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Afghanistan Talk Series" Peace Talk"

Balkh session

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BalkEvent

22 May 2021

The National Center for Dialogue and Progress (NCDP), on 22 May 2021, held its fourth round of the Afghanistan Talks series in Balkh province, bringing together over 100 participants representing different segments. Mrs. Fatima Gillani and Mr. Khalid Noor participated in this dialogue from the Islamic Republic’s negotiating team. The participants were organized into several working group discussions where each working group discussed one topic regarding the peace talks and shared their thoughts with the Islamic Republic’s negotiating team members. In addition, members of the negotiating team also had the opportunity to hear Balkh’s youths’ voices and thoughts directly and answered the participants’ questions. The main points of dialogue and takeaways are as below.

War victims

The participants in Balkh’s session said that the Afghan war, in addition to military personnel, had killed thousands of Afghan people, most of them civilians, including students, religious scholars, women, children, government employees. They voiced their concern that the failure of warring parties in establishing a nationwide ceasefire and recent heightened violence continue to take the life of Afghans daily. Therefore, they demanded that all stakeholders help Afghan negotiating teams to accelerate peace talks and prevent further civilian casualties. In the meantime, they maintained that the peace talks should preserve and protect the rights of war victims.

Transitional justice

According to the participants, transitional justice is a mechanism for dealing with past atrocities and crimes, including crimes against humanity, violation of human rights, war crimes committed by either one or both parties to the conflict.  Therefore, transitional justice is to ensures justice for war victims.

Education and peacebuilding

While discussing the relationship between peace and education, the participants asserted that educational institutions should promote peace across the country, focusing on the promotion of equality, respecting each other, unity, and rejecting violence.

Human rights and peace

The participants also discussed human rights in the peace process. They maintained that human rights should be protected and supported during the entire process. Furthermore, those who have violated or continue to violate Afghan people’s human rights should be held accountable. In the meantime, the participants insisted on awareness-raising on human rights among youth, women, and children.

Democracy

As an important achievement of the past two decades, the participants defined democracy as a system where the people have the power and ability to select the government leaders. According to them, the people’s consent, political participation, equality, freedom, the rule of law are the core values of democracy. According to the participants, democracy in Afghanistan has led to the emergence of political parties, strong presence of women in executive and legislative positions, progressive constitution, expansion of media outlets, separation of power, free election, freedom of speech, growth of civil society organizations, freedom of assemblies and demonstrations in Afghanistan. For strengthening democracy, they suggested that the peace agreement should promote gender equality, political participation of all citizens, the establishment of a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire, protecting the gains of Afghans in the past two decades in the peace talks.

Future government

Most of the participants asserted that the negotiating parties should accept the current Islamic Republic system and structure for the future government with separation of power and enhanced inclusion of all ethnic groups, merit-based appointments, and inclusion of women and youths in the government entities. Besides, some other participants stressed ensuring social justice and the country’s balanced development by the future government.

Freedom of expression

According to the participants, the parties to the conflict should ensure the safety and security of media workers and the negotiating teams should respect the freedom of expression and free and independent media outlets.

The main takeaways from the dialogue:

  • According to the participants, peace is a pressing need and priority for the people. However, the process should be inclusive of all segments of society, particularly vulnerable groups, families of martyrs, and war victims.
  • The negotiation should be held within the country as it enables the negotiating teams to communicate with the people, observe and feel their agonies.
  • The peace should ensure social justice among all social groups as it serves as a foundation for lasting and just peace.
  • All achievements of the past two decades should be protected, respected, and preserved in the negotiation, particularly human rights, women’s rights (right to education and work)
  • The parties to the conflict should ensure the safety and security of media workers, and the negotiating teams should respect freedom of expression and free and independent media outlets.
  • The peace agreement should ensure justice for war victims by the implementation of transitional justice. The participants stressed that the voices of war victims should be heard, a truth-seeking process should be initiated, and the assassins and perpetrators who killed innocent people should be identified and held accountable. According to them, the war victims should know who has killed their loved ones.
  • The future government should be an inclusive system where all Afghans feel represented and ensure equal distribution of resources and balanced development.
  • The future government should give priority to the inclusion of youths in government entities and institutions.
  • The peace agreement should ensure the preservation of the current government structure, mainly separation of power and republic system with the inclusion of all ethnic groups, merit-based appointment, and inclusion of women.
  • Any temporary ceasefire is not a solution and has not no meaning for the people. They stressed that the parties should accelerate peace talks to end the country’s decades-long armed conflict.
  • Parties to the conflict should avoid the destruction of vital public infrastructure and institutions during the war and ensure children’s access to education in wartime.

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