About the Author: Jessica Simon serves as Deputy Communications Director in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, the international community is increasingly working at the provincial and district levels -- partnering with the Afghan government and local organizations on civilian initiatives -- such as building governance capacity and spurring economic development.
Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) play a critical role in this. As Senior Defense Advisor for the Office of the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Vikram Singh explains, "The PRTs have become the backbone of the international effort to get civilian assistance and help build the capabilities of the Afghan government out in the provinces and the in the district where the Afghan people really see their government and what their government does and what the international community does really affects their lives on a day to day basis."
Senior Governance Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dereck Hogan says, "These provincial reconstruction teams, as some people like to say, are sort of the soft power, and the maneuvering units, those who are actually involved in combat operations are the hard power, and when they are put together, you have smart power."
Government officials, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media representatives from coalition countries are meeting in Prague January 25-27 to look at ways the international community can improve coordination of these government capacity building and economic development initiatives through the PRT framework.
Senior Development Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Beth Gunford says, "Eighty percent of Afghans have their common needs dependent on agriculture, and that's why when looking to increase jobs and income for the Afghan people, we need to focus on agriculture."
The Czech government, U.S. Embassy Prague and the Afghan Embassy in Prague are co-hosting the three-day conference that will draw over 250 participants from over 46 countries.
U.S. Embassy Prague's Amy Carnie recalls her time serving with a PRT in Afghanistan. Amy says, "The [Afghan] women that I had worked with there, gave me a small, little token of appreciation that they had made together, and different women had embroided different fond wishes on it. It was a small, little symbol of thanks for the efforts we were making in their province, and a lovely sign of appreciation."
Watch more videos from the conference on U.S. Embassy Prague's YouTube Channel here.