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Social cohesion essential for peace and security, say Ghor community leaders

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LAL WA SARJANGAL - Government officials, religious scholars and civil society activists gathered at a UN-backed symposium in eastern Ghor to strategize on ways to foster social cohesion in the interest of advancing peace, locally and nationally.

The event, organized by UNAMA’s Bamyan regional office, drew more than 30 community leaders from Ghor’s eastern Lal Wa Sarjangal district to exchange ideas about the main factors affecting social cohesion in the area and to plan steps to contribute to local and national peace efforts.

Speaking at the event, Sharifa Mowahidi, a civil society activist, said communities in the district have committed full support to peace efforts. “Without community support and engagement, peace efforts will not be sustainable,” said Mowahidi. “Only local communities can safeguard peace.”

The Lal Wa Sarjangal district, situated in the eastern part of Ghor, borders Afghanistan’s central highlands provinces of Daikundi and Bamyan. The district, known for its handicrafts and agricultural production, is relatively peaceful in comparison to the more restive parts of the province farther west.

However, insecurity in neighbouring districts and on the road to Ghor’s provincial centre has been a concern among communities in the area. Mowahidi noted that the insecurity has deeply affected those living in Lal Wa Sarjangal, as residents have found it increasingly difficult to access higher education or health services, or to find gainful employment.

“Improved efforts to promote social cohesion can improve security,” stressed Mowahidi.

Other participants offered similar views and expressed concern about political factions and the lack of women’s meaningful participation in public life.

“We can promote social cohesion through improving justice for all segments of society, especially women who are suffering from gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices or limited access to higher education and employment,” said Tahira Qurbani, a women’s rights activist.

Qurbani noted that there are no women working in district government departments or in the police force, making it difficult for women victims of violence to find appropriate legal mechanisms for filing complaints or seeking protection.

“If we want a peaceful and progressive society, we must empower women and engage them in political processes,” said Qurbani.

Mohammad Sajjadi, a religious scholar, described ongoing efforts to reach out to leaders in neighbouring districts. “Religious scholars and civil society members have formed a council of representatives from different parts of the district to meet and discuss issues of peace and social cohesion among their communities,” Sajjadi said.

Those attending the symposium jointly resolved to carry the discussion about social cohesion forward among their respective communities in future events and engagements.

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.