JALALABAD - Religious scholars and other community leaders gathered at a UN-backed symposium in eastern Afghanistan to strategize on ways to promote social cohesion, both locally and nationally, in the interest of advancing peace.
The event, organized by UNAMA’s Jalalabad regional office, drew community leaders from the four provinces in Afghanistan’s eastern region: Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman and Nuristan.
The leaders exchanged ideas about the factors affecting social cohesion in the east and presented ideas for carrying the discussion forward among their respective communities in future events and engagements.
In the wide-ranging discussion, participants highlighted the importance of upholding human rights, especially the rights of women, in any future peace arrangements, and stressed that Afghans are weary of the long conflict.
“The ceasefire last year proved that Afghans have no problem among themselves,” said Malik Zikriya Khan, a community leader from Nangarhar.
“A ceasefire is the top priority for all Afghans,” echoed Qahir Khan, an elder from the Chapa Dara district of Kunar. “But the real focus should be on peace efforts that reach out to all Afghans.”
Mohammad Anwar Sultani, a leader from Kunar’s Sawkay district, noted that poverty and unemployment are contributing to an absence of social cohesion and to the insurgency.
Other participants offered similar perspectives, adding that Afghanistan needs more development initiatives and job opportunities that build community cohesion.
“There is no social justice in Afghanistan and little coordination between government entities,” said Sultani. “These realities are obstacles to peace, but if these issues are addressed, peace will come.”
At the close of the lively discussion, participants prepared a two-minute radio spot on peace that is now being broadcast by six stations in eastern Afghanistan, two times each day. The focus of the spot, which is expected to reach audiences of hundreds of thousands of people across the eastern region, is to urge other community leaders to build social cohesion as a foundation for peace.
The symposium is part of UNAMA’s countrywide outreach programme aimed at creating platforms – using radio, television and social media – to enable Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.
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.
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.