Research Chat

Acceptance of Democratic Values in Afghanistan

Episode Summary

This episode features S. Ali Hosseini, (he/him), a PhD student in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. The program is a joint program between Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. He speaks about his experience working in the United Nations Human Rights Program in Afghanistan which has informed his research focusing on the failure of the international community to assist Afghanistan citizens in accepting democratic values.

Episode Notes

The episode features:


Episode Transcription

WLU Research Chat S03 Ali

Unknown  00:00

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Shawna Reibling  00:04

Welcome to the third season of Research Chat. In this season, graduate students share their challenges of their research work. In this episode, Hari KC will interview Ali Hosseini. Hari KC, who uses the pronouns he/him, is a postdoc research fellow in the International Migration Research Centre, or IMRC, at the School of International Policy and Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, located at Wilfrid Laurier University. His research broadly looks at South South labour migration with a regional focus on South Asia, governance of international migration as well as social justice. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow, examining the intersection of labor migration, food sovereignty and development through gendered lens in the global south with a particular focus on South Asia. He has collaborated on several research projects funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, UN Women, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, International Organization for Migration and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. In one such ongoing project, titled Gender+Migration Hub, he has played a key role right from the conception of the project to its development and operationalization. To find out more about this project visit The project which was launched during the 2022 un international migration review forum in New York, seeks to enhance the capacity of governments, civil society, and other stakeholders in formulating and implementing gender responsive migration policies and programs in the spirit of the principle of gender responsiveness as stipulated in the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Hari is also a part time teaching faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University, where he has taught a range of undergraduate and graduate courses on migration, citizenship, global justice, gender and, feminist theory. In the past, he's worked in various roles for the BBC Media Action, embassy of India Carter Center, and the three Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal. Hari holds two master's degrees in English from the University of Waterloo, and the Tribhuvan University in Nepal. He also holds a master's degree in peace and conflict studies from the Conrad Grebel University College in Canada. 


Shawna Reibling  02:39

Our other speaker is Seyed Ali Hosseini, who uses the pronouns he/him. He is a peace and development researcher who is pursuing his PhD in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, a joint program run by Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. A specialist in peace, human rights development, with a focus on the greater Middle East and Northern Africa, Ali has over seven years of experience in human rights advocacy and monitoring. This includes six years of working as a Human Rights Officer for the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan. His work included monitoring of and advocacy around the rights of vulnerable people, including women and children, and preparation and drafting of regular reports on situation related to human rights in Afghanistan. He was a member of the faculty of law at Kateb University, Afghanistan for six years where he taught constitutional law, administrative law, international law and, human rights courses. He has taught Culture of Peace and Conflict Situations in the political science department at Wilfrid Laurier University. Ali has four scholarly books published in Persian, which were published in Afghanistan, and many research papers in Persian and English on human rights development in peace. He holds a master's degree in international law, from Allameh Tabataba'i University and a BA in law from Mofid University in Iran. His education also includes advanced studies in Islamic jurisprudence and culture at Qom seminary, Hawza. Ali and Hari had both published in the book Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Global Governance Challenges, which was edited by Simon Dalbey, Susan Horton and Rianne Mahan with Diana Thomaz. This was published in 2019. Hari's chapter was titled Gender Labour Migration Governance and the SDGs: Lessons from the case of Nepal. And Ali's chapter was titled Development as Usual: Ethical reflections on the SDGs. Welcome to you both to Research Chat. You both bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to this conversation. Thank you for chatting with me today about your mutual interests in responsive International and government policies to enable and engage local citizens. Hari's research has focused on the rules that govern the migration of Nepalese women and alleys research examines the process of promoting the values of democracy, human rights and, gender equality within the peace building process in post-Taliban Afghanistan. I will now turn the microphone over to you Hari to learn more about Ali's research


Unknown  05:24

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Hari KC  05:24

Hi, Ali, thank you for chatting with me about your research today.


S. Ali Hosseini  05:28

Nice to be here.


Hari KC  05:30

Well, what have you been examining in your research?


