Historic Gathering Brings Afghan Community Leaders Face to Face with Government
In a historic gathering in Kabul this week, over 500 community representatives from villages across Afghanistan are meeting president Hamid Karzai and other senior government officials for the first time to discuss reconstruction priorities in their war-torn villages.
The representatives have all been elected by their villages to head IRC-supported community development councils, which are tasked with assessing and addressing local reconstruction and development needs. The councils are the cornerstone of the National Solidarity Program, a nationwide government project aimed at strengthening local governance, giving community members a voice in local decision-making and providing the resources to revive their villages.
This week’s three day meeting in Kabul provides an unprecedented opportunity for local representatives to share ideas with national authorities.
“Three years ago these communities were completely isolated,” the IRC’s country director Maurizio Crivellaro says. “Now villages across Afghanistan, representing all ethnic groups, are able to exchange experiences with each other and raise the concerns in front of the government and the president without intermediaries. It is a fantastic and unique achievement in a country where war lords and authorities always created a wall between the communities and the government.”
In addition to meeting President Karzai, council representatives will also have the opportunity to discuss reconstruction needs with Haneef Atmar, former deputy director for IRC’s Afghanistan program, and currently Minister for Rural Reconstruction and Development.
“This is the third time the development councils are meeting and the gatherings are growing in size each time,” Crivellaro explains. “But it is the first time the councils have come to the capital and have been able to get their messages across so loudly. Our support to this effort is one of the most beautiful achievements of the IRC in Afghanistan.”
As a key partner in the National Solidarity Program, the IRC not only organizes such exchanges of council leaders, but also helps villages hold elections of council members and provides ongoing guidance as the councils plan, manage, monitor and evaluate their development activities.