UMCOR / Our Work / UMCOR Field Offices / NGO News / archives2006 / Afghanistan_7

Landmark constitution points Afghanistan towards greater stability

When Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, or grand assembly of constitutional delegates, approved the new Afghanistan constitution earlier this year, they called a new Islamic Republic of Afghanistan into being. They also overcame weeks of distrust and division, thereby binding together the nation's mosaic of ethnic groups. It's a historic achievement, a United Nations official told CNN, which ā€˛represents the determination of the Afghan people to see their country transition to a stable and democratic state." According to Warren Harrity, Head of Mission for UMCOR Afghanistan, "This was a great achievement. While the constitution may not please all parties, the great benefit of the process to the Afghan people is its completion in a transparent manner."

Afghanis now have the opportunity to choose their own public officials through elections, a landmark event for them because, as Mr Harrity stressed, "Afghanis have not experienced a national election since the 1960s and this is the first election in which women are eligible to vote". He pointed out that self-governance is an important foundation for the new constitution. "The Afghani people have been a society of the 'ruled,'" he commented, "whether through oppressive regimes or outsiders who have tried to conquer Afghanistan." A town-hall-like structure at the local level fits into the democratic process. Community leaders serving locally will now be officials selected by and accountable to the populace. The constitution replaces rule by force with rule of law. Over the past 24 years, rule by force has disrupted the lives of Afghanis who now yearn for peace. A modern police force and court system will provide additional protection that few Afghanis have experienced during their lifetime.

"People I have spoken to in Kabul are pleased by the new constitution and pleased with President Hamid Karzai," Mr Harrity said. "Their greatest hope and concern is that with a constitution in place and a legitimate government, Afghanistan will be viewed as a nation among nations and that they will have the support of friendly nations as they struggle through the reconstruction process."

UMCOR projects in Afghanistan focus on high-impact, transitional activities, such as temporary and permanent housing, school rehabilitation, agricultural programs, well reconstruction and small micro-credit loans to underwrite business start-ups. Beneficiaries are among the most vulnerable residents, such as widows and war-disabled.

Finding a productive place in society for former soldiers is also an initiative that, according to Mr. Harrity, "is among the most important components for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan." The program emphasises vocational training and income-producing opportunities. "We seek to assist the Afghan government in this effort," he stated.

Mr. Harrity has headed the Kabul office since August 2003 and expects to open several new offices in Afghanistan as UMCOR expands its levels of assistance there.