Skip to content

Changing the message: improving the prospects for conflict resolution in Afghanistan

January 21, 2015

Summary: Peace talks have made little headway towards conflict resolution in Afghanistan and the negative media environment is undermining these prospects by creating distrust, disinformation and hostility. Somewhere between the poisonous and damaging propaganda war and credible political dialogue there is an unexplored area of communication and information dissemination for the international community to investigate in order to make talks more effective when they do take place.

Taliban and Afghan government at the same table, Kyoto 2012

Taliban and Afghan government at the same table, Kyoto 2012

I have just finished a paper for FOI, the Swedish Defence Ministry’s Research Agency. It explores ways in which a better media environment for dialogue with the Taliban might be created. It was based on initial ideas I had in a short paper I produced while in Kabul in 2011.  It was my intention that these ideas might be applicable to other conflict areas as well.  The abstract is here and you can order copies from FOI here.  I shall sketch out some of the main ideas in a little more detail in a subsequent post, but please feel free to drop me a line if you would like to hear a little more about the paper.

A Taliban-led insurgency has grown in strength and confidence from faltering beginnings after the Taliban regime was ejected in late 2001. International efforts to achieve military victory have failed and opposition groups under the Taliban umbrella remain in the field. With the withdrawal of international military forces now well underway and the conflict largely unresolved, there is a high risk of the civil war intensifying in the years to come. Peace talks have made little headway towards conflict resolution and the prospects for a political settlement continue to look distant – with neither side fully ready. The negative environment in media and other public information sources – communications, claims, announcements and propaganda – is significantly undermining the prospects for peace talks and reconciliation by creating distrust, disinformation and hostility. For talks to work, this messaging environment needs to be changed in order to transform the conflict. Somewhere between the poisonous and damaging propaganda war and credible political dialogue there is an unexplored area of communication and information dissemination for the international community to investigate. It involves engaging with the opposition groups, including the Taliban, on political, social and economic themes that might guide, shape, coax and encourage them to engage more constructively. Understanding what the various military and political groups want remains difficult and their communications hard to understand. But there are indicators of “reach out” on occasion and these should be engaged with intelligently and proactively by, for example, the United Nations, but also other neutral organisations. A combination of non-confrontational messages and confidence building measures suggested in this report are intended to act, not as talks in their own right, but as a precursor to talks, to make talks more effective – and sustainable – when they do take place. Public, intelligent and sensitive discourse with the armed opposition groups should aim to guide them away from the language and deeds of violence and to engage more on political, social and economic issues.

Advertisements
5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2015 9:51 am

    Tim, The link to the FOI document didn’t work for me. I’ll get it at FOI when I go to the next presentation of the UI.

  2. January 28, 2015 10:34 pm

    Hi Ron, thanks. Did you get any luck with the physical copy of it? Can send you an email verison if that would be of interest…? Cheers, Tim (Did you get to the UI Russia presentation last week?)

    • January 29, 2015 6:03 am

      I was in the countryside last week, “retreating” for reading, writing, thinking. Please send me an email version. and thanks.

  3. Rachel Gardner permalink
    February 20, 2015 6:46 pm

    Hi, could I please have an email version of this paper? The link leads no where. Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. Just don’t call it talks… | afghanhindsight

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: