New research project aims to facilitate peace, reconciliation in Afghanistan

The need for a comprehensive regional approach to peacemaking in Afghanistan has been recognized by the Afghans themselves, by their neighbours and by the major powers involved, such as the U.S., China, Russia and India. Practical efforts are being undertaken by the countries of the region to help bring an end to the Afghan crisis, says York University Professor Sergei Plekhanov, co-organizer of an April symposium at the University of Ottawa that launched a new research project aimed at facilitating these efforts.

The project explores effective ways of leveraging Afghanistan’s unique geographic location and its relationships with its neighbours to achieve peace, reconciliation and recovery in the country that has been at war for four decades.

Left to right: Ahmad Zahir Faqiri (UBC), Elyas Irfani (Global Affairs Canada), Laura Grant (University of Ottawa), Mariam Safi (DROPS), Humayun Hamidzada (YCAR), Nipa Banerjee (CIPS, University of Ottawa), Sergei Plkhanov (Politics, YCAR), Richard Ponzio (Stimson Center), Aleksey Asiryan (Politics). Image: Humayun Hamidzada

Sponsored by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) in collaboration with the University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), the two-day event, “Seeking New Roads to Peace in Afghanistan: An Integrated National-Regional Approach,” involved 10 experts from York and the University of Ottawa, Global Affairs Canada, the University of British Columbia, a leading research centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.

“The symposium’s goals were to discuss the project’s conceptual approach, form the core group of participants, and plan for the next stage,” said Plekhanov, a professor of politics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and a faculty associate of YCAR.

The concept of an integrated national-regional approach was worked out by Plekhanov, Humayun Hamidzada (YCAR) and Nipa Banerjee (CIPS). At the symposium, the concept was tested through a review of Afghanistan’s relations with its neighbours and the effect of those relations on the domestic situation in the country.

The new study launched by YCAR and its associates addresses the need for an adequate conceptual framework that could make these efforts more effective.

“The discussions at the symposium were informed, intensive and productive. Most participants found the proposed approach promising and agreed to contribute their efforts to the project’s implementation,” said Plekhanov.

The project’s core group now represents four research centres: YCAR (South and Central Asia Project), CIPS, the Organization for Policy Research & Development Studies (DROPS, Kabul) and the Institute of Asian Research (Greater Central Asia Initiative).

A research report summarizing the deliberations at the symposium is currently under preparation and will be available on the project website in the fall.

The project’s next stage is focused on the preparation of applications for major grants.

“The new project extends the scope of YCAR’s activities to include research on regional issues at the intersection of South and Central Asia,” said Plekhanov.

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