South Asians for Human Rights and Afghan Women’s Education Center (AWEC) jointly organized a dialogue among the civil society representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India on 28 and 29 November 2016 in Kabul. The objective of the meeting was to identify the role of civil society groups particularly women’s groups in facilitating peace and security in Afghanistan and to formulate recommendations for a joint civil society initiative towards peace and cooperation in the region.
The delegation met with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, High Peace Council and other government personnel to discuss their recommendations. Upon completing the meetings the following declaration was released.
We, the civil society members from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, met in Kabul on 28-29th November 2016, to discuss means of facilitating peace and security in Afghanistan and formulate recommendations for a joint approach between civil society groups and others in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. We concluded a successful meeting with the following recommendations:
1. Continued Regional dialogue – We call on our governments to resume bi-lateral and multi-lateral talks at all levels: In addition to the regional dialogue through different official platforms like SAARC and Heart of Asia, it is essential to promote track two diplomacy despite the current challenges.
2. Afghan refugees in Pakistan – We urge the Pakistani government to look at the issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan on humanitarian grounds: They must be treated with respect and dignity and their security needs should be promptly fulfilled. We also recommend the need to revisit Pakistan’s policy on forced repatriation of Afghan refugees and facilitation of voluntary repatriation in order to take in the current relevant dimensions in planning and implementation.
3. Visa liberalisation – Over the past years visas for SAARC country nationals to visit the countries in the South Asian region have become more challenging due to the increased national security protocols. We call upon the SAARC governments to facilitate SAARC visas for civil society members from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and other SAARC country nationals, to facilitate connectivity and a people to people dialogue in the region.
4. Exchange programs – It is important to promote extensive involvement in strengthening exchange in sustainable development, enhancement in education and culture, promotion and protection of human rights, inclusive women’s development, promotion of incisive media across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
5. Countering violence incited by extremism – We urge the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to work with youth through education to counter violence instigated by extremism and radicalization.
6. Trade – We observe that the decline in inclusive dialogue has affected economic ties leading to increased suffering of Afghan people and their livelihoods. We call upon the governments of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to priorities and promote trade, which in turn will improve relations among these countries.