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Due to Afghanistan’s spreading conflict, communities face on the one hand is a resilient insurgency not respecting basic international principles of not harming civilians, engaging increasingly in targeted killing and civilian shielding by hiding within communities and/or launching attacks on ANSF/IMF from within villages. On the other hand are Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), International Military (IMF) and pro-government forces are still trying to flush out the insurgency through raids, force and intimidation of communities they see as sympathizers. Humanitarian organizations are observing the same, with UNHCR noting a continuous increase in conflict-related displacement, up 20% alone in 2012, and UNAMA a 23% increase in civilian casualties in 2012-2013. To raise the voices of Afghan citizens through civil society on these issues is important, as currently all parties to the conflict tend to – erroneously – presume that they are speaking on behalf of the Afghan people. In a recent study by TLO, it was found that communities do negotiate with the insurgency about civilian casualty issues – nascent efforts that can be strengthened and amplified so that all parties to the conflict can be heard, including by international actors.
First, there is often a lack of evidence-based advocacy, with organizations ‘running’ with issues they, or their staff, think are important. Second, as most CSOs are urban-based, their advocacy tends to reflect largely an urban bias in issues raised. Third, advocacy can only be efficient if a critical mass has been reached, in the sense of coordinating advocacy outreach with other like-minded organizations – collaboration which is often sadly insufficient to achieve maximum impact. Fourth, there is a lack of capacity on how to formulate and present advocacy issues. Too often attempts at effective advocacy come out as a list of criticisms rather than a constructive presentation of areas that need changing. Fifth, advocacy too often does not reach the right policy level, and CSOs need to build more on the areas of government they are trying to influence and find how to best communicate their issues and with whom. Last but not least, as an oral culture, much Afghan advocacy is based on oral input, and results in an oral output. While this is important, organizations need to learn to also produce strategic short (written) advocacy pieces that can be circulated to a wider group. Greater focus on written content can also help in understanding how an issue has changed over time, and measuring the impact of advocacy.
The main goals of this project, which would become a process later on, are to facilitate the formation of a Civil Society Advocacy Working Group (AWG), uniting local CSOs around information-gathering, awareness-raising, and advocacy of protection issues; train Working Group members (not just TLO) in advocacy/policy writing best practices; ensure the Working Group is well-connected to partners such as the APC and Friends of Afghanistan; and produce a series of issue papers and occasional commentaries to ensure that Afghan, and particularly rural, voices are heard on these issues of grave concern.
These activities will amplify the voices of civil society actors vis-à-vis protection, human security and peace through mobilizing existing civil society groups (and by extension their constituency) around these issues and work with them on targeted advocacy statements to increase pressure on all parties to the war (ANSF/IMF and pro-government forces on the one side and the insurgency on the other), holding them accountable for their actions, and voicing disapproval of continued war and bloodshed. This is because internationally, evidence has been mounting that civil society does not only have the potential to add value to peace processes, but in fact has positively contributed “to the reduction of violence, [and] the negotiation of settlements.” Furthermore, civil society can play a crucial role in agenda setting by “advocating for the inclusion of pertinent issues into a peace agreement.” Research suggests that “the most effective form of advocacy […] is mass mobilization for large-scale change, such as the end of war.”
For more information about the activities of the Civilian Protection Group and first press conferences and access to the policy briefs, please Click here…..
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