Afghanistan’s Bamyan province is best known for its ancient statues of Buddha, destroyed 15 years ago by the Taliban government. Today, its relative security and freezing winters are aiding the growth of a fledgling skiing industry. Mukhtar Yadgar explains how a radio station is helping local people discuss its potential for growth.
A five minute drive from the site where the ancient Buddhas of Bamyan once stood, a radio mast sprouts from the ground. It belongs to Radio Bamyan, a local radio station in one of Afghanistan’s most mountainous regions. It’s summer now and wisps of brown dust rise up with the heat, yet in the winter months, Radio Bamyan’s roof is covered with snow.
Bamyan’s frosty winter weather, steep slopes and relative security have popularised skiing in the province. However, there are no ski-lifts, no chalets and certainly no après-ski. In the absence of sporting infrastructure, it was recently announced that two skiers from Bamyan will be representing Afghanistan at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Bamyan is also the venue for the annual Afghan Ski Challenge – which counts ‘no weapons allowed’ amongst its rules. Yet despite these successes suggesting a potential new ski-tourism destination, most of the local population, a relatively poor community, has had little opportunity to discuss what the growth of the skiing industry would mean for them.
In their article “Aid for Peace,” Berman, Felter and Shapiro question some of the basic assumptions underpinning delivery of humanitarian development aid in zones of conflict and argue persuasively that small, targeted programs designed based on a deep contextual understanding of the drivers of a conflict produce better outcomes than programs aimed at spreading around as much cash as possible. As a development practitioner with experience in conflict-affected parts of Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Aceh, Indonesia, I ultimately agree with this conclusion and commend the authors’ innovative work through Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC). However, I would strongly caution against generalizing too broadly from the Philippines’ experience as to what constitutes “smart aid” in other conflict zones. It’s worth noting in particular that studies of community-driven development and conditional cash transfer programs implemented in other countries affect conflict outcomes in ways that are entirely at odds with the Philippines’ experience.
One of my favourite Oxfam programmes is called (rather arcanely) ‘Within and Without the State’(WWS). It is trying to build civil society and good governance in some pretty unpromising environments – Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan and OPTI (Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel).
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the experience of Rwanda, a post-conflict society that is using art as part of its national reconciliation effort. I argued that Rwanda’s active support of cultural industries, including film, music, crafts, architecture and theater, among other art forms, has played a key role in its peace building efforts in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide that killed nearly one million people. Using anecdotal evidence, I specifically examined the use of theater, which helped national audiences express difficult emotions, re-examine established ideas, and improve their emotional well-being. In this blog post, I will examine how the creative sector has helped facilitate national reconstruction efforts in another conflict zone: Afghanistan.
To begin with, it is important to note that every country’s experience in using art in their reconciliation process is different – anywhere from how their history of conflict influences their engagement to the state of cultural policies in countries. In Rwanda’s case, the government began working alongside international partners shortly after their civil war to establish a platform for the growth of creative industries. Through relatively peaceful periods, they were also able to create an enabling environment that sustained this growth. However, in the case of Afghanistan, the cycles of conflict have made the growth of the cultural policies all the more challenging. Despite difficulties, there are several interesting examples in Afghanistan of how a network of actors, including government, civil society, and international partners, has used art in its attempt to facilitate healing and rebuild national identity.
- South Asia
- Social Development
- Social Impact of Art
- Post-conflict Societies
- Post-Conflict Reconciliation
- peace building
- Cultural Policies and Development
- Creative Industries
- Creative Economies and Development
- Art and Post-Conflict Reconciliation
- Art and Peace
- Art and Healing
A newly released assessment of the Afghan media, conducted by Altai Consulting with funding from USAID, is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, its findings shed valuable light on the current state of Afghanistan's media, as well as Afghans' perceptions of the media. One of the more interesting findings is that many Afghans praise state-run network RTA, despite its government bias, partly because the privately run stations are considered too "uncontrolled." The study highlights the importance people accord to respect for local culture, as well as their distaste for divisive politics. Ultimately, though, the roles many Afghans want their media to play - watchdog, agenda-setter, and provider of relevant information (such as on national reconstruction) - coincide with the "ideal" roles of the media enumerated in the recent CommGAP-published edited volume Public Sentinel. An interesting case of academia and the real world meshing, ever so slightly.
This is an extended quote from the New York Times of February 19, 2010, from a story titled 'Afghan Push Went Beyond Traditional Military Goals':
"Before 10,000 troops marched through central Helmand Province to wrest control of a small Afghan town from a few hundred entrenched Taliban fighters, American officials did something more typical of political than military campaigns: they took some polls.
We are unstoppable when it comes to communicating. “Communicate” means “to share” and it comes as second nature (it’s socially addictive in fact). The 300 million of us blogging can rarely be silenced. A comment on a Minister’s blog can provoke a policy change. A micro-blog can influence a legal challenge (the Trafigura/Carter Ruck affair) or inspire masses (the Iranian elections were the top news story on Twitter last year). And a social network group like Facebook can undermine an X-Factor winner’s success (a winner ironically chosen by “the people” by telephone vote). It is the public, not governments that are beginning to drive change. But whether we like it or not it’s still mainstream media that is being listened to most – TV, radio and most powerful of all – the old fashioned newspaper read out loud. It’s more coherent, more organised, and usually better written than the complex voice of the masses. Big media still counts.
I have just returned from an exhausting but exhilarating week in Kabul, where I had a lively exchange with the Afghan journalists. The freedom that exists for the press in Afghanistan is largely thanks to an enlightened Deputy Minister who some years ago freely issued licenses. However, whilst the top end of the media market is slick and modern (if not occasion
For a few years now, I have been developing a theory of media reform in post-conflict environments. It is a reading of the facts, nothing grand. I want to trot it out and see how you react to it. My sense is that when a developing country succumbs to conflict and finds the will to come out of it, or the combatants are simply too exhausted to continue the quarrel, donors rush in to help put Humpty Dumpty back together again.