Afghanistan’s most valuable resource: Young Leaders with fresh ideas

Through trainings and active engagement with decision-makers and local audiences, FES Young Leaders developed recommendations for progress in multiple policy fields.

About two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 25. And yet, young people are rarely actively involved in decision-making on policy making in areas of key importance for their future. To ensure that young and new ideas can become a meaningful part of the political debate, FES Afghanistan and its partners provided the members of the 2020/21 cohort of the Young Leaders Forum (YLF) with an in-depth analysis and writing training and a platform for communicating their own ideas to decision-makers and a wider Afghan and international audience.

In cooperation with the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS), FES organized a YLF training on policy analysis and writing from September to November 2020. The YLFees represent the next generation of Afghan entrepreneurs, civil society activists, academics, and government officials. The course, led by YLF-alumnus and Deputy Director of DROPS Bismellah Alizada, introduced the fundamentals of policy analysis and enhanced participants’ capacities in policymaking, communication, and implementation. It further equipped participants with the required analytical tools and highlighted gender relations as a cross-cutting theme.

The workshop included theoretical and practical phases. Trainees learned about policy development and how to connect theory with practice by developing their policy briefs. In their articles, which were published on the FES Kabul website as well as in Dari in Afghanistan Today and Etilatrooz, the YLFees addressed political and societal issues of great importance and developed constructive recommendations for the way forward. At the end of the training, the YLFees used the chance to communicate their ideas in conversations with high-level stakeholders such as the German Ambassador to Kabul, Mr. Axel Zeidler, at the Ministry of Finance or in a meeting with Afghanistan’s First Lady.

New ideas for a way forward – YLF Policy Briefs


Addressing environmental and health hazards

Afghanistan’s capital Kabul ranks among the most polluted cities worldwide. Hence, Irfanullah Shinwary suggests in his article on Afghanistan’s Struggle with Air Pollution to install filters to eliminate air pollution in heavily populated buildings. He also believes that awareness-raising about the air pollutant materials through media, social media, and other networks can be significantly efficient. Sayed Mujatab Hashimi emphasized in his article Kabul Seasonal Air Pollution: Change Comes with Awareness that in addition to informing people about the causes and effects of air pollution, providing clear and transparent guidelines is essential to combat this crisis. Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic as a major hazard for Afghans since 2020, Edris Tawakol took a look at Measures against COVID-19 at the Workplace, and stated that also individual practice, like keeping social distance and taking medical instructions seriously, can help to protect each other.


Protecting Women and Children

Enhancing and improving education and employment opportunities, especially for women and girls, was seen as key by several authors. In her policy brief Changing the Face of Child Labor in Afghanistan, Masiha Sherzad argues for greater governmental efforts to mitigate a practice harmful to the youngest members of society. It is also essential to raise awareness among parents and families. Underlining the need to Reduce school dropout rates among Afghan Girls, Angela Ahmadi recommends authorities to make education compulsory until high school and work on eliminating child marriage. Fariba Nazari, who wrote on The Impact of the Elimination of Violence against Women Law in Afghanistan, also believes that awareness-raising in rural and urban areas can be helpful to incrementally change perceptions and practices. The law must become part of the education system and other educational platforms in Afghanistan.


Reconciliation through Education

Arguing that the current education system is not encouraging tolerance and nation-building in war-affected communities, Sharif Safi sees a need for Reforming the education system, a must for nation-building in Afghanistan. He recommends that a team of education experts, anthropologists, and sociologists should revise Afghanistan’s current education system and school curriculum. In a similar vein, Bahara Hussaini wondered Why Do Afghans Prefer Traditional-Based Dispute Resolution Mechanisms to Solve Their Conflicts? In her brief, she recommends further capacity-building and awareness-raising for traditional decision-makers at Jirgas to solve conflicts in just and peaceful ways. Looking at conflict resolution at the national level,  Basira Paigham argues in favor of Gender Equality in the Intra-Afghan Peace Agreement and recommended to increase female participation and presence in the republic’s negotiation team.

Opportunities for Everyone

Youth and Women often find themselves marginalized and their potential untapped. In his policy brief on Afghan Youth: Governance and Socio-Political Participation, Abdul Jamil hence recommends establishing district youth councils and linking them to the provincial councils and Parliament at the local and national levels to improve Afghan Youth’s presence in politics and state entities. In the economic area, Employment Discrimination in Afghanistan remains a key challenge for youth seeking opportunities. Sonia Azatyar recommends that the government should ensure that investments in development, infrastructure, job creation, education, and health systems are balanced and fair. Especially vulnerable groups should be prioritized to tackle employment discrimination in the long term. Closely tied to this issue, Mahdi Surosh reflects on Combating Corruption: Ending the Culture of Impunity. According to him, the government should demonstrate its strong will to prosecute also high-level corruption cases. This should be underlined by developing and implementing a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy.


Enhancing economic activity

Sona Mahmody, arguing for greater Women’s Economic Empowerment in Afghanistan, recommends that the government should facilitate the development of micro & small enterprises to promote economic opportunities for rural women. It should also support income-generating activities and startups and facilitate their registration in the Afghan business registry system. How to overcome the Challenges Faced by Startups in Afghanistan? In his brief, Nazeer Rasouli suggests that the government should accelerate the license registration process and simplify the taxation process for startups. In his article on Digital Services Taxation in Afghanistan, Ali Reza Hussaini recommends that the government should develop and enforce regulations for digital services and social media influencers in Afghanistan.


Security through connectivity and partnerships

The upcoming US and NATO troops withdrawal from Afghanistan raises questions about the country’s future international relations. In her article on Afghanistan’s Integration into the Belt and Road Initiative, Fatima Airan recommends Kabul to prioritize constructing internal infrastructure and to resume the halted projects signed between the governments of Afghanistan and China, if it wants to fully integrate into the BRI. Mansoor Ishaqzoi recommends the inclusion of the debate on The (legal) future of NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan in the wider peace negotiations with the Taliban. The Afghan government should try to convince the Taliban to maintain military cooperation with the West even in a post-settlement scenario.


Dr. Magdalena Kirchner is the Director of the FES Afghanistan Office.

Omulbanin Paigeer is a Project Coordinator at the FES Afghanistan Office.

For more information on the work by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Afghanistan, contact the FES Afghanistan office, visit their website or follow their official Facebook or Twitter for regular updates.

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