In provinces suffering from crushing poverty, low literacy, widespread corruption, and broad cultural divides, USIP’s Network of Afghan Facilitators (NAF) is showing significant progress in preventing violence and mediating tribal and community-level conflicts, mending cleavages that if allowed to fester become ripe for exploitation by the Taliban, warlords, and other anti-governmental forces.

Kabul, April 2009

In provinces suffering from crushing poverty, low literacy, widespread corruption, and broad cultural divides, USIP’s Network of Afghan Facilitators (NAF) is showing significant progress in preventing violence and mediating tribal and community-level conflicts, mending cleavages that if allowed to fester become ripe for exploitation by the Taliban, warlords, and other anti-governmental forces. Formed and trained by program officers from the Institute’s Educational and Training Center/International, the network and the Afghan nationals who comprise it have also resolved family-level disputes involving substantial abuse of women, and have helped set up or been involved in active community organizations, such as the Khost Conflict Resolution Commission, consisting of national leaders, intellectuals, and traditional leaders.

Reports of these activities have been collected and analyzed by Senior Program Officers Keith Bowen and Nina Sughrue, who have just returned from Kabul after completing an Advanced Negotiation and Mediation Training Program for members of this network, which they established one year ago modeled in part on our highly active and successful program in Iraq.

Along with a focus on the Institute's core conflict resolution curriculum, including conflict analysis, negotiation, mediation, and problem solving, the training session was designed to respond to challenges identified by the facilitators, as well as to take stock of what is working in what has otherwise been a generally difficult year in Afghanistan. Prior to the training, Bowen and Sughrue conducted an extensive debrief of the facilitators’ efforts. Through written and verbal reports, supplemented with agendas, training materials, photographs, and other tangibles, the facilitators detailed impressive results:

  • three community level mediations preventing bloodshed, two on internally displaced persons (IDP) issues (Daikundi, Khost), one on water (Badakshan)
  • eighteen interventions to resolve family/tribal disputes, most involving abuse of women
  • thirty training sessions involving conflict management to government officials, lawyers, maliks, mullas, shuras, and community leaders
  • Establishment or strengthening of community councils to address future conflict
  • Wide geographical coverage, including Logar, Ghazni, Faryab, Kunduz, Balkh, Parwan, Khost, Badakshan, Takhar, Baghlan, Wardak, Herat and other provinces

Our local partner, the Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan (WADAN), assisted with the program and provided participants for training. Other Afghans within the network have affiliations with a range of NGOs, including the Afghan Help and Training Program, the Afghan NGO's Coordination Bureau, the Afghan Women's Council, and UNESCO. In this session, five new facilitators were introduced to the network from the Afghan Institute for Learning (AIL), an NGO that has developed its own network of teachers and has for years focused training of women and girls.

The effort to develop and train a Network of Afghan Facilitators (NAF) has been adapted from the Institute’s Network of Iraqi Facilitator (NIF) program. Launched in 2004, the NIF began with a similar group of influential nationals from across the country. USIP continues to conduct basic, intermediate and advanced training in conflict resolution, and today the NIF is an effective, motivated group of committed Iraqis, over 200 strong and growing. The facilitators complete about 10 new local activities per month, including facilitated dialogue, facilitated negotiation, community problem solving, and training to grow the network -- all coordinated, monitored, and evaluated by the Institute’s offices in Washington and Baghdad.

USIP-trained facilitator, Muqadas Attalwala of the Afghan Women’s Education Center, shares her own account of why she got involved in some very difficult cases.

"I got myself involved in the following four cases:

  • A woman who was not allowed by her family members to work outside her house.
  • A drug dealer attempts to burn his wife alive but her neighbors were able to rescue her and take her to her parent’s house. The husband (drug dealer) keeps four of their kids with him and expels his wife from the house without a legal divorce as a result of which the women develops sociological crises.
  • A married person is forced by his parents to divorce his wife.
  • A marriage has been arranged in exchange for a large amount of money that was paid by the groom family. All of a sudden just two days before the wedding ceremony the bride groom family demands a lot more from the bride family or else the ceremony will not take place."

"By the grace of Allah all of the above cases were successfully solved."

"Yes, I used USIP materials especially the ones about communication and mediation skills which were of so much help. In the workshop we were taught how the mediator can be more effective and what he or she should avoid while negotiating the problem with the parties concerned. We successfully put to practice those skills in the field," she said.

In reflection on her work, Keith Bowen summarized that the bigger community mediations on internally displaced persons (IDPs), on water conflicts and other matters may involve larger numbers of people, but having survived the Taliban, and bravely doing work like this, the women in our programs are the greatest heroes he’s known.

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