Young Afghans in Herat taking stand against violent extremism
HERAT - Education, vocational opportunities and full participation in Afghan social and political life are essential for countering violent extremism among those Afghan youth most at risk of being drawn into the conflict, said participants at the first-ever meeting of the newly established Youth Consultation Council that took place in the western province last week.
The first meeting of Council follows a series of events earlier this year in which the Herat regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) engaged with young men and women in outreach events and activities, including radio broadcasts and televised debates, to give them platforms to talk about the role they can play in changing their communities.
Tawab Mobarez, the head of the Herat provincial government’s Youth Department, was one of the participants at one of the earlier UNAMA events, and later became a prime mover in his community, eventually establishing the new Youth Consultation Council.
“The idea of establishing a youth consultation council came to me while I was involved in a UNAMA-supported series of TV discussions on the role of young people in Herat,” he said. “We spoke with many young people and realized that it is important to do something about the threat of violent extremism that is damaging the future of the youth and the country.”
Mobarez explained, in an interview with the UN, that he is now working on the structure and goals of the council, and expects in the coming weeks to draft an action plan to raise awareness about addressing issues that are still hindering peace and development in Herat, and have implications for young people across the province.
“We have already identified the primary Herati youth concerns, such as poverty and illiteracy, and we intend to make our new council serve as their voice,” he said.
According to Mobarez, thanks to the establishment of the council, young people will be in regular contact with each other via Telegram, a mobile app that will enable them to discuss ideas as a group and coordinate more effectively about pressing issues, as they emerge.
The formation of the new council is among many other similar programmes that have emerged as a result of UNAMA reaching out to a range of groups across the country, creating 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.
One way that UNAMA reaches out is through its strong partnerships with local media outlets across the country. 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, social harmony, transparency, human rights and rule of law.
Herat is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the western part of the country. Together with Badghis, Farah and Ghor, it makes up the western region, which borders Iran and Turkmenistan. With close to 1.8 million people, Herat has the second largest provincial population in Afghanistan, after Kabul. Herat produces 90 per cent of Afghanistan's saffron, and is home to the second largest university in the country.
UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, 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.