AFPAK Civil Society Forum
Pakistani, Afghan & German Delegates Stress Still Closer Relations in the AFPAK Region
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ISLAMABAD, December 14, 2011-- The Afghan-Pakistan Friendship Association (APFA) was proposed as an umbrella organization to expand the process of peace building and conflict resolution in the AFPAK region, by engaging the Civil Society in the process as the main driving force.
“Regional Integration will be the key for a stable future,” said Regional Representative of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), Dr. Babak Khalatbari Wednesday at the conclusion of the two-day conference of AFPAK Civil Society Forum. The Conference was jointly organized by KAS and Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP) in Islamabad in the backdrop of recently held Bonn-II Conference. It was also supported by the Pakistan International Human Rights Organization (PIHRO) and National Center for Policy Research, Kabul University, and partly sponsored by the German Foreign Office.
Besides announcing the establishment of the AFPAK Civil Society Forum, the conference also set the kickoff of an institutionalized exchange and identified best practice examples for future joint projects. The participants expressed strong commitment in the continuation of these dialogue processes.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan trust German organization which can serve as a catalyst”, Dr. Babak Khalatbari said while highlighting that Germany has to define its future role in the region. “The overall objective is to develop partnership across the border to create a soft image for both the countries,” said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, Deputy Chair, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Over hundred opinion makers including representatives of think tanks, educationists, human rights and political activists, and the media, from all corners of the AFPAK civil societies attended the Forum. Nine of the Afghan delegates have also been to the Bonn Conference.
The working groups of the delegates presented five proposal documents highlighting the future line of action: Peace through Negotiation; Developing Partnership Across the Border; Track-II Diplomacy between Afghanistan and Pakistan; The regional Voice of the Future, and AFPAK Relationship: Experience gained in recent years. “It is a good beginning”, CEO CAMP, Naveed Ahmed Shinwari said, adding that the civil societies on both sides of the border have weak connections so far. This platform would provide an opportunity to create an understanding, remove misunderstandings and help work out together.
Despite Pakistan’s absence in the Bonn Conference “the AFPAK Civil Society Forum has provided an opportunity to exchange views, ideas and institutionalize exchange and develop the roadmap”, Shinwari added. Habib Malik Orakzai, Chairman Mutahida Qabaili Party (MQP) commented: “Establishing an AFPAK Civil Society Forum will set the tone for future collaboration among the civil society representatives from both countries.”
The First Group was conducted by Prof. Dr. Wadir Safi of the Kabul University. It emphasized that negotiations are very necessary between the two countries in order to reach an agreement to live in peace. Director of the Second Group, Ahmad Fahim Hakim, proposed three projects including the role of media, civil society mobilization and cross border security. Under the supervision of Sayed Hamid Gailani the Third Group highlighted that APFA will also bring peoples’ concerns into political and security processes and decisions. It proposed utilizing mass media, regular meetings and exchanges to create an enabling environment for improvement of bilateral relations, awareness, advocacy and monitoring.
Dr. Tilmann J. Roder, Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute, Germany, guided the Fourth Group, which proposed peace building activities through sports and debate under a project named AFPAK Young Peace Leaders’ Network. The Fifth Group, under the supervision of Ms. Nicole Birtsch, Head of the Peace and Conflict Studies Department, Kabul University, proposed to develop a joint chapter of the history of Afghanistan and Pakistan; conduct joint qualitative and quantitative studies to generate new knowledge regarding the issues of common interest to cater to the need for evidence-based and informed policy making at both sides.
Pakistan, December 15, 2011