As the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha continue to seek a political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan, the academic community gathered online in a three-day joint-conference between the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) and the Arab Center (Washington, DC) starting on 21 June, 2021, to discuss the scholarly debates over questions of peace, development, and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The first day saw H.E. Dr Mutlaq Al Qahtani, Special Envoy of Qatar for Counterterrorism and Mediation, deliver an Opening Speech on peacebuilding and the challenges of political settlements and formal negotiations as well as Qatar's neutral role as a mediator in the Afghan peace process. Leading experts focused their interventions on the complexities within the peace process, and regional policies towards Afghanistan.
On the second day, His Excellency, Dr. Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and previously an established international expert of peacebuilding, delivered the Distinguished Keynote Address. It focused on the transition Afghanistan is undergoing, the role of academia and its moral and ethical responsibility, collective international and regional interest, and the Strategic shift the whole world is undergoing.
On the 23rd June, leading experts joined in for the concluding sessions of the conference in which they discussed inclusivity in the peace process, and on refugee return, rehabilitation and repatriation. This day also hosted the Negotiator for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H.E. Fatima Gailani for an Opening Speech.
In her speech, Ms. Gailani pointed to the important role that academia plays in the preservation of the historical memory of the conflict and war in Afghanistan. With regards to this, she said "Afghanistan cannot afford to repeat the same mistake… History must not repeat itself". Speaking about women's rights, she indicated that times have changed and what women may have previously accepted, they now do not. With that, she continued by making clear the rights of minorities are parallel to the rights of women.
Making clear that peace is important because war is not an option, H.E. stated that international and regional powers must do everything in their power to help push the political peace process forward. Similarly, she said, "peace is not the absence of war but the inclusion of all women and minorities". Speaking on what the international community can do before the withdrawal of international forces, Ms. Gailani advised that all actors be on the same page and to talk to each other honestly while listening to Afghans to see how they want to move forward. With dialogue, a middle ground with the Taliban can be reached which is indicated with the disseminations that come from their headquarters regarding the development of their views on women, said Fatima Gailani.
Concerning the development and implementation of peace, H.E. stated, "when I wake up in the morning and I see someone, I say assalam alaikum, so let's bring peace for God's sake' - an important message that struck through with the panellists.