S. Ali Hosseini  05:34

My research is about the failure of international community in assisting Afghanistan to transform toward embracing and accepting values of democracy, human rights, gender equality in association values between 2001 and 2021. In this research, I examined the impact of lack of unprincipled behaviors of main international actors regarding accountability and transparency on the disempowerment and disillusionment of the Afghan people from this dimension values as well as the actors. For me, peace is a more social agreement on certain shared values. To maintain peace, securitize and militarized estate building could be just part of this process but it's not the entirety of this building. Because of this, besides security, the society needs legitimate government and supporting environment from the main powerful actors to transform toward accepting values that are important for sustainable peace.


Hari KC  06:44

That is an exciting research project. What is the motivation of your research?


S. Ali Hosseini  06:51

My lived experience of insecurity, migration, and associated problems are the main motivation, as well as my interest in peace and human rights that I learned much about during my professional work as a human rights officer in the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan. These are the main reason that I choose this topic to study why some societies, and especially in this case, Afghan society did not or could not embrace the values that are important for sustainable peace for justice.


Hari KC  07:30

Thank you. Can you please share a bit about the challenges that you've faced in the course of carrying out this research?


S. Ali Hosseini  07:39

Pursuing a PhD program is always challenging one form or another form will come around. But I want to specifically refer to my intention to do a further research at the beginning of this PhD dissertation research. I thought that maybe it is better to examine the relationship between unprincipled behaviors of main international or local disbelieving actors with the people's disempowerment and disillusionment in supporting these values. I thought it will enrich my dissertation a lot, but insecurity was a major and growing problem. After a couple of months and evaluating the impact of this failed research, or lack of that, or my research, insecurity was a major and growing problem. After a few months, I evaluated the impact of this versus the realities of Afghanistan to do quality field research. I just limited my project or turn my project toward being more of a critical literature review and also using the secondary sources for my study.


Hari KC  08:51

Thank you. So how did you explore here research question.


S. Ali Hosseini  08:57

I initially started about knowledge about literature about peacebuilding in general, different situation and specifically in case of Afghanistan, and reflected on the relevant literature. Based on this, I decided to critically examine the performance of the main actors reflected in various reports by authentic sources and institutions. And based on this also examined the sources relevant to Afghan perceptions of democracy, human rights and relevant values, as well as the expectations from the Afghan government, from the international community, as far as they are relevant to their enjoyment of human rights and democracy. 


Hari KC  09:41

Okay, thank you, Ali. So you have had an extensive work experience for professional experience in Afghanistan before pursuing your PhD at Balsillie school. So, can you share a bit about what that transition or what that is extensive professional work experience as a practitioner in Afghanistan have to do with the way you look at your research and do your research?


S. Ali Hosseini  10:11

It affected a lot, both in terms of knowledge and in terms of motivation. The motivation is probably more important because I was engaged in monitoring human rights and also receive daily reports about civilian casualty, forms of violence against women, violence against detainees, a lot of human rights violations on a daily basis. And this helped me to catch the reality of war and human rights abuses on the ground and for the people. This impression also motivated me to see the connection between human rights promotion, and advocacy with the peace that is what needed Afghans who suffer 40 years of war and migration and other problems. So I tried to examine the deep aspects of peace and human rights in real situation, which was I did it in this program. 


Hari KC  11:13

Thank you. So the idea of peacebuilding sits at the center, at the core, of your research per se. So can you please tell me a little bit about what peacebuilding exactly means in the context of Afghanistan. 


S. Ali Hosseini  11:30

Initially, peacebuilding means lack of conflict.  The first very basic meaning, which is negative peace, representing the suppression of terrorism and other bad governance doesn't exist. But this needs to go further to address some of the root causes of conflict and injustices, which requires a positive interpretation of peacebuilding. In the positive peace, the values that are important for sustainable peace, for example, democracy, human rights, rule of law and, gender equality, social justice, these all needs to be accepted by both local elites and local people. In the context of Afghanistan, these positive peacebuilding, or transformation of society toward accepting the values, empower people to enjoy the fruits of democracy, and also to engage in building a society that is moving towards justice and toward sustainable peace.


Hari KC  12:38

Thank you. What are the next steps in your research work? What do you plan to do ahead?


S. Ali Hosseini  12:44

I hope I can defend my thesis soon. And after that, I'm thinking about publishing the findings of dissertation, ideally in the form of a book, or if not then in two or three academic papers. And also, I think I have a debt toward the people of Afghanistan to whom I belong, so I can publish the results of the findings in the form of a book in my native language, Persian. 


