Archive Article: Working For Peace In Afghanistan. 16th Nov 01
January 4, 2009
Recent events in Afghanistan mean that some progress can now be made in rebuilding the country after two decades of the civil war. Providing employment is an important way of working for peace.
The Sydney-based Conflict Resolution Network has for many years campaigned on the importance of providing employment in all societies. This includes providing employment in countries that have been involved in conflicts. Therefore governments and non-governmental organizations should give greater emphasis to work for all who need it as part of their standard reconstruction programmes in their relief work.
Work for all who need it is a vital part of keeping the peace.
Many of the disputes underway today have economics as one of the basic causes. People may use, say, religious or ethnic labels, but often the underlying cause is one of economics and deprivation, especially unemployment.
Economic growth is often the glue that holds a society together. If everyone is doing well, so there is little need for civil unrest because the citizens are too busy enjoying the fruits of their labour. However, if there is a major economic downturn, then there is a search for scapegoats: people to blame.
There is more to employment than just acquiring an income. Employment is form a inclusion in society; unemployment is social exclusion. Employment is an entree into society. Social exclusion leads to despair and alienation. If people are excluded from society, then it is no wonder that they turn to violence.
There is no civil war in any country that has a high level of employment.
If work for all who need it is a basic feature of maintaining stability in a society at peace, then it must also be an objective for reconstructing a society after a conflict.
The challenge for all organizations involved in reconstruction projects (such as in Kosovo, East Timor and now Afghanistan) is that work for all who need it should be included as a major part of the reconstruction process.
After all, ex-fighters need to be given an incentive to help rebuild society. They have just had (for better or worse) a major status in their local community. Peace brings the risk of their losing that status – and the prospect of unemployment. Work will enable them to achieve social inclusion.
Local reconstruction programmes will also help ensure that money will be spent in the local community by the local former combatants. The money will not be siphoned off overseas by transnational corporations.
The experience in other conflicts is that once the fighting is over, so media and governments turn their attention elsewhere. We need to learn from previous errors and stay the course in helping people to rebuild their lives and Afghanistan. Providing employment opportunities will be a benchmark to see if the international community honours its commitment to the people of Afghanistan
Thus, the challenge for the international community in assisting the rebuilding of Afghanistan is to ensure that adequate attention is given to creating opportunities for employment. A great deal of money has been spent in fighting the conflict – now money needs to spent in building the peace.
BROADCAST ON FRIDAY 16TH NOVEMBER 2001 ON RADIO 2GB’S “BRIAN WILSHIRE PROGRAMME” AT 9 PM, AND ON 18TH NOVEMBER 2001 ON “SUNDAY NIGHT LIVE” AT 10.30 PM