This research is conducted by Cooperation for Peace and Unity (CPAU) with the financial support of Open Society Afghanistan (OSA). It aims to contribute to the success of peace building and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan by creating a platform to evaluate the weaknesses and fill the gaps of peace building and reconciliation endeavours. The lessons learned from the previous approaches will help to have a better understanding of the Afghan conflict by developing a roadmap for a peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict. This research took a mixed-methods approach, utilizing both primary and secondary data and quantitative and qualitative methods. The research was implemented in Kunduz, Herat, and Panjshir provinces. Semi-structured interviews and FGDs were conducted in each district and province with APRP stakeholders, beneficiaries, community members, and reintegrates.
The report is divided into following sections
Context: Government Peace Initiatives, Bodies and Policies Outside the APRP
The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program
Findings: Provincial Case Studies
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CPAU engages the local community of Herat Province in efforts for Strengthening the Counter-narrative and Weakening the Legitimacy of Violent Extremism Messaging during a two-day conference
Living in a digital era, terrorist networks like the Taliban or ISIS employ new information technologies and platforms to their advantage in order to enlarge their target groups, to reach more susceptible parts of society like vulnerable youth populations, and to make their recruitment and propaganda strategies more accessible and appealing to the above mentioned audience.
Therefore, in the context of a comprehensive and effective strategy for countering violent extremism, an important approach is to undermine the attraction and legitimacy of violent extremist recruiters’ messaging. This can be reached by strengthening the counter-narrative and by amplifying existing counter-messages and alternative narratives. Thus, it is essential to expand positive digital media strategies and to provide key stakeholders in society with the potential of engaging in counter-messaging strategies positively.
Following up on previous efforts of countering violent extremism within vulnerable communities, CPAU held a two-day conference on ‘Strengthening the Counter-narrative and Weakening the Legitimacy of Violent Extremism Messaging’in Herat Province on 5th and 6th March 2016.
Highly qualified speakers with different personal and professional backgrounds were invited to speak on the topic of the conference against the backdrop of CVE. During lively and fruitful discussions and informative talks, all participants emphasized the necessity of developing a national media and security strategy for strengthening the counter-narrative of violent extremism messaging. In line with strengthening the counter-narrative, it has also been advised to broaden common knowledge on violent extremism within society, to eliminate rumors and false interpretations, and to raise awareness of ancient and potentially harmful customs and traditions in Afghanistan which might create a platform for violent extremist messaging.
The conference has been a success in that most participants thought it to be very helpful for raising awareness on the topic and for offering a unique platform for an unbiased and informed knowledge exchange on the sensitive matter of violent extremism.
Countering Violent Extremism: CPAU is working towards Strengthening the Counter-narrative and Weakening the Legitimacy of Violent Extremism Messaging by organizing a two-day event in Samangan Province
Living in the 21st century where communication is characterized by engaging in social media platforms which have a great influence on shaping opinions and are very effective in promoting certain messages, it becomes even more important to provide potential users of such platforms with access to unbiased knowledge and information in order to build a certain resilience within society against propaganda messages.
Especially, in a conflict-affected country like Afghanistan with a high level of vulnerability towards radicalization and violence, efforts to prevent the phenomenon of violent extremism have to include strategies for weakening the legitimacy and resonance of violent extremist recruiters’ messages and in turn strengthen the counter-narrative, educate especially vulnerable communities about the threat of online recruitment and enhance the resilience to propaganda messages through innovative community-based approaches.
Recognizing the importance of this issue, CPAU organized a two-day conference and workshop on the topic of ‘Strengthening the Counter-narrative and Weakening the Legitimacy of Violent Extremism Messaging’in Samangan Province held on 17th and 18th February 2016.
With the contribution of international and local scholars, provincial government officials, civil society activists and other qualified speakers the conference has been a great success. It promoted civic engagement and facilitated an inspiring and thriving knowledge exchange on the overarching topic of violent extremism. Many contributors thus pushed for more of such conferences which have been seen as beneficial for raising awareness and working towards the goal of strengthening the resilience of the community to violent extremism messaging.
CPAU organized a two-day conference in Badakhshan Province on Identifying Political and Economic Opportunities for Communities Vulnerable to Radicalization
Identifying Political and Economic Opportunities for Communities Vulnerable to Radicalization is an important aspect of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Political and economic factors can leave certain communities or individuals susceptible to radicalization and recruitment by violent extremists due to social marginalization, poor governance or denied basic services. Filling this void, radical and extremist groups provide these communities with services, a form of governance, a political voice and a sense of community and identity, in this way recruiting dissatisfied individuals for their violent extremist purposes. In order to prevent this recruitment process, it is of utmost importance for the central government – with the support of external actors such as international donors and aid agencies – to provide vulnerable communities with appropriate political and economic opportunities. However, this requires on-the-ground knowledge of what is needed in particular.
In light of this context, CPAU organized and implemented a two-day event on that topic in Badakhshan Province on February 17 – 18, 2016.
10 qualified speakers with different personal and professional backgrounds have been invited and were offered the opportunity to speak on the issue of identifying political and economic opportunities for communities vulnerable to rationalization on both days. Both sessions were characterized by informative talks, fruitful discussions and the exchange of knowledge and experiences from different perspectives.
