Local peacebuilding urgently needed to reduce insecurity in Afghanistan, Oxfam says
Land, water and family disagreements are the major causes of local insecurity in Afghanistan, according to a report by Oxfam International, which calls for a new approach to bringing peace to the country.
An Oxfam survey in six provinces across Afghanistan shows 50% of Afghans cite land and 43% water as major causes of disputes. Given the importance of family and tribal affiliations, and with arms widely available, these disagreements can easily escalate and flare into violence.
Oxfam's survey shows that whilst Afghans see the Taliban, warlords and criminals as their biggest external threats, disagreements over resources are the main causes of insecurity in their daily lives.
Despite the evident importance of building peace at local level, so far national and international responses to insecurity have focused on military efforts and on high-level or political initiatives rather than grassroots work.
Matt Waldman, Oxfam International's policy adviser in Afghanistan, said: "Existing, high-level measures to promote peace in Afghanistan are not succeeding. This is not only due to the revival of the Taliban, but because insecurity often has local causes, such as disputes over land, water and family concerns. In many cases these local disputes can turn violent and escalate into factional conflict.
"Whilst local disputes don't attract the same headlines as the Taliban, they cause insecurity, undermine quality of life and hinder development efforts. Militants and criminal groups also exploit local conflicts and rivalries to strengthen their positions."
Oxfam's research shows that to resolve disputes most Afghans turn to traditional community and tribal councils, known as shuras. Oxfam is calling for a national network of peace-building projects to work with local people, officials and shuras to build their capacities to resolve disputes through techniques such as mediation, negotiation and conflict resolution.
The projects also seek to develop trust and cohesion between families, communities and tribes – the building blocks of Afghan society – and help them to get on better with each other.
Mr Waldman said: "Oxfam's research shows that Afghans most often turn to tribal or communal shuras to resolve local problems, but little has been done to help shuras resolve disputes fairly and effectively.
"Local peacebuilding has had excellent results, but benefits only a fraction of Afghans because it has received so little international support. The country urgently needs a nation-wide network of peacebuilding projects. It is a long-neglected but essential part of achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan."
In the Oxfam survey of 500 people in six provinces, Afghans were asked what were the major cause of disputes:
- 50% said land
- 43% said water
- 34% said family concerns
(Note: respondents could give more than one cause.)
When asked which were the greatest threats to their security:
- 16% said the Taliban
- 14% said warlords
- 13% said criminals
- 11% said international forces
To resolve a dispute:
- 55% would go to a community or tribal shura
- 36% would go to the police
- 21% would go to the district governor or other official
Some peacebuilding organizations have established "peace shuras" to promote more effective dispute resolution and to bring communities and factions together. In Farah province, a peacebuilding project helped to resolve a 25-year-old dispute which caused the deaths of eight people. Some peacebuilding projects have also ended forced marriages and the beating of women and children.
1. Oxfam questioned 500 people in six provinces with varying levels of security across Afghanistan. The agency also ran ten focus groups and conducted 40 in-depth interviews.
2. Oxfam has run peacebuilding projects in East Africa, West Africa and South America. It also supports peacebuilding organizations in Afghanistan.