Meeting with Afghan civil society
Westerwelle with representatives of Afghan civil society
© Jürgen Schwarz
In Bonn on 3 December, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul met members of Afghanistan’s civil society in the run-up to the Afghanistan Conference. The two Foreign Ministers expressed their conviction that Afghanistan needed the aptitudes and strengths of all Afghans – men and women, the young and the old, people in towns and in the country. The aim was to find an inclusive approach which “has everyone’s support and does not leave anyone behind”, stated Westerwelle.
The issues discussed at the International Foreign Ministers Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn on 5 December 2011 were of concern to Afghan society as a whole. It was thus vital to involve Afghan civil society in the preparation of the event.
This was especially true since an inclusive process was required to ensure that the conference issues really did address society’s needs. In the run-up to the Foreign Ministers Conference, fora were created in both Afghanistan and Germany in which the expectations of and policies recommended by Afghan civil society were discussed.
Inclusion of women
The Afghan civil society forum
© Jürgen Schwarz
The Federal Foreign Minister stressed that one issue was particularly close to his heart: it was crucial that due and adequate consideration be given to the role and rights of women in this transformation process. “No country can afford to do without half of its population in public life.”
It was therefore essential that Afghan women were involved in all spheres – in government, in parliament, in industry and in the justice system. “I hope that the voice of civil society and of Afghan women will be heard loud and clear in the coming days,” said Westerwelle.
Almost half of the Afghan civil society delegates in Bonn are women. At least one quarter of the official Afghan delegation are women.
Germany, as the host of the Conference, and Afghanistan as its chair, were both quick to call on Afghan civil society to participate in its preparation. In order to ensure that civil society can do its work free of all state influence, a process has been launched to help civil society in Afghanistan create its own structures. Numerous Afghan organizations took part in these meetings coordinated by the external link, opens in new windowAfghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
This process was supported by four German political foundations: the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. (KAS), the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBS), the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNS). Like the Foreign Ministers Conference, the preparations at civil society level also focused on Afghanistan. In particular, they centred on the dialogue within Afghan civil society and between civil society and the Government. Civil society organizations thereby had the opportunity to elaborate their positions for the Conference step by step and to reach agreement on these.
Westerwelle and Rassoul at the civil society forum
© Jürgen Schwarz
The first of two major civil society conferences took place in Kabul on 20 September 2011. At that event, Afghan civil society representatives from the Kabul area drew up some first policy recommendations. The Afghan Foreign Ministry took the opportunity to present its plans for the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn and offered to enter into an ongoing dialogue with civil society. At a second conference in Kabul on 20 October, positions were further consolidated and a group of 34 civil society representatives nominated.
In turn, these 34 civil society representatives designated two spokespersons from among their number. These two presented the policy recommendations elaborated in Afghanistan to the plenary session of the Foreign Ministers Conference.
Significant progress has been made over the past few years in developing Afghan civil society. A multiplicity of private and public organizations emerged after 2001, sparking public debate on controversial social and political subjects. Afghan “civil society” includes non-governmental organizations such as interest groups for human and women’s rights, and “service providers” for international organizations engaged in development cooperation. The term also covers business associations, academic institutions, the media, religious dignitaries as well as traditional “civil society” structures such as tribal institutions.
The Federal Foreign Office welcomes the dialogue process organized in Afghanistan and Germany and considers it fundamental for the involvement of Afghan civil society in the preparations for the Foreign Ministers Conference in Bonn on 5 December.
Last updated 14.12.2011