” he said, noting that he has also started informal meetings about peace with students.

Another young man, Abdul Rauof, a graduate from the education department at Paktika University, said the radio series has stimulated his thinking about building peace in his community. “I use Facebook, and now I am putting up regular posts to support peace and to encourage people to raise awareness about how important it is,” he said.

Haji Momin Khan, a community elder in Paktya, expressed similar views when asked about the UNAMA-backed programmes. “I’m regularly listening,” he said. “If I cannot bring peace in the whole country, at least I can bring peace between brothers, families, tribes, and reduce the level of conflict in our communities, especially by leveraging the power and energy of the youth.”

In Gardez, Abdul Mohammad, a resident of Paktya’s Zurmat district, told UNAMA that he lives in a village where people expect to hear the sounds of war each day. “Here, people think killing is routine, but when different strata of the community talk about peace, it gives us hope,” he said. “I’m ready to sacrifice myself to maintain peace.”

While young Afghans in the southeast of the country face significant challenges, including illiteracy and unemployment, there is a growing recognition that any peace process in Afghanistan must be inclusive and must therefore involve young people. That concept is reaffirmed by Security Council Resolution 2282 (2016), which recognizes the importance of youth in deterring and resolving conflict.

Afghanistan has one of the largest youth populations in the world. According to some estimates, three-quarters of the country’s population is below the age of 30, making young people a vital demographic. Young Afghans are also among the most affected by the protracted conflict, grappling with high levels of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty.

The broadcasts and events in Afghanistan’s southeast were among 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.

The events in Afghanistan’s southeast, all organized by UNAMA’s Gardez regional office, were recorded by local media outlets Jond, Pashtoon Ghag, Wolas Ghag and Ghaznavian, then later broadcast to audiences estimated at one million residents in and around Paktya, Khost, Paktika and Ghazni.

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.