Over the past few months, as highlighted by a conference on Afghanistan held in London on January 28, 2010, signs have emerged of a concerted and comprehensive effort to engage elements of the insurgency in negotiations, reconciliation and reintegration. In early May, the Afghan government will host a Peace Jirga to build support for their plans to negotiate with insurgent leaders.
Since the fall of the Taliban, many principles of justice and equality have been enshrined into Afghanistan's basic legal framework, even if they have often not been implemented.
What are the implications of a peace deal with a movement previously known for oppressing women, ethnic and religious minorities? Will protection of rights be weakened on paper or in practice? Will a proposed blanket amnesty attempt to exclude prosecution of war crimes? How will these issues play out in a national (and international) discussion about the parameters of a peace deal and will all perspectives be sufficiently represented in the process?
Noah Coburn is a traditional justice specialist for USIP in Kabul, who works with USIP's Afghan partners to implement pilot programs that examine the relationship between the formal and informal justice sectors throughout Afghanistan. Coburn has a PhD in anthropology from Boston University where he focused on local political structures and violence in Afghanistan. From 2006-2008 he spent 18 months doing ethnographic research in the Shomali Plain, tracing the way disputes were resolved, the struggle for political and economic resources and the relationship between the state and local political networks. His dissertation, "Potters and Warlords in an Afghan Bazaar: Political Mobilization, Masterly Inactivity and Violence in Post-Taliban Afghanistan," looks at how the local political landscape shapes violence.
Since first coming to Afghanistan in 2005, Coburn has also conducted research for the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit on elections and popular perceptions of the state, and collected oral histories for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
Additionally Coburn has done work for nongovernmental organizations in Honduras, Afghanistan, Romania and the Republic of Georgia. Coburn holds a B.A. from Williams College and an M.A. in regional studies from Columbia University.
Ahmad Nader Nadery is a Commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. He represented Afghan Civil Society at the UN peace talks for Afghanistan in the Bonn Conference 2001. Mr. Nadery works also as the Chairperson of Fair and Free Election Foundation of Afghanistan, he is a member of advisory board to Open Society Institute (OSI) Afghanistan programs.
He has written extensively on politics and human rights in Afghanistan and is a member of Board of Editors of the Oxford Journal on Transitional Justice. He served as Spokesperson for the national grand assembly (Loya Jerga) in 2002. Prior to his appointment at the AIHRC he worked as country director for the international human rights law group (Global Rights).
Mr. Nadery won several international awards and was recognized as an "Asian Hero" by Time Magazine in 2004. He was also a 21 Young Asia Leader's fellow with the Asia Society and is a member of it's international council . The World Economic Forum recognized Mr. Nadery as Young Global Leader (YGL) in 2008.
He studied law and political sciences at the Kabul University and earned his masters degree on International Affairs from George Washington University.
Anthony Richter is the associate director of the Open Society Institute, and director of the OSI Central Eurasia Project and Middle East & North Africa Initiative.
Richter is chairman of the governing board of the Revenue Watch Institute and serves on the board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the World Policy Journal, and other publications. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He received a BA, with high honors, from Wesleyan University and an MA in Slavic languages and literatures from Columbia University. He speaks Russian, French, and Persian.
Farishta Sakhi is a Board Member of the Women's Activities and Social Services Association.
Michael Semple is a regional specialist on Afghanistan and Pakistan with 25 years experience in the two countries. He currently holds a fellowship with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School.
As a political officer with the United Nations he contributed to the building up of the post-2001 Afghan political order, and from 2004 to 2007 served as deputy to the European Union special representative for Afghanistan. He is consulted on issues concerning insurgency, reconciliation, and political developments in the two countries.
J Alexander Thier
J Alexander Thier is Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the US Institute of Peace and chair of the Institute's Afghanistan and Pakistan Working Groups. Thier leads USIP efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has lived and worked on and off since 1993. He is co-author and editor of The Future of Afghanistan (USIP, 2009) and was a member of the Afghanistan Study Group, co-chaired by General James Jones and Ambassador Tom Pickering, and co-author of its final report. He is also a member of the Pakistan Policy Working Group and co-author of its 2008 report, The Next Chapter: The United States and Pakistan.
Thier has been with USIP since 2005, when he joined as senior adviser in the Rule of Law Center of Innovation. He built up the Institute's rule of law programming in Afghanistan, including its pioneering work on establishing relations between Afghanistan's state and non-state justice systems. Thier was also director of the project on Constitution Making, Peacebuilding, and National Reconciliation and expert group lead for the Genocide Prevention Task Force.
Before joining USIP in 2005, Thier was the director of the Project on Failed States at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. From 2002 to 2004, Thier was legal adviser to Afghanistan's Constitutional and Judicial Reform Commissions in Kabul, where he assisted in the development of a new constitution and judicial system.
Thier has also worked as a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, a legal and constitutional expert to the British Department for International Development, and as an adviser to the Constitutional Commission of Southern Sudan. Thier worked as a U.N. and NGO official in Afghanistan during the civil war from 1993 to 1996, where he was the officer-in-charge of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan in Kabul. He also served as coordination officer for the U.N. Iraq Program in New York. An attorney, Thier was a Skadden fellow and a graduate fellow at the U.S. National Security Council's Directorate for Near-East and South Asia. He received the Richard S. Goldsmith award for outstanding work on dispute resolution from Stanford University in 2000.
Thier has appeared as an expert commentator on NPR, CBS and the BBC and has written in the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, among others. He has a B.A. from Brown University, a master's in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.