During the conference, it has been highlighted that it is essential to create opportunities and to provide basic service programs to all members of society. It was asked for an equal distribution of wealth, education and access to health and security facilities. Some speakers underlined the importance of managing available resources properly in order to develop cities as well as rural areas and to stop migration and resettlement due to lacking development. The keynote speaker also emphasized that the level of political involvement in the decision-making process has to be increased especially for youth. Finally, the best strategy for preventing radicalization has been identified as increasing political engagement, facilitating equal opportunities, the prevention of political alienation, open political debates, freedom of speech and the promotion of peace.
Building Resilience to Violent Extremism by Promoting Educational Approaches: As part of CPAU’s CVE initiative, a two-day conference and workshop was held in Ghazni Province
The conference in Ghazni Province organized by CPAUand held on 30th and 31st January 2016 focused on the issue of building resilience to extremism by promoting educational approaches. This concept is based on developing focused educational programs targeting communities where youth populations are most susceptible to radicalization. These educational programs include offering skills for employment, facilitating civil and nonviolent ways of participating in public life as well as demonstrating the values of community service.
During the Ghazni Conference it became evident that the present lack of a well-trained and professional workforce and the related lack of a personal independence are responsible for the many problems Afghanistan is facing to date. Therefore, all speakers agreed that it is essential to promote education for the children and youth in order to secure justice and peace in society.
Moreover, it has become clear that education and awareness raising are important instruments for generating a mindset and attitude resistant to violent extremism.
CPAU organized a two-day event on‘Preventing Radicalization in Prisons and Rehabilitating and Reintegrating Violent Extremists’ in Daikundi Province
In the face of violent extremism, prisons may provide a ‘safe haven’ and breeding ground for terrorists to network and to recruit and radicalize fellow inmates.This is further enhanced by a lack of suitable prison cells and a corrupt prison and justice system which are causing great damage for society and overall security.
However, prisons – when controlled and well-managed – can also constitute an environment that can be used to foster positive change and to disengage terrorists from their extremist ideologies and to rehabilitate them.
Therefore, it is important to have an efficient, just, and transparent prison management as well as appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration programs in place in order to prevent recidivism and to counter further radicalization and recruitment of violent extremists.
Tackling this issue, CPAU organized a two-day conference in Daikundi Province on 24th and 25th January 2016 with the participation of various speakers with different personal and professional backgrounds. The event has been useful for creating awareness on radicalization in prisons and for initiating further steps in countering violent extremism.
CPAU organized a series of engagement programs on the role of aid in stabilization efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism in Baghlan province, Afghanistan:
Development programs in Afghanistan is often in sectors broadly relevant to preventing or countering violent extremism, but is not typically directed to mitigating the specific drivers of or focusing on specific populations or communities susceptible to radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism. Yet, while development agencies support conflict prevention and mitigation, peacebuilding, and resilience that ameliorate these broad conditions, their efforts have been insufficient in addressing specific drivers of violent extremism, particularly in demographic and geographic areas affected by violent extremism. Therefore, during the month of December, CPAU organized a series of events in Kabul and Baghlan province to engage development agencies, local government representatives and community leaders to better understand their roles in CVE, and working with them in focused ways is critical to effectively addressing the phenomenon.
CPAU engages the local community in Strengthening Community-Police and Community-Security Force Relations for Countering Violent Extremism in Bamyan Province
As part of the global strategy for countering and preventing violent extremism, CPAU organized a conference in Bamyan Province on the topic of ‘Strengthening Community-Police and Community-Security Force Relations for CVE’ held on 16th and 17th January 2016. Speakers, such as national and overseas scholars, central government officials, local police forces and civil society activists, contributed to the workshop and allowed for fruitful discussions and knowledge exchange.
Strengthening community-police and community-security force relations are based on community-oriented policing and the building of local capacities and resilience in CVE for preventing the spread of violent extremist ideologies. Therefore, an effective local law enforcement system needs to be in place which can eliminate discrimination and maintain social justice.
During the two-day event in Bamyan Province, it has been agreed on that the lack of effective community-oriented policing – thus a lack of safety, can lead to injustice and personal and social insecurity which, as a consequence, will fuel violent extremism forces. In this context, the government’s responsibility in improving the training of security forces as well as increasing their incentives for effectively countering violent extremism has been stressed.
Many contributors furthermore suggested relationship and trust-building activities in order to strengthen the relationship and cooperation between police institutions and the public – to become ‘partners of the police’.
CPAU engages in the local communities in developing counter-narratives to violent extremists’ messages across Afghanistan:
In the new 24-hour media environment, extremist groups use the new information technology and traditional media and outreach activities to attract more men to their ranks. Hence countering their narrative requires a similar, if not the same, approach both locally and at the national level. CPAU on the other hand puts greater emphasis on local level engagements that are responsive to the needs of specific vulnerable populations. As part of CPAU countering violent extremisms (CVE) initiatives in Afghanistan, a series of engagements were successfully held during the last of week of November 2015 in Panjsher and Kabul provinces. The focus of these countering violent extremism engagements were the “Strengthening the counter narrative and weakening the legitimacy of violent extremisms messaging“. Local officials, scholars, civil society activist and central government officials, as well as important overseas scholars, supported the CPAU initiative.
CPAU promotes the role of women and youth in preventing violent extremism in Kapisa Province on 24-25 Nov, 2015
In Afghanistan women are partners in prevention of conflict and they are agents of change. They play a crucial role in understanding early signs of radicalization and in and around their household and family. They can help prevent radicalization. Since civil society organizations have an essential role to play in preventing and countering violent extremism, in the month of November 2015 CPAU, as part of its countering violent extremism initiatives, organized a series of engagements around the role of women and youth in preventing violent extremism both in Kapisa and Kabul provinces.