Hari KC  13:16

Okay, thank you. All the best with your future endeavors. And the next question is, your research is particularly focused on the case of Afghanistan, but how would you situate you know, the context of peacebuilding within the broader peacebuilding discourse globally? 


S. Ali Hosseini  13:38

My findings of this research such as that for peacebuilding governance needs to emphasize on accountability and legitimacy and effectiveness otherwise, as the case of Afghanistan indicated, allocated resources, both human and financial resources, will not yield the intended outcome which is sustainable peace. Actually, it was lack of accountability on the side of major actors, Afghans and international that disempowered people, warlords, government officials and even some international forces that engaged in various forms of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. This lack of accountability provided, or assisted, the formation of an environment of impunity. And this situation eroded the legitimacy of the government Afghan people embraced internationals in 2001. In a few years after the establishment of Karzai's government, people embrace elections, girls happily went to schools and rural areas, urban centers everywhere. But the lack of accountability and legitimacy or actually, with the erosion of legitimacy, people disillusion gradually from the main actors  and the government. So if international peacebuilding wants to further effectiveness of peacebuilding mission, it needs to critically reflect on the issues of accountability and legitimacy and try to connect to the daily needs of the people. 


Hari KC  15:17

Wonderful. If you want people to remember something about the research, what do you want them to remember?


S. Ali Hosseini  15:26

My research proves why Afghanistan didn't embrace democratic values. In the post-Taliban Afghanistan between 2001-2021 international actors wanted to achieve the goals of building a democratic system, promoting human rights, gender equality and associated values and building civil society to engage in bottom up part of peacebuilding. These objectives didn't materialize as powerful international actors continue to work with warlords, with human rights abusers and, corrupt elites. The peacebuilding process was filled with impunity and corruption by different actors. As a result, people became disempowered and disillusioned with the values the international community wanted to promote. Citizens stop supporting the Afghan government, which collapsed in 2021. Empty slogan do not create an atmosphere where bottom up peacebuilding can be successful and democracy and human rights can be enjoyed. This is my emphasize that if we want to promote human rights, democracy, gender equality and social justice, we need to make sure that it comes in a healthy environment, to not only become an empty slogans, rather, there are sources of changes in real life of people.


Hari KC  16:45

Thank you. Thank you so much. So last but not least early, is there anything about your research that you feel is important to say?


Ali Hosseni  16:55

Yes, I want to say that people in the conflict affected countries want democracy wants human rights and wants social justice and equality. Most of the time, they embrace changes, they embrace any foreign support towards this. But at the same time, it's important to make sure that of sanctions against enjoyment of these good values are all should be addressed. Most of the time, lack of accountability on the part of main actors, influence of corrupt elites, warlords, and other abusers actually hinder the enjoyment of the benefits of peace. So for any peacebuilding, it's critical to address them, and to make sure that if international support comes with the accountability of the actors, people will embrace the changes and the chances of success of peacebuilding increased significantly.


Hari KC  17:54

Thank you so much, thank you, Ali.


S. Ali Hosseini  17:56

You're welcome. Nice speaking with you as well.


Hari KC  17:59

Thank you for your time, and your views. 


S. Ali Hosseini  18:02

Nice speaking with you. 


Hari KC  18:05

Thank you to both Hari and Ali for participating in this episode of Research Chat. Both your research projects have shown the profound impact that global policy can and does have on local lives. Both of your research projects have shown that there is an opportunity to have a profound impact on local lives through global policy. To promote democratic values such as human rights and gender equality, there's a real need for responsive International and government policies that enable and engage local citizens and take their needs into account


Unknown  18:44

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Shawna Reibling  18:48

I hope you enjoyed listening to today's discussion. If you want to learn more about global migration, or peacebuilding in Afghanistan, there are resources, additional readings and details about the work of each researcher on our website: Listeners like you are encouraged to share these episodes and use these podcasts to discuss these topics with your friends, or as an assignment in your classroom. Subscribe on your favorite podcast platform to be notified of new Research Chat episodes. Research Chat is a partnership between the Office of Research Services, the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and, the Laurier Library. Thank you to everyone who's contributed to the creation of Research Chat. A gratitude list can be found on our webpage


Unknown  19:38

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