Young Civil Society Leaders Bring Afghan Voices to European Audiences

Posted by Fleur S. Cowan
November 22, 2010
Italian Students Listen to Afghan Civil Society Leaders

About the Author: Fleur Cowan is the Deputy Cultural Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy.

U.S. Embassy Rome recently hosted three impressive civil society representatives who shared with the Italian public their personal experiences in building a new Afghanistan. Jawed Nader spoke about agriculture, Rahima Housaini discussed prison reform, and Wazir Ahmad Khorami addressed human rights. Though they represented three different fields, they all shared a common view: Things are much better in Afghanistan now than they were under the Taliban, and the support of the international community is vital.

Jawed, Rahima and Wazir thanked the Italians and spent their time in Italy meeting with a range of people, from politicians and journalists to students and development activists. The fresh perspective of the three young activists attracted broad media coverage and public interest.

While in Milan, the group visited the newsroom of Yalla Italia, the biggest Italian website and newsletter dedicated to Muslim Italians. On Yalla's site, the Afghans published an Op-Ed-style column to address development and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

At standing-room-only seminars, Jawed, Rahima and Wazir spoke to students at Rome's LUISS University and Catholic University in Milan. They discussed the role of civil society and the importance of protecting human rights. State-run TV TG1 -- which often garners an audience of 6.5 million -- covered the LUISS event, interviewing our Afghan guests and some of the Italian students as well. One young Italian expressed surprise in learning that "there is such an active civil society in Afghanistan…because the media doesn't talk about it and neither does the university." A second stated that “Afghanistan is doing a great deal to move forward, to recover, but it still needs international help.”

The three Afghan leaders also participated in roundtable discussions with representatives from Italian NGOs, met with members of the Afghan diaspora in Rome, and sat down with politicians from Italy's major center-left and center-right political parties. Representatives from both political parties expressed support for Italy's contribution to NATO, and invited Jawed, Rahima and Wazir to come back to Italy in the future to speak to European political youth groups.

The positive impact of Afghan voices speaking directly to the Italian public cannot be overstated. The Italian and European public need to hear directly from Afghan civil society leaders about why concrete support for the NATO mission must remain a priority. Jawed, Rahima and Wazir outlined extensive progress in their country, acknowledged that much work remains, and explained the need for continuing international support. They argued the cause with passion and credibility, as only three young Afghans who are rebuilding Afghanistan's society with their own hands could do.



Sandrine D.
November 23, 2010

DipNote Blogger Sandrine D'Hoedt at the U.S. Mission to the EU writes:

The U.S. Mission to the EU in Brussels invites you to see its recent video outreach that shed light on the challenges facing Afghan civil society as it struggles to ensure good governance and bring stability and development to the country:

Short clip (3 min) on Education: Focus on the Future - Education in Afghanistan

Long version (23 min): Faces of Afghanistan - beyond the Headlines

Photo credits: USAID Kabul, Afghanistan
Video editing: USEU Brussels, Office of Public Affairs

More information:
The U.S. Mission to the EU and the European Policy Centre (EPC) co-hosted the conference “Faces of Afghanistan: Beyond the Headlines,” which took place in Brussels on May 4, 2010.

As the title suggests, the aim of the conference was to focus beyond the security issues dominating the headlines. The conference explored the efforts and progress of Afghanistan’s vibrant and courageous civil society in three panels: Governance, Economy and Job Creation and Forces in Civil Society. Afghans spoke about their own key concerns and priorities and discussed the current struggle by civil society organizations in Afghanistan to ensure good governance, speed up economic development and contribute to peace and stability. The conference was streamed live using CO.NX which gave the opportunity to people from around the world to participate and ask questions.


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