Headquartered in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) is an independent research and advocacy centre dedicated to the creation of a sustainable environment that can support peace and stability in Afghanistan. Since 2006, CAPS has been a leader in civic engagement, conducting action-oriented research aimed at influencing policy-makers in key areas such as state building, governance, narcotics, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
Though the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies was originally formed as a research institution, today CAPS has become a leader in advocacy and education in addition to its continual research and policy engagement.
Recognizing a deficiency in the availability of legal aid, CAPS established a Legal Department in 2009 in order to provide pro bono defense counsel to a number of detainees. As of 2013, the CAPS Legal Team operates offices in Kabul, Helmand, Kandahar, Parwan and Khost provinces to help ensure all Afghans have access to this critical constitutional right. To date, the CAPS Legal Department has served over 2100 clients across Afghanistan.
In addition, CAPSs commitment to peace advocacy has taken root in the Youth Peace Movement and Empowerment Center (YPMEC). Located in Lashkar Gah, YPMEC provides supplementary education in Concor, the university entry exam, computer literacy, and English language to over 1900 boys and girls between the ages of 14-24. YPMEC also regularly hosts leadership and conflict mediation seminars to help strengthen capacity of Afghanistans next generation. Now in its second phase, YPMEC has established Leadership Shuras and selected individuals to serve as Ambassadors of Peace in their communities. YPMEC has become a pillar of Helmand society, and continues to give young people in the province the education, skills, and opportunities they need to participate and positively impact their communities.
The Center’s primary goal is to build local capacity and work towards establishing long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
It engages in four core activities: research, education, capacity building and advocacy.
In order to achieve the above goal, the Center engages in:
The research objective of the center is to analyse the current local and regional conflict, and recommend specific actions to reduce conflict, politically motivated violence and other security threats including those associated with the narcotics industry. The CAPS research team, with the assistance of international scholars and practitioners, works to formulate, advise and continuously recommend strategies that contribute to better governance and state building. Beyond conflict studies, CAPS focuses to study humanitarian needs and rights of the Afghans under Taliban government since August 2021.
* Youth Peace Movement and Empowerment Centre (YPMEC)
A key component of our advocacy programming has been the 2011 establishment of a Youth Peace Movement and Empowerment Centre (YPMEC) in the Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. Located in the south, Helmand has been one of the provinces most heavily affected by insecurity during the last ten years. YPMEC is currently in its second phase and has provided supplementary education in Concord Preparation, Computer Literacy, and English language to over 1900 boys and girls between the ages of 14-24.
YPMEC gives young people the chance to participate in workshops on leadership and conflict resolution that focus on listening and respectful interaction with their peers and women. In addition, the formation of a youth shura has given young men the chance to participate in intercultural dialogue by working together with youth from all areas and tribes of the province on a council dedicated to tackling the problems faced by the youth of Helmand. The YPMEC Youth Shura has also provided a forum for intercultural dialogue between the youth and important elders who control most aspects of Helmand society. By focusing on dialogue and understanding, and by providing additional education and technical training, young people who participate in YPMEC have better options to build a life for themselves than joining the insurgency or turning to violence. They also have the skills and encouragement necessary to become citizens who actively engage in Afghan society.
In 2021, CAPS received numerous request about resuming its educational centers in areas where school do not exist or suffer from low quality of education. CAPS is determined to focus on providing opportunities to educate Afghans particularly focusing on girls’ education
CAPS’ training programme serves to train, educate and equip Afghan and foreign nationals with the skills and expertise necessary to tackle security and development challenges in Afghanistan.
Briefings and seminars organised by CAPS function to engage various actors on social, cultural and political developments specific to the region.
CAPS co-hosts meetings with foreign research institutes and receives visitors who offer their expert advice CAPS provides a forum in which experts and local Afghans are able to share advice opinions with government officials and foreign diplomats to improve the overall understanding of the situation in Afghanistan.
CAPS understands that knowledge exchange is crucial for the development of expertise and detailed understanding of a subject. To facilitate exchanges, CAPS offers fellowships to international researchers so they can benefit from the unique learning environment offered by CAPS and its staff, as well as contribute to the Center’s activities.
Visiting research fellows work alongside local staff to contribute to research in a range of areas with the overarching aim of strengthening state building efforts in Afghanistan. Each year CAPS offers three one-month fellowships. To date visiting fellows have included nationals from France, the United States, United Kingdom and Singapore.
Starting as a small department within the Kabul office with six Defence Attorneys and the assistance of the Advisory Shura, the CAPS Legal Team soon realized that demand for need-based legal representation amongst political detainees was extremely high particularly in the most restive areas of the country.
Critical successes saw the slow expansion of the Legal Department into offices in Kandahar in 2010, Helmand in 2011, and Parwan in 2012. As of 2013, the fourteen full-time members of the CAPS Legal Team have served over 2100 clients across these four provinces. Although the demand for legal aid remains vast, CAPS strives to provide need-based legal representation regardless of social connections of detainees.
As Taliban were capturing provincial capital and finally taking over Kabul on 15 August 2021, the group broke detention centers across the country allowing the prisoners to escape. CAPS, however, anticipates that Taliban would recapture some of the old detainees and it is natural that Taliban-run government would arrest detainees both security and non-security in the near future. Due to its decade long experience, CAPS will continue to engage Taliban and international community to ensure that the rights of detainees under Taliban are upheld.
Recognizing the need for meaningful reintegration, CAPS established an Advisory Shura. Composed entirely of former Taliban members, the Advisory Shura is a multi-purpose advocacy project. First, the shura provides an opportunity for meaningful engagement and reintegration into Afghan civil society. In this sense, the shura is a confidence building mechanism that shows that constructive relationships can be built when opposition factions decide to help work alongside their Afghan countrymen. Second, the Advisory Shura members use their personal reputation and social networks to provide critical outreach for members of the insurgency regarding the benefits of peace and shared goals that crosscut society regardless of political or tribal affiliation.
Finally, the Advisory Shura serves as a contact point for families seeking legal services for relatives detained on political charges.