Donors should support local peace-building efforts - Oxfam

The international community and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are five years late in implementing a meaningful community peace-building programme, and there is no time to lose for a local peace-making drive, Oxfam International said in a new report.

“Existing measures to promote peace in Afghanistan are not succeeding,” said the report entitled Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan: The Case for a National Strategy, and released on 28 February.

More than six years after the Taliban was ousted by US-led coalition forces, Afghans are still embroiled in violent insurgency, organised crime and widespread insecurity, analysts said.

“There is a powerful case for greater donor support for non-governmental organisations engaged in local peace-building, as well as the development of a national strategy,” the report said.

Matt Waldman, the report’s author, told IRIN the future of peace and stability in Afghanistan depended on what the Afghan government and its international partners do now.

Most of the conflict management and peace-building efforts so far have been highly politicised, top-down and/or ineffective, Oxfam found, based on interviews with 500 people in six provinces.

“Peace cannot be imposed from above. It needs to be nurtured and supported from below,” Waldman said.

Local disputes generate insecurity

''There is a powerful case for greater donor support for non-governmental organisations engaged in local peace-building, as well as the development of a national strategy.''

According to Oxfam, the nature, causes and effects of violence in Afghanistan vary widely, while the capacity of communities to effectively manage conflicts and ensure a viable peace has largely been neglected.

Land, water, poverty and family disputes are the major causes of local insecurity. These often turn into violence, exacerbating the wider conflict due to a lack of adequate conflict management and peace-building resources, the UK-based charity said.

“The resulting insecurity not only destroys quality of life and impedes development work, but is also exploited by criminal or anti-government groups to strengthen their positions in the wider conflict,” the report said.

“Insecurity in Afghanistan often has local causes,” said Waldman, adding that natural disasters, refugee flows, badly delivered aid, corruption, abuse of power and the opium trade often aggravated insecurity.

Local peace-building

In the absence of a reliable peace and secure environment, effective rebuilding and development activities cannot take place: “'Peace at a local level underpins the development process,” Waldman said.

Oxfam suggests that local mechanisms and resources should be used and supported to tackle local disputes and violence in communities, and prevent them from contributing to the wider conflict.

“People are the best resources for building and sustaining peace,” said the report, adding that community or tribal councils of elders (`jirgas’ or `shuras’) should be used to curb violence and promote peace.

Oxfam’s research indicated that 16 percent of Afghans perceive Taliban insurgents to be the greatest threat to their security; 14 percent thought warlords were the biggest threat to security; 13 percent said criminals; and 11 percent said the international forces.