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Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan – The Case for a National Strategy

By: Matt Waldman, Oxfam International

The nature, causes, and effects of insecurity in Afghanistan vary widely, and there is a corresponding variation in the most effective means by which insecurity can be addressed. Often a range of steps are required in different degrees, such as to strengthen the rule of law, build professional security forces, reduce poverty, or improve governance.

Peacebuilding is one important means of addressing insecurity, yet most of the peacebuilding work in Afghanistan has been at a political level, where there are links to warlordism, corruption, or criminality, or it has been target-limited, such as the disarmament programmes. Decades of war have not only undermined social cohesion at local level, they have also exacerbated poverty, which is itself an underlying cause of insecurity. In many cases, local disputes lead to violence, and while the strength and importance of family and tribal affiliations in Afghanistan can be a source of stability, they can also lead to the rapid escalation of disputes. The resulting insecurity not only destroys quality of life and impedes development work, but is also exploited by criminal or anti-government groups to strengthen their positions in the wider conflict. Perceived security threats also impact on local security: such threats are diverse and configured differently in different localities. The Taliban are not the only threat, as is sometimes portrayed, but warlords, criminals, and international and national security forces are also perceived as posing significant threats.

This is a participatory, bottom-up approach, based on the premise that people are the best resources for building and sustaining peace. Such an approach aims to strengthen community capacities to resolve disputes peacefully; to develop trust, safety, and social cohesion within and between communities; and to promote inter-ethnic and inter-group dialogue. The means of achieving this is through building the capacity of communities, especially jirgas and shuras, to resolve disputes through mediation, negotiation, and conflict resolution; supporting civil-society involvement in peace and development; and promoting peace education. It is not a fixed or defined activity, but adapts to local circumstances and seeks to incorporate peacebuilding values, skills, and techniques into broader governance and development work.

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Uploaded on: Aug 10, 2016
Year Published: 2008
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