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Throughout its existence, TLO has undertaken a wide variety of advocacy efforts across a range of sectors in order to better promote the interests of our constituents, and Afghanistan as a whole. Increasingly, TLO is also integrating advocacy across all of its work, so that the findings from our research, and the outcomes of our implementation in areas such as peacebuilding, access to justice, and others, may find their fullest impact.
Improved Protection of Civilians
Afghanistan’s communities face increased pressure from continued fighting between pro- and anti-government elements throughout the country, with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recording a 24% increase in civilian casualties through the first half of 2014. Most of this violence occurs in rural regions of the country, which can be cut off from most outside monitoring and reporting.
As a result, many of those most affected by violence do not have their voices heard, even as their situation continues to deteriorate. Given its comparative advantage in accessing violence-affected areas, TLO has sought to bring the issues of these communities to light. For several years, TLO has thus participated in the United Nations Afghanistan Protection Cluster (APC) to spread knowledge of these community concerns to national and international institutions. In turn, since 2013 TLO (with funding from Open Society Afghanistan) has facilitated an “Afghanized” version of the APC, bringing together leading local CSOs to pool their diverse expertise and areas of activity to better advocate for the protection needs of Afghanistan’s vulnerable populations.
Greater CSO Role in the Peace Process
In order to be truly effective, peace processes need to include not only pro- and anti-government groups, but a broader range of societal stakeholders to promote the representativeness of the peace process and its broad-based acceptance. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can play a particularly important role here, as representatives of a diverse range of groups from throughout all parts of Afghan society.
For these reasons, TLO, along with other partners in civil society, have engaged in persistent advocacy with the Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) for better integration in peace processes. After months of discussion, the HPC signed a memorandum of understanding with more than 25 Afghan civil society organizations, pledging its cooperation in joint undertakings to promote peace in Afghanistan, and to increasing the informational and operational pipeline between itself and the CSO community.
More Sustainable Natural Resource Management
Due to continued war, population increase, and economic stress, Afghanistan has seen the severe depletion of many of its natural resources, such as water and timber. To help address these concerns, TLO participates as a member of the Civil Society Monitoring Network for Natural Resources (CSMNNR) which was founded 19 December 2012, with the inclusion of 18 leading Afghan civil society activists and organizations.
The CSMNNR is an independent, not-for profit, non-political body dedicated to promoting the peaceful and sustainable extraction and utilization of natural resources in Afghanistan.
The overall goal of the Network is to affect an active, independent and effective contribution on natural resources extraction and utilization through advocacy, capacity building, monitoring and public awareness promotion of Afghanistan’s natural resources, the threats they face, and how these threats may be addressed.
Greater Inclusion of Marginalized Communities in the Statebuilding Process
Even after years of effort, the Afghan state continues to develop rapidly, with new institutions, and even new conceptual foundations for the state, still coming into being. For these institutions and concepts to take root, they must take into account the concerns, and viewpoints, of all Afghan groups, especially those that may be marginalized or disempowered.
TLO thus sees as one of its primary roles as advocating for the inclusion of such groups in the statebuilding process. These groups include both Afghanistan’s rural majority, as well as women and ethnic or religious minorities. Given the organization’s activities in other areas, a particular focus of TLO’s has been to integrate providers of so-called “traditional” justice into processes of dispute resolution and justice reform. Without itself specifying any preferred outcome to these discussions, TLO believes such procedural integration to be necessary for justice reform processes so that – whatever the end result – all key stakeholders will have received a chance to give input, and have their concerns addressed, in good faith.
Enabling the Advocacy of Our Stakeholders
For these same reasons, TLO sees as one of its goals not only to engage in advocacy ourselves, but to enable our stakeholders to engage in their own advocacy initiatives. In some instances, TLO will use its own connections to introduce affected persons to media and government outlets, for example introducing prominent Southeastern tribal elders to United States, European Union, and other prominent officials to themselves advocate around elections, development, and justice issues (funding from USAID).
In other instances, TLO will assist its stakeholders in publicizing their views and activities. To this end, TLO has worked in Nangarhar (funding from TetraTech/ARD) to facilitate the local development of guidelines on land dispute resolution, and in Paktia (funding from USIP) to locally develop both dispute resolution guidelines, as well as guidance on the history of the area, its tribes, and dispute resolution systems. TLO’s stakeholders can then use such documents as tools of advocacy, apprising the Afghan government, the international community, and others of their capacities, identities, and areas of special concern.