Good afternoon friends!
Lots of excitement at USIP this past week. I finished my secondary revision of the Afghanistan Digital Library of resources on the INPROL website. We are currently at approximately 450 resources for our members to reference! I intend to add more over the course of my last 2 weeks as well. I've become familiar with some great international rule of law organizations, institutions, scholars, and practitioners.
We had a great event at the Institute, where 2 of our experts presented their jointly written report "Women's Access to Justice in Afghanistan." The report draws on interviews and focus group discussions held in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012 to determine answers to questions of women's rights and access to justice since the fall of the Taliban in 2002 and to recommend ways forward. Erica and Tim shared that their research detected cultural normative, consequential, and language barriers to Afghan women accessing justice. Some examples of these barriers women may face if seeking justice include: community rights trump individual ones (cultural normative), expulsion from the family and community (consequential), and no justice institutions or assistance in the local language (language). Moreover, even if access became available, that did not necessarily translate to use. Based upon the findings of this report, USIP is currently managing 5 pilot projects in 6 provinces throughout Afghanistan trying to improve and foster women's rights and access to justice. These projects span the following themes: paralegal assistance, pyschosocial counseling, community legal education, mobile health clinics, and social work services. As American and international funding decrease in 2014, many are concerned that the small yet significant progress women's rights has achieved will evaporate; however, with greater consideration of community contexts, international development workers can help ensure the gains are preserved and expanded in the future. Some questions that immediately came to mind for me when I first considered this topic are: (1) what obstacles can be addressed simultaneously in a multi-facted approach to development versus those that must be tackled in a particular chronological order in order to be effective and sustainable; and (2) how do we account for the potential for this access to justice work to be a means of imposing different cultural normative standards, which we may not have a right to do. I highly encourage you to read the full report, link below.
I also went to an event about Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's legacy as he is close to transitioning power to the next Afghan President in August. President Karzai has been presiding over Afghanistan for a critical 12 years and there is a wealth of opinions about his leadership. Panelists and participants pondered as President Karzai prepares to step down from power, what sort of country is he handing over to his successor? What obstacles did he face when he took over Afghanistan in 2001, and how did he overcome them? The speakers were Gen. John Allen (Ret.) (Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution; Former Commander of NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan); Ambassador Kai Eide (PRIO Visiting Fellow, Brookings Institution; Former United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan); and Mujib Mashal (Afghan Journalist; Author of “After Karzai” in The Atlantic). The moderator was Scott Smith (Director, Afghanistan & Central Asia Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace). I heard the following comments, which I won't directly attribute to any individual. President Karzai may be understandably antagonistic towards the United States based on reasonably perceived hypocritical actions and strategies. Karzai was a consensus builder and truly authentic Afghan leader, who considering the circumstances of the government and country he was tasked with leading, did well to unify and inspire Afghans. Karzai is a self-proclaimed pacifist, who intentionally never assumed his position of Commander in Chief. He personalized politics and interfered with local governance, successfully building allegiances and partnerships. While now, Karzai may be seen resentfully by the U.S. administration as an ungrateful friend, many believe history will remember him in a far better light for his term and accomplishments as President of Afghanistan. I encourage you all to further investigate his tenure from a variety of sources, read the USIP report on the event, and view the footage, links below.
Outside of work, we had a wonderful friends dinner party this past week at my house. I also got to visit with 2 of my aunts who are in the U.S. visiting from abroad. It is a sweet treat for me to ever be with extended family so I really enjoyed the quality time I shared with them.
Until next time!