Chief of International Affairs/Research Fellow
Needs: Basically the needs of the Afghani people are innumerable. As far as the prevention of the recurrence of conflict is concerned there are a number of clear areas which need support. The need to secure the environment so that humanitarian projects and distributions can take place was emphasized throughout the trip. Of course UN forces have a major role to play in this field but as far as NGOs are concerned there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve the security situation in the long run.
(1) Small Arms Collection: There are two basic approaches to this issue. Firstly, small arms collection from soldiers returning to society. This requires a full demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) program. It also requires strong cooperation from politicians, bureaucrats, military leaders, and community leaders.
Of all the approaches to this problem explored with Afghan colleagues such as "Guns for Seeds", "Guns for Development" and even "Guns for Wives", "Guns for Jobs" was concluded to be the most effective and vital approach. In this case "Guns for Jobs" would be vocational training, basic education, micro-credit for skilled workers, supply of tools and equipment for skilled workers and course graduates, and job introductions. The types of training recommended are those which can also contribute directly to the reconstruction of Afghanistan infrastructure such as carpentry, masonry, plumbing, plastering, furniture making, metalwork, car repair etc. JCCP (eds: The Japan Center for Conflict Prevention - a new name for JCPD) could hire some of them to carry out the development programs recommended below for community weapons collection. Training could be carried out be local skilled Afghans. However, if JCCP can tie up with Senior Volunteers or some other similar organization, dispatch of Japanese experts may be even more attractive as it would increase the Japanese presence in the project. Young interpreters, who are fairly cheap to employ, could overcome language barriers.
Many of the soldiers interviewed had skills already, owned a shop or a farm. For these soldiers rather than basic training, financial support in the form of micro-credit, material support in the form of tools and/or equipment and assistance in finding jobs if appropriate would be better. All of the soldiers interviewed said they would gladly give up their weapons if they knew a stable life awaited them.
Some of the challenges of this approach are that regions where armed groups formally ruled by gun have to become secure before commanders and individual soldiers would be prepared to give up arms. In this regard beginning in areas of relative stability is recommended. Also the sheer scale of the problem is overwhelming. Just focusing on a small region at first in or around Kabul is recommended with appropriate expansion following. Gen. Dostum welcomed the idea of disarming soldiers in the north and as he is the major power player around Mazar, it is recommended at this stage that Mazar be the second point of departure for the program.
(2) Demining: Basically there are two approaches to demining. One is Professional Mobil Team Demining and the other is Community Based Demining. Although Professional Team Demining is more prevalent, Community Based is seen to be a new innovation which holds possibilities for the future but is yet to be widely endorsed.
Professional Team Demining involves a team of usually 15-25 people consisting of deminers, a doctor and nurse, assistants, drivers, and sometimes dog handlers. They move from community to community under the coordination of a body located in Islamabad coordinating NGOs carrying out demining programs. Community Based Demining involves gathering suitable community members for training in a central district location for 2 months in demining techniques. Once learned, the community members then begin demining their own communities under the supervision of a professional. According to organizations using this approach the safety and clearance rates are the same as professional demining teams. However, the costs are much lower as professional deminers receive Rp5,000 to 12,000 per day while community deminers only receive Rp2,000. Community deminers are said to be more enthusiastic about clearing as they are clearing their own land. After an area has been cleared it can be used for community purposes.
(3) Workshops aimed at Reconciliation and Capacity Building: Workshops aiming at promoting dialogue skills, human rights awareness and community based conflict prevention are an important part of the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Possible areas of conflict are between returning refugees and those who remained throughout the conflict over land ownership, resources distribution and leadership. Afghan NGOs aims to empower community conflict prevention mechanisms so that communities can solve their own problems peacefully in the future. These types of programs would be held at the village or district level.
(3) Others: At the JCCP organized and sponsored Brainstorming Workshop for Peace-building in Afghanistan held in Peshawar, it was shown that soft enlightenment and promotion activities also have the support of Afghan NGOs and are seen to be effective. Activities like sponsoring competitions for school children to paint peace murals throughout the city. Another important area is education about democracy. Most Afghans do not know their rights and responsibilities in regard to democracy, which is seen to be a vital component in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.