Green dialogs: Promoting peace through equitable resource management

The relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is still fragile. Our project “Regional Civil Society Engagement in Green Dialogs” seeks to shift the discussion from its primer focus on security aspects to shared interests by managing natural resources equitably.

Since its formation in 2014 the National Unity Government of Afghanistan has in different occasions, expressed its commitment to share the benefits of Afghanistan’s geographic centrality through regional cooperation - particularly economic integration - with its neighbors and countries beyond the immediate neighborhood. Being located in the heart of Asia and adjoined to the historical route of the silk road the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan becomes a crucial determinant for regional management of natural resources.

Yet, as recent developments and statements from both governments show, the relationship is still fragile and practical steps for reaching a lasting peace can be shattered in seconds. Considering the sensitive political relation between Afghanistan and Pakistan the hbs project “Regional Civil Society Engagement in Green Dialogs” seeks to shift the discussion from its primer focus on security aspects to shared interests and mutual benefits by managing natural resources equitably. Regional dialogs and cooperation on equitable resource management will not only build confidence on a regional level but will also create the space for raising of joint interests and mutual contributions to a peaceful , stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

While the discussion on shared resource management, i.e. the TAPI pipeline or the CASA 1000 projects, is a highly technical subject, it is also a highly sensitive social and political subject. Regional resource management, developing of standard procedures and negotiation of treaties often touching upon national security interests are generally been dealt with by representatives of the respective governments. Civil Society actors of both countries, not to mention affected communities who are at the core of the negotiated sphere are left out in these negotiations.

However, an inclusive development and participatory decision making processes play a central role in reducing conflicts and establishing peace. Against this backdrop, Heinrich Böll Stiftung (hbs) envisaged as part of its three-year strategic work in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2015-2017) to focus on peace building aspects of equitable natural resource management, featuring the engagement of civil society actors in these processes.

The three-year hbs project aims to engage national and regional civil society actors from both countries in confidence building dialogs, focusing on common interests for regional cooperation and social and economic stability.

As a kick-off event, the Regional Conference on “Regional Civil Society Engagement in Green Dialogs: Promoting Peace and Stability through Equitable Resource Management” aimed to establish a platform for exchange and bring forward knowledge generation on peace building instruments with focus on the equitable and sustainable use of natural resources, especially water and energy. It also attempts to raise awareness, identify stakeholders and explore common interests and strategies for engagement of both countries in a stable cooperation. Hbs invited representatives of Government and civil society from Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss the significance of inclusively planned cross-border projects which can elaborate peaceful utilization of shared water resources and its positive impact on peace and stability of the region in the decade to come.

This article was originally published by our office in Afghanistan.