Youth, Peace and Security:
It is clear that a successful peacebuilding process must be transformative and create space for a wider set of actors including, but not limited to, representatives of women, young people to participate in public decision - making on all aspects of post-conflict governance and recovery.
The potential contribution of young people defined by the UN as between the ages of 15 to 24 to sustainable peacebuilding has received little attention and support to date. In most post-conflict contexts, young people remain on the margins or are excluded from participating in peacebuilding processes. Yet, a growing body of evidence from the field and academic research highlights that young people are playing active and valuable roles as agents of positive change. Youth-led peacebuilding interventions, often led at the grass-root level, can help build peaceful communities and underpin democratic, inclusive governance. Young people’s participation in peacebuilding is an untapped potential that should be positively and actively supported by the international community as a key to durable peace. Recent efforts by civil society organizations including international NGOs, youth-led NGOs and the United Nations have helped raise awareness of the need for increased coordination and collaboration of actors actively engaged on youth and peacebuilding issues. However, efforts remain incipient to date. While youth development is a topic of growing attention in international and national dialogues, peacebuilding often remains disconnected from these discussions -- let alone the translation of policy into action-oriented youth programs on the ground. Young people remain often absent from peace and security discussionsor, are seen as a security threat to contain. The lack of internationally-agreed policy frameworks on youth, peace and security, has limited the visibility, prioritization and associated funding allocation to peacebuilding that would be inclusive of young people’s voices and perspectives1
. On the other hand daily migration of youth generation from an underdeveloped country like Afghanistan that is in desperate need of its youth generation will lead the country towards an unstable and always demanding countries. Good example is high demand for passport only in Kabul Passport department that reaches to more than 2000 youths that is the main point of concern.
Nonetheless, global patterns and growing incidence of violence, extremism and instability challenges the world community to look for more innovative solutions and approaches that will better contribute to the resilience of communities and the inclusiveness of societies, and will respond to the demographic and democratic imperatives to offer meaningful avenues for young people to shape the future of their country. Focusing attention and investments only on the small proportion of young men and women who commit violence risks neglect of the majority who don’t, and certainly fails to engage strategically those who might.
The evidence shows that, in reality, the vast majority of young people can play active and valuable roles as agents of positive and constructive change. In fact many already do, but such contribution is often unseen or simply overlooked. Young men’s and young women’s participation in peacebuilding is a largely untapped resource. Their actual contribution and further potential should be valued, recognized, and supported by all actors, including the international community, as a key to durable and inclusive peace, stability and economic prosperity. Youth-led and youth-engaging interventions aimed at countering extremists’ narratives, promoting tolerance and nonviolent conflict resolution and building peace can help draw on the innate resilience of communities and underpin the strengthening of democratic, inclusive governance.
Afghanistan has been in war for the past 40 years. The country is facing major security issues. Many adolescents dream of escaping their war torn country, in hopes of finding refuge is safer countries such as Europe, and Australia. Unfortunately, escaping to these countries is easier said than done. In fact, many youth will go through drastic lengths to leave Afghanistan, such as sell their home, land, and leave their families behind. The journey is extremely dangerous, and many don’t make it out alive. Just a few of the things that can go wrong are ship wrecks, starvation, etc.
Others who are desperate to make an income for their families join the insurgency, which causes instability within the nation. In the Faryab province twenty one teenagers wanted to leave their village. The teens were even willing to sell their property to be smuggled out of the country. Their parents and elders asked the NEJAT team if they could help them, and talk them out of wanting to leave the country. Ultimately, after three months the NEJAT team was able to persuade the all the teens into staying in Afghanistan, and pursue their education, and to look for jobs.
The NEJAT team worked together with the elders and the family and was able to solve the teen’s problems. In fact teen’s parents, and elders, were so happy that their children wanted to stay that they threw a party for the NEJAT team to express their gratitude. If the teens and younger generation don’t leave Afghanistan, the country’s economy and national security will improve significantly.
