Top professors and Afghan students gathered at the University of Ottawa on January 10-11 for two roundtables to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. This event was organized with an official from the European Parliament (EP) to seek out Canadian expertise on this topic.
The first roundtable focused mainly on regional security issues and what to do when ISAF forces begin to withdraw in 2013-2014. It consisted of Canadian security policy, political science, international relations and development policy experts, including uOttawa professors Roland Paris, Nipa Banerjee and Peter Jones, as well as Mark Sedra from the University of Waterloo. The panellists engaged in a candid discussion with an assistant to a member of the EP on security sector reform in Afghanistan, the European Union's role as a donor and other topics pertaining to the role of the EU in Afghanistan.
The second discussion was on the topic of women's rights and governance. It was attended by uOttawa Afghan students with wide-ranging experience in Afghanistan, from civil society to government. The roundtable was lively and provided a great deal of instructive discussion. The panellists in the second roundtable were able to reach consensus on the following:
- Failures in the area of women's rights are the result of a poor application of existing laws, lack of access to justice, economic disempowerment and societal attitudes.
- Budgetary resources should be funnelled into justice and economic opportunity for women instead of into Western NGOs focused on awareness.
- PRTs and NGOs in Afghanistan are not necessarily useful. Western donors should be focus on donating money to the Afghan government.
- Conditionality of aid is necessary, with a set of targets by donors for the Afghan government to reach.
- A plan resembling the Marshall Plan should be implemented for Afghan women's advancement.
- Aspects for socio-economic development include the need for better engagement with tribal leaders, more access to education for women, availability of micro financing for economic empowerment and dealing with the tribal instability in Pakistan.
Brodie Houlette, the EP official who presided over these discussions, hopes to invite uOttawa experts to the European Parliament this spring to address these issues and the role Europe can play in Afghanistan.