On October 5th, the government of Afghanistan, the international community, and selected members of civil society will gather in Brussels to discuss the future of the country.
Currently in Afghanistan, the Civil Society is actively working on the preparation of the Conference, in order for the myriad of NGOs, associations, unions and civic groups of Afghanistan to gather under a unified front.
Last week, 8 regional consultations were conducted throughout Afghanistan. We take a closer look at the North East region (Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz and Badashkan) where representatives of the civil society debated the development priorities for their region.
Interview of a civil society activist in the North East Region
This year, the discussion does not only occur in Brussels, but also and especially here in Afghanistan as we engage and consult civil society all around the country. A national survey, with more than 650 civil society respondents was conducted, and we then organized focus group discussions in the regions. The discussion in Kunduz gathered more than 20 participants from Kunduz, Takhar and Badashkan. Due to the insecurity on the roads, Baghlan CSOs had to conduct their own focus group. It was a full day of debates and brainstorming to identify key priorities and recommendation for our region. These points will then be taken forward to Kabul, where a National Conference will be organized in early September. At the end, we will come up with a joint statement that our delegates will present in Brussels.
It is often assumed that civil society is concentrated in Kabul and big cities. But activism, volunteerism and solidarity are very much alive in the provinces too. Over 50 CSOs are actively operating in Kunduz province, 35 CSOs in Takhar, 40 CSOs in Badakhshan and over 40 CSOs in Baghlan. We are a very diverse group and that makes our richness. There are local NGOs, media associations, farmer and shopkeepers unions, social organizations like education, cultural and training centers and youth groups. We all play our part in the society: for example, legal organizations are giving free consultations to women and displaced people, the CDC (Community Development Committee) plan and implement development projects in their community, etc.
From Baghlan to Badakhshan, insecurity is our number one challenge. We manage to run our daily activities in the safe zones, but our scope is limited. Just last week for our regional consultations, our colleagues from Baghlan were completely unable to join us. Traveling has become a luxury, something too dangerous and we can hardly afford to do. We organized the workshop, we debated, but in the back of our head, we knew the fighting was closing in on the city. War has forcibly displaced thousands of families in informal settlements around the city of Kunduz and drastically slowed down the economy. Safety, even for basic things like health and education has been extremely difficult. The lasting crisis is cracking apart the already fragile rule of law.
A huge amount of work needs to be done to fight the endemic corruption, install rule of law, and enable the deliver services to the population. These are non-negotiable condition needed for our region to economically develop, and we hope this message will be heard in Brussels. Another condition is the participation and the increased leadership of women, not only in the household but in the private sector and in the public sphere.
Among the 20 participants of the consultation, 8 were women. Civil society organizations are creating an enabling environment for women to work, just like women are also a priority target for most of our programs. But there is a clear need for women to be able to access key positions in the government, at the provincial and central level. We hope the international donors can not only advise the government in doing so, but also give us all the means to achieve it, by funding gender sensitive development programs.
The National Consultation is organized thanks to the lead of BAAG and the support of the Civil Society Committee, whose role is to organize the national consultations and create linkage between the civil society and the main stakeholders (government, donors, media etc.).
 Last year UNAMA and UNICEF documented the highest number of incidents in Kunduz province, recording military use of 15 schools by Pro-Government Forces affecting 6,680 students and Anti-Government Elements used at least 11 schools in Nangarhar, Nuristan, Logar and Kunduz provinces for military purposes. Besides, the MSF trauma center was attacked on October 3rd 2015, in which 49 medical personnel were killed or injured