An Afghan-led, internationally supported reconciliation process can help to weaken the insurgency while fostering a sustainable peace. Under this priority, Canada established an objective which stated that, by 2011, we expected that national and provincial Afghan government initiatives would encourage political reconciliation and receive timely support from Canada.
Under this priority, Canadian support enabled the completion of the Afghanistan Government Media and Information Centres in Kabul and Kandahar, a 2011 target. The centres enable the Afghan government to communicate more effectively and transparently with its citizens by sharing information about national and provincial programs, policies and objectives for reconciliation.
Canada also encouraged the Government of Afghanistan to ensure that women were included and represented in peace and reconciliation processes. Marking International Women’s Day in 2010, for example, Canada and other donors issued a joint letter to the Government of Afghanistan that emphasized the importance of ensuring women’s participation and representation in reconciliation.
While the Government of Afghanistan has reiterated reconciliation as a key priority on many occasions and the process of political reconciliation with the insurgency remains nascent, some important steps have been taken.
At the January 2010 London Conference, reconciliation, along with the reintegration of insurgent fighters, was a dominant theme. The international community welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts to pursue initiatives in this area, including an announcement from President Karzai that a National Consultative Peace Jirga would be held in the spring of 2010. The Jirga generated a number of important recommendations, including the eventual establishment of a High Peace Council and the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program.
At the Kabul Conference held in July 2010, Canada joined the international community in endorsing the outcomes of the June 2010 Peace Jirga, including the planned establishment of a High Peace Council, and further endorsing, in principle, the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program. This Afghan initiative outlined a reintegration process inclusive of all Afghans, regardless of gender, ethnic group or political and tribal affiliation.
The High Peace Council became the lead Afghan authority in publicizing the reconciliation process, and subsequently conducted outreach on peace through meetings with leaders of Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional countries. Peace conferences were also held in the Kandahar, Nangarhar and Herat provinces of Afghanistan.
In 2011, the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan established a joint Peace Commission, which met three times at senior levels to find ways to improve dialogue between the two countries and advance peace efforts.
The September 2011 assassination of the leader of the High Peace Council is testimony to the violence that plagues the peace process in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the progress seen on peace in Afghanistan through 2010 and 2011 has created hope for those who courageously seek an end to so many years of conflict. However, a lasting peace will not be realized unless insurgents lay down their arms, renounce violence and accept the Constitution of Afghanistan. In addition, important achievements in the area of human rights must not be reversed, and Afghanistan must continue to evolve as a democracy that is inclusive of civil society, women and minorities.
Canada has advocated, and will continue to advocate, for broad, inclusive, Afghan-led efforts at reconciliation, including women’s rights.