Security, Reconstruction, and Development: The Role of Civil Society in Afghanistan

June 7, 2010 — Three leaders of Afghan civil society joined us to discuss the role of civil society organizations in facilitating peace, security, and sustainable development in Afghanistan. Aziz Rafiee is Managing Director of the Afghan Civil Society Forum, which recently conducted research on “Democratic Policing in Afghanistan.” Mirwais Wardak is Program Director for Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a national peacebuilding and development research institute based in Kabul. Laurent Saillard is Director of ACBAR, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief.

The panelists began by describing some of the fundamental problems in Afghanistan as stemming from the lack of good governance and leadership. To address this issue, it would be beneficial to strengthen the links between political processes and civil society. Local capacity-building is a critical means to ensure long-term sustainable peace and security. For this, it is important that the international community prioritize a longer-term perspective when investing and allocating money towards development objectives. One strategy would be capitalizing on the lower costs of using and training locals to lead and implement reconstruction and development projects. This could contribute to the sense of empowerment that comes with the ownership of one’s own development.

The panelists expanded upon these explanations, describing how the Taliban’s previous success was actually reinforced by lack of effective governance. The Taliban filled the void in past years by demonstrating a capacity to provide basic security and justice – needs that were not felt to be adequately provided for by the government.

The panel also discussed the challenges and implications of international military actors taking on the tasks of development. These are difficult roles to assume for soldiers of any kind and it would be in the interest of longer-term prioritization to put the Afghan people themselves into these roles so that the sense of ownership becomes stronger. This is where Afghanistan’s civil society movement is showing signs of success and needs to be bolstered further.

Security for a New Century is a nonpartisan discussion group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

This event is part of the Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran briefing series in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace. www.usip.org

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