Civic Space in Crisis Polylateral Partnerships in times of a Pandemic

14.00-16.30, The Hague Time

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. Greetings from Kabul and good morning, good afternoon and good evening; depending on wherever you are.

I thank the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (CSPPS) for inviting me to this important conference to share perspective form the g7+ group. On behalf of the g7+ group and its leadership, I would like to extend our gratitude to the CSPPS for being a valuable partner to the cause of promoting peace and stability in conflict affected countries. It has played unique role in providing space for the voice of people from countries that are the farthest left behind.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

The entire world is caught up in a crisis that has had NO precedence in a century at least. No nation, whether rich or poor, strong or weak, big or small is immune to the impact of COVID-19. Yet each nation has varying potential to cope with its consequences. Despite being universal in nature, the pandemic has most severely hit fragile countries with its multiple impacts that might last even longer. Countries such as those in g7+ had already been grappling with the legacy of decades of conflict and wars that have made them fragile and vulnerable. They 2 are already home to the world’s majority of poorest whose prospect by 2030 seems even bleaker. Most of these countries had been at a critical juncture of their transition. But the outbreak of pandemic threatened to reverse the painstaking gains they could make in decades.

Given the fragile institutions, conflict affected countries such as Afghanistan and other g7+ countries have insufficient capacity and resources to meet the need of their people. Yet with meager resources and other challenges such as insecurity and institutional fragility, people and their Governments have demonstrated resilience in curbing the pandemic. While thanking development and humanitarian partners, we believe that solidarity and cooperation, which is at the core of the g7+ mission, has been key to containing the spread of virus. Of course I do not imply complacency here!

The globally adapted counter measures such as lock downs, closure of borders and businesses have had adverse and very different implications for the citizens and societies in fragile countries. With the unemployment already skyrocketed, millions of people are deprived of even the basic means of their livelihood. This has widened the gap between people and the state that could further undermine peace and stability.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

It is natural to demand and expect that crisis such as COVID-19 would induce people, societies and Nations to pursue peace and unity. With impartiality in affecting everyone, the virus would instill sympathy and humane solidarity. Therefore, the call for global ceasefire was the first collective reaction and demand of the people and Nations in g7+ group. It was included in the joint statement released by the group in May this year. In Afghanistan, people and Government unanimously have been calling for an urgent and full ceasefire. Unfortunately, this appeal has fallen on 3 deaf ears in Afghanistan where the insurgent groups have become even more violent. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have witnessed escalation in insurgency resulting in loss of precious lives. The daily incidents such as suicide attacks, blasts and lethal ambush by Taliban and other terrorist groups have traumatized people so much that they have forgotten if COVID19 exists.

Afghanistan is going through the most critical stage of its transition. With the anticipated withdrawal of the US army, the Afghan people and government are struggling to reserve the gains we have made with numerous sacrifices over the past nearly 2 decades. This includes, protecting democracy, women rights, and preserving the primacy of rule of law and constitutions. At the same time we have to contain the spread of virus and its associated impact whereas the increasing insurgency and violence is exhausting our resources that are already insufficient. While the Afghan nation and our fellow g7+ members are grateful to the generous support of our development partners, we cannot deny the longevity of the social and economic impact of these crises. While making and building peace maybe short to medium term endeavor, sustaining the same and pursuing stability can take even decades. During this spectrum of transition, the civil society has a crucial role. We believe polylateral partnership, founded on a united vision of peace and stability is indispensible.

Therefore, I would like to conclude with 3 concrete suggestions as food for thought on how to pursue a constructive partnership and unity to curb the pandemic and its impact in the world’s poorest countries.

First: The outbreak of pandemic and the counter measures that are often adopted without regards to specific context has created a divide within societies, nations and regions. In particular, it has challenged the pillars of social contract between the states and their societies. This is very peculiar in conflict- 4 affected societies that are already suffering from fragmentation. On a positive notion, dealing with this crisis is a unique opportunity for a constructive engagement between the government and the civil society. We have examples of the active role that tribal leaders and civil society organizations played during the outbreak of Ebola in western Africa. Therefore, we believe that civil society organizations can mobilize communities to cooperate with Governments and state institutions to curb the pandemic. This will further provide a room for strengthening the trust between people and the state. In particular, civil society organizations can help in mobilizing support for ceasefire and ultimately peace in conflict-affected countries. They can do so by engaging with the grass-root community leaders who can promote the cause of reconciliation and dialogue.

Second: Through a polylateral partnership, we need to promote the cause of reserving the gains made over the years. This is indeed pertinent to situations such as those in Afghanistan. Democracy, rule of law and institutors are precious public entity that takes tremendous efforts to pursue. Community leaders, civil society organizations are uniquely placed to raise their voice in this regard.

Third and last: However fragile our countries are, there are useful lessons in their trajectories that can be promoted. The g7+ group under the auspices of south-south cooperation has established fragile to fragile cooperation. So far it has mainly engaged in Government-to-Government exchange. However, organizations such as CSPPS can facilitate sharing of experiences through peopleto-people exchange. The g7+ which is an inter-governmental organization, can help in providing the platform for such an interaction. Of course each country and its transition is unique, but such exchange can help in inspiring nations and communities.

I thank you all for your attention.