AIDS Epidemic in Afghanistan:
Based on available data as per the MoPH/NACP Department Country Progress Report 2014, HIV epidemic in Afghanistan seems to be low and step to concentrated, this means that HIV affected mainly PWIDs among key population at higher risk of contracting HIV. The recent Integrated Biological Behavioral Surveillance Survey (IBBS) in 2012 shows an overall 4.4% of HIV prevalence among PWIDs. This prevalence is varied from minimum 0.3% among PWIDs in Mazar city to maximum up to 13.3 percent in Herat city2. The study also found 0.3%, 0.4% and 0.7% among Female Sex Worker (FSW), Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and Prisoner respectively. Latest UNAIDS data indicate that the epidemic presently remains under <0.13 percent among the general population, yet has the potential to grow quickly from a small base of PWIDs to their sexual partners and thus to heterosexual men and women unless effective, vigorous, and sustained action is taken early.
At the early stage, NACP collection data from Blood Bank and a project of ICRC. For instance, from 1989-2003 only 28 case were reported to NACP. Then the data from Health Management Information System (HMIS) is also collection by which at the end of 2007, the officially reported number to NACP was 146 HIV cases from HMIS, BB and ICRC. Since 2008 after implementation of several harm reduction project with the financial support of World Bank, Global Fund, UNODC and other partners, case detection improved and so far in 2011, 1367 cases.4
Till the end of 2012, a cumulative number of 1529 HIV infections were reported to the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) where male to female ratio among PLHIV is almost 6:1 respectively. However, Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around 4,300 (1,600-14,000) PLHIV in the country. Of the total reported number of HIV cases, 17 cases are AIDS-related deaths5.
Among general population, accurate data to measure HIV prevalence in Afghanistan is yet needed. However, there is not enough evidence to suggest an established HIV epidemic among adult population. UNAIDS refers to the HIV estimate among general population in the country at the end of 2011 as being less than 0.1%6.
The key population are the following as per NACP Report 2012:
- People who Injection Drugs (PWID)
- Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)
- Female Sex Worker (FSW)
Drug Scenario in Afghanistan:
In Afghanistan the number of drug users is estimated in 2015 to be around 3 to 3.5 Million. The demand for drug awareness and rehabilitation services is on the increase. The first nationwide survey on drug use, conducted in the year 2009 by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UN Office on Drugs and Crime, found nearly 1.5 Million drug users in this nation of about 25-30 million people, including 60,000 children under age 15.
The Ministry of Counter Narcotics proclaims that the Government of Afghanistan is currently able to provide treatment to only 3 to 5 percent of the above mentioned drug using population, meaning to approximately 30,000 drug users treatment per year, while nearly 95 percent of them will remain without any further care.
Moreover Afghanistan currently has a significant prevalence of HIV among injecting drug users (7.13 percent) and at best these are highly conservative figures. Taking HCV into account the picture is worrying.
These figures give a sense of threat to a country that has very weak health, social and economic structures and clearly indicate that unless successfully addressed this will be an equal threat, if not greater than, the prevailing insecurity perpetuated by insurgent elements such as Taliban, Tribal Warlords. ISIS and criminal networks.
It is clear that the residential treatment and care options are no longer the only feasible intervention, simply because of the number of beds needed to effectively intervene. A feasible alternative is to get the community involved in the treatment process, which is where the rehabilitation-process belongs anyway, unless the community provides space for rehabilitation to take place no treatment will be successful. The notion of Rehabilitation is expressed in the word Rehabilitation, habilitating the person where his habitat is… in the community…
However, this effort can only be carried out if the communities’ informal authority structures are on ‘board’ such as Jirgas and Shuras. It is their commitment to the individual, which will provide access to protection and assistance from the community.
Only with the community’s involvement and through the assistance of the community’s authority structure (Jirga/Shuras) can a rehabilitation process be successfully engaged.
NEJAT has already started implementing this, where possible according to its resources. The successes thus far have indicated that this is a viable option of intervention, which is not only cost effective and sustainable, but also has a very high educational content, which will affect the mentality of the population.
NEJAT’s overall objective is to reduce the numbers of drug users through meaningful treatment interventions and to prevent the harm caused by drug use.
The Afghan Government is limited in its capacity to respond effectively to the large number of Afghan Drug Users in terms of financial resources, know-how capacity and the limited trust relationship with the population, therefore the only viable solution is to engage the community itself in the process of reducing the number of drug affected individuals.
Demand Reduction and Harm Prevention can only then successfully take place if the afghan communities take ownership of the drug use issue.
Mohammad Qasim Zaman
NEJAT Center Executive Director