Foreign Ministers Conference and the inclusion of the Afghan civil society

The Afghanistan activities and the Civil Society Forum (2./3. December in Bonn)

October 6, 2011
On December 5, 2011 in Bonn an international Foreign Ministers Conference on Afghanistan will take place – nearly exactly to the day ten years after the Petersberg Conference on Af-ghanistan. Afghanistan is chairing this year’s Foreign Ministers Conference, Germany is the host.

Also representatives of the Afghan civil society will ask to speak with their own political pro-posals regarding Afghanistan’s future. They will also come together for a conference in Bonn, the Civil Society Forum of Afghanistan that will take place on December 2nd and 3rd. They will use the world public to express their expectations regarding the Foreign Ministers Conference and to present recommendations for Afghanistan’s political future.
The Civil Society Forum Afghanistan planned in Bonn is preceded by an intensive advice und consultation process. Under the overall control of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) most diverse civil society protagonists of Afghanistan meet in order to work out their positions for the Foreign Ministers Conference. What is more, the goal of the Afghan consultation process is:

  • to elect a group of 34 delegates that will travel to the Civil Society Forum in Bonn at the beginning of December;
  • apart from that to appoint two representatives from their circle who will participate in the official Foreign Ministers Conference and will introduce the positions of the Afghan civil society.

In this process, Afghanistan’s civil society representatives will be accompanied and supported by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Heinrich Böll Foundation as well as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. In this Afghan process the German political foundations act as advisors and form a bridge between the Afghan and the German as well as the international public. What is more, they provide organisational and logistic assistance and ensure an exchange of information and transparency with the official Foreign Ministers Conference.

The matter – the Afghan civil society with voice and weight in Bonn

It is the aim of the Conference of Foreign Ministers taking place under Afghan chair to put the further process of the „Handing-over into responsibility“ in concrete terms. According to the Federal German government, three subject areas will determine the character of the conference:

  1. the civil aspects of the transition for the phase until 2014 (balancing and conclusion);
  2. the long-term commitment of the international community in Afghanistan and her region after 2014 and
  3. the political process in Afghanistan and in the region, whereas the national dimension of this process (especially the reconciliation process aspired to) is considered as an internal Afghan matter.

All subject areas quite essentially concern the interests of the whole Afghan population, i.e. also those of the non-governmental protagonists in Afghanistan. Therefore the Federal German government has agreed with the Afghan government also on the opportunities for a participation of representatives of the Afghan civil society in advance and during the Conference of Foreign Ministers.

The Afghan Civil society shall receive a public platform for its political concerns. The direct participation of two elected representatives of the Afghan civil society in the international Foreign Ministers Conference shall guarantee that the political demands of the Afghan civil society will get a response at the official conference.

Therefore the Federal German government requested the German political foundations which are working in Afghanistan to initiate this process and to adopt a bridge function in the inclusion of the Afghan civil society. This is a complex process. Various aspects are of central importance for the involved foundations in order to achieve the named aims and to help the Civil Society Forum on the road to success. They include:

  • The Afghanistan activities are performed responsibly by Afghan organisations. The role of the political foundations is exclusively that of a facilitator. The formulation of the topics, the phrasing of the policy proposal as well as the selection of the participants travelling to Bonn are solely in the responsibility of the Afghan side.
  • The political foundations support a representative participation of women. However, of course the decision will be made on the spot by the involved Afghan protagonists.
  • The aim is an inclusion of Afghan NGOs that is as wide as possible. In this connection, there is no claim for completeness made at all. The participating protagonists are representatives of the civil society, but not „the“ civil society of Afghanistan.
  • The addressee of the policy proposals is the Afghan government. The international community can only be an indirect addressee. This is corresponding with the claim of „Handingover into responsibility“.
  • The Forum explicitly does not serve the purpose to provide German or international NGOs with a platform to articulate their own positions.

The process towards the inclusion of the Afghan civil society

The process towards the inclusion of the Afghan civil society is divided into two phases. In the first phase the so-called Afghanistan activities take place in Afghanistan. This includes a consultation and agreement process of most diverse representatives of the Afghan civil society. One challenge of this phase is to shape the process as inclusive as possible. It is the responsibility on the spot to determine the participation in this process by own criteria. The aim is to work out policy proposals for the Foreign Ministers Conference and beyond and to present them in advance and on the occasion of the Foreign Ministers Conference in Bonn to the Foreign Ministers and the world public.

However, the overall control of the Afghanistan activities is with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).She coordinates the opinion-forming of the civil society inside Afghanistan and endeavours to achieve an inclusion of Afghan NGOs that is as wide as possible. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Heinrich Böll Foundation together with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation accompany the activities in Afghanistan themselves. After the Afghanistan activities will be completed at the end of October 2011, a group of representatives of the Afghan civil society will have been fixed that will participate in the Civil Society Forum in Bonn. The selection is in the responsibility of the Afghan NGO representatives themselves.

In a second phase after the Afghanistan activities the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in close agreement and cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom will organise the Civil Society Forum related with the Foreign Ministers Conference where the worked-out policy proposals will be presented. The policy proposals are primarily directed at the Afghan government and the international public. So, the representatives shall also be given the opportunity to meet Afghan, German and international politicians, international non-governmental organisations as well as to use the media.
Moreover, in order to be able to communicate the contents of the policy proposals among the wide circle of the present Foreign Ministers, the group will nominate two personalities from their ranks who will participate on their behalf in the international Foreign Ministers Conference on December 5th in order to present the collected policy proposals of the representatives of the Afghan civil society there.

After the conference is before the conference

The involved political foundations will continue to support the initiated process of the crosslinking of the Afghan Civil society on the spot also after the end of the Bonn Conference of Foreign Ministers. It is of central importance that the political participation of the Afghan civil society will be supported not only occasion-related but on a long-term basis because it can make a decisive contribution to the democratic and peaceful development of Afghanistan.