|Last update: 15-Nov-2006 15:59||NATO Update|
NATO-Afghan student forum forges bonds
A NATO-Afghan Student Forum, held at NATO HQ, 21-23 September, helped to bridge the gap between Afghanistan and NATO countries by giving students a chance to hear from each about the situation on the ground.
Ten Afghan and thirty students from NATO countries met to exchange perspectives about the roles that their countrymen and women – from both Afghanistan and NATO countries – are playing to support security and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
The gathering provided a rare chance for youth from NATO countries to hear about the political and security situation in Afghanistan from those whose lives are directly affected by it. While many European and North American students learn about security as part of their studies, hearing about it from their Afghan counterparts had special resonance.
“Security,” said Mamoon from Kabul, “means going to school or from one city to another without any fear of bomb or suicide attack, having your house or land without the fear of a warlord to take it from you by force, women feeling secure going to school.”
Students met with senior NATO policy makers and officials. They heard about the objectives of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. "I learnt the reality about NATO. There is a huge difference between what I thought of NATO before and after the conference," said Sabir from Afghanistan.
They were also able to express their thoughts on the international community’s involvement in Afghanistan. One participant, Bari, recalled Afghanistan prior to the fall of the Taliban. “A country where human dignity was entirely trampled and a country where soccer stadiums became killing fields for women guilty only of asking their rights. Today,” he said, “Afghanistan has a democratic constitution, a legitimate elected government, an emerging free economy, and a growing, multi-ethnic army.”
There was general agreement that, although there is still a long and difficult road ahead, the future of Afghanistan today is brighter than it was five years ago.
The forum gave students the opportunity to forge bonds with people from a world which is far away from their everyday lives. "What stroke me most during these three days is how similar we are. We are all simply young people,” Inga from Germany said.
The programme included interactive discussion among the students, "It made a big impression on me to see that the European students were so eager to learn about Afghanistan," said Mansour.
The highlight of the meeting was an Afghan cultural event with traditional Afghan music and food.
In light of the increased frequency of attacks in southern Afghanistan, which affects both NATO forces and Afghan civilians, the mutual understanding cultivated by the NATO-Afghan Student Forum takes on greater significance. “Terrorism no longer rules Afghanistan, but it continues to be a threat to our people’s security and welfare,” said Bari, before concluding, “a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is not only a benefit for the Afghans; it is for all of us.”
NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division hosted its first NATO-Afghan Student Forum from 21 to 23 September 2006 at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.