In 2014, Afghanistan will undergo its most critical process since international intervention in 2001: the planned withdrawal of NATO troops as well as the highly anticipated presidential elections. This has led to great concern among Afghans and many are deeply insecure about their future. So, at this critical moment, understanding the perspectives of each segment of society on crucial topics is essential. Based on Central Statistic Office (CSO) survey Afghanistan’s youth (under 25) comprises 68% of the the county’s population- Therefore youth’s interest and perspectives should constitute the basis of any future policy and strategy. In order to discuss concrete recommendations the Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organization (HREVO) with support from Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) conducted a series of roundtable discussions with Kabul University students during the first half of 2013.
This paper presents youth’s perspectives and their recommendations to ensure good governance for 2014 and beyond. The recommendations focus on issues of the upcoming elections, on women’s rights, the peace process as well as security and economic transition.
The approval of two laws, on the Structure, Duties and Privileges of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) are important Steps taken towards conducting a transparent and credible presidential and local council election which give us the hope to take an active part in the decision making process about the leadership of our country. The laws and their implementation have been a huge gain for ensuring the credibility of the election and rebuilding the trust of the people. Moreover, we do have the following recommendations:
1- The election is the basis of democracy and in order to realize democracy in Afghanistan, the 2014 election is very crucial. There is concern among the youth of Afghanistan about appointing of commissioners selected by the president or from people who were close to the palace. Therefore we request the commissioners of the IEC and the ECC to work independently and regard neutrality throughout the whole process of the election. Other relevant government administration should not interfere with the election process and must not utilize government assets to the favor or detriment of any candidate.
2- Holding of the election can strengthen good governance when the candidates offer program platforms instead of ethnic political bargaining. This would mean that the candidates should refer to the votes of citizens with effective programs, rather than negative political bargaining amongst ethnicities. This will lead the nation into a positive experiment of democracy and pave the way to the institutionalization of democracy across the country. We, the Afghan youth likewise request election candidates to consider this issue and contribute to institutionalization of democracy in Afghanistan.
3- Democracy is the best form of governance to ensure the rights and political participation of different segments of society. Moreover, a huge participation of the people will ensure the credibility of election and future government, strengthening the rule of law and civil values. Since youth comprises 68% of the population of the country, their participation together with women’s participation will be influential on upcoming election. The civil socity should mobilize the youth toward a candidate who ensure the youth’s interest. So we request the people especially the young generation to responsibly participate in elections, ignoring the candidate’s ethnicity and vote for a platform.
The precondition for brining lasting peace to Afghanistan is the realization of justice. We believe that ensuring peace without justice is not possible. Therefore we request:
- The government to strengthen the judicial system to better implement justice and bring peace. The High Peace Council (HPC) should include civil society, especially youth and women in the peace process. Their institutionalized participation in the peace process will play a pivotal role in safeguarding their rights and protecting them from violence and discrimination. The participation of female youth in the peace process will give a strong opportunity for the future female generation to express their concerns and negotiate with the Taliban. The HPC should establish a mechanism to hear the voice of grassroots actors, especially the voice of youth and women, regarding to peace process and incorporating their comments into whole programs to ensure stability and security in Afghanistan.
- A comprehensive and integrated strategy for protection of peace should be developed by governments in collaboration with civil society and international commungiy. . This strategy should focus on components of sustainable peace, which would be security, rule of law, justice, human rights and economic development.
As 2014 approaches, the security situation is worsening. We reportedly hear that the citizens are being killed by Taliban on the highways leading from major towns. The security for all segments of society, especially for youth, is essential. We believe that Afghanistan needs a long-term strategic partnership with the international community, especially with USA. Working in partnership with the international community will strengthen the realization of democratic values and help establish a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. Therefore we request:
- The Ministry of Interior and government administrations(Afghanistan seucity council, Election Commission, Election Compleation Commission to ensure the security of young generationwith a particular focus on young male and female candidates and young voters who will be most at risk during the election process so we can ensure high political levels of voter participation.
- The Afghan government and USA to come to an agreement within a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) based on mutual respect to national sovereignty, economic development and long-term support of the Afghan National Security Forces. We propose that more focus should be put on building the capacity of young officers through allocating of scholarships and establishing exchange programs. The government should engaged them in high administrative and policy making level.
Youth has a major role to play in economic development. Cooperation between governments, private sector, the civil society and youth should provide important opportunities for young people to be involved in economic sector which will lead to economic growth of Afghanistan. The following are some recommendations:
- Governments should provide grants of land to youth and youth organizations, supported by financial and technical assistance and training. These grants should lead to activities to support small and medium enterprises, local industries, modern technologies services and production companies.
- Governments should include young people in the implementation of new projects identified in national development and poverty reduction plans and strategies, as well as support existing youth-led development initiatives.
- Development policies must prioritize youth involvement in economic sectors to address high rate of youth’s unemployment by engaging young people in creating necessary services, national projects and infrastructure.
- Provide incentives such as grants or micro-finance for youth to support youth’s economic initiatives with focus on women empowerment projects