Community leaders in Afghanistan’s west debate prospects for peace

FARAH – At a UN-backed, three-day symposium, leaders from across the western province of Farah debated ways to enhance prospects for peace and reconciliation in their communities.

The event, organized by the Farah regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), drew more than 50 elders, scholars, government officials, civil society representatives and journalists to develop concrete steps toward local-level reconciliation and lasting peace.

“No one in Farah is in favour of conflict or hostility because it takes life and destroys our culture,” said Mohammad Zarin, an elder from Farah’s Bakwa district.

A mostly rural and sparsely populated province, Farah is located Afghanistan’s western region, sharing a border with Iran. In recent years, the province has faced many economic and security challenges.

Jamila Amini, the chair of Farah’s Provincial Council, urged the leaders gathered at the symposium to focus not only on building stronger ties between their communities to eliminate conflict but also on education as an indirect way to counter violence.

“About 85 per cent of the population in the six volatile districts of Farah are undereducated, which indicates that in the areas where the literacy rate is low, violence is high, and vice-versa,” she said.

Mohammad Hasshim, an elder from Bala Bolok, described peace as a moral imperative. “We know the danger we face, but it is our moral responsibility to help our people have peaceful life,” he said. 

The lively discussion, which was recorded and later broadcast by television and radio to an audience estimated at 200,000 people in and around Farah city, ranged from the role of communities in backing local-level peace efforts to increasing access to government services such as education and healthcare.

The symposium was organized by UNAMA with the provincial government, and is part of broader outreach programme designed to promote community cohesion by giving ordinary Afghans a platform to voice opinions on issues that affect their daily lives.

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