In Afghanistan, Peace Is Possible, PN Member Jeffrey Donaldson Says

Jeffrey Donaldson
December 11, 2013

This was my second visit to Afghanistan with a strong team from the Causeway Institute and I was impressed by the desire that I found there to progress towards lasting peace and stability. From my many years of involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process, I know that peace-building is not easy,  It does take time and an enormous commitment by leaders. It is often messy, requiring innovative and creative thinking as well as compromise, but the challenges are not insurmountable. A sustainable peace is not about a single agreement or event; it is a process that takes time, patience and commitment.

Our conflict in Northern Ireland lasted for over 30 years. At many times it seemed that peace was an impossible dream.  However, we did not give up and we recognised that peace is possible if there is the desire and leadership needed to achieve it. In Afghanistan, I believe that both the necessary desire and leadership exists and that peace is possible.

To achieve a sustainable peace, it is essential to have an inclusive peace process. Personally, I lost family and friends killed in our conflict but I recognised that to achieve a lasting peace, I had to talk to the people responsible for those killings. To have excluded them from the peace process would have diminished the prospect of achieving that lasting peace. Creating trust is crucial to building peace. This must include a trust between the people and their leaders, giving the negotiators time and space to explore, sometimes in private dialogue, the potential to reach agreements.

However, it is not just the leaders and politicians who have a role in building peace. In a sense they are the peacemakers and they carry a huge responsibility, but we are all called to be peace-builders. This means that there is also a vital role for civil society in support of the peace process. Without the input of women, youth and minority groups, any progress is unlikely to be sustainable. Civil society played an important part in building peace from the ground up in Northern Ireland. They worked in local communities to create support for the peace process. In reality, peace is not just won at the negotiating table.  It has to be won in every family, village, town, city and province in Afghanistan. 

Of course it is not just inside Afghanistan where the peace process will be constructed. I recognise the importance of the regional and international influences. The ongoing improvement in the relationship with Pakistan is crucial to creating the right environment for a sustainable peace. As in Northern Ireland, the support of international partners such as the UK, United States and the European Union can also be beneficial in bringing an end to the conflict.

Our visit last week and the opportunities we have had to share our experience of peace-building is part of the UK's commitment to support the Afghan-led peace process. There is enormous goodwill in the international community to help in any way we can. However, it is the leaders and people of Afghanistan who in the end must win the peace.


PN member Jeffrey Donaldson MP is a member of the UK Parliament from Northern Ireland and is Chairman of the Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution. 


Photo by UNEP Disasters and Conflicts.

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