Strengthening civil society’s role in provincial decision-making and development was the aim of a UNAMA-supported dialogue in northern Balkh province yesterday.
Nearly 50 participants from civil society and local government attended the event in the provincial capital, Mazar-e-Sharif, including Provincial Council chair, Afzal Hadid, heads of eight line departments and a representative of the governor’s office, along with 15 civil society groups covering areas such as human rights, women’s rights, anti-corruption and peace-building. The dialogue provided an opportunity for an open exchange on improving access to information, transparency and accountability on the part of the government, along with ways for voices of the public to be heard. Mr. Hadid said that a proactive civil society represented the best of society and provided a good way to observe the activities of government and improve government performance. Hayatullah Jawad, a member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Mazar, emphasized public cooperation with government. “The responsibilities are not one sided -- civil society have just as many obligations and responsibilities as the government,” said Mr. Jawad. Abdul Hamid Safowat, head of Civil Society Network in Balkh, said civil society could help to mediate disputes and contribute to public order. He pointed to an example where civil organizations had successfully mediated between two groups of demonstrators to prevent a violent outcome. Zabiullah Akhtari, head of sectorial services in the governor’s office, welcomed the dialogue: “I thank UNAMA for launching such fruitful discussions where we as government see our image in society more clearly and this helps us to improve.”
Balkh province -- which shares an international border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan -- is characterized by relatively good levels of security, which contributes to the functioning of local government and public services. UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.