Georgetown Qatar Symposium On Afghanistan’s Future Highlights Role Of Education In Tackling Societal And Humanitarian Challenges

Intiqab Rawoof

November 11, 2023


Few areas are as critical to the future of Afghanistan as education, speakers noted at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)’s “Afghanistan Regional Symposium: Confronting the Impasse,” but comprehensive efforts are needed for education to truly be the vehicle for peace, prosperity, and social justice.

“The people of Afghanistan face an oncoming humanitarian and economic crisis that is more urgent than ever,” said the dean of GU-Q, Dr. Safwan Masri, in his opening remarks. “And while international support for humanitarian aid is essential, it alone cannot fully address the underlying causes of Afghanistan’s deteriorating situation that include the nation’s political strife, ongoing conflicts, and the intervention of external factors and actors.”

Dean Masri added: “Having this particular conversation in Doha is especially important given the mediation role that Qatar has played in Afghanistan. There is a moral, as well as pragmatic demand for the international community to assume responsibility for the country’s recovery.”

The one-day symposium brought together leading experts, scholars, and policymakers to share deep insights on the fundamental challenges facing the country, particularly the consequences of the unsettling impasse between Afghanistan and the rest of the world since the Taliban regained government control in 2021. Discussions advanced valuable analysis on solutions that can support the social and economic aspirations of the Afghan people. They highlighted the need for engagement and dialogue with all stakeholders in the country and for the international community to step up its efforts, in coordination with Afghans and partners on the ground. 

The suspension of girls’ education was a crucial focus during a panel exploring the systemic challenges of education in Afghanistan. Speakers reflected on what constitutes and is required of a modern education system for the country, and on the need to revive the historical legacy of education within Afghan society. 

Fatima Gailani, peace negotiator and former President of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, underscored the need for engagement and support for women and girls to access the educational institutions and pathways that are still available to them, while Suleiman bin Shah, founder and CEO of the Kabul-based Catalysts.Af, noted the need for a transformative shift in education amid the multiple challenges facing the country, including quality educational content and delivery. 

Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, drew attention to a recent international assessment that found that measures to safeguard the basic rights of women, including the right to education, are critical to building the state’s capacity for long-term development, economic growth, peace, and security. 

A concurrent session, “Reporting from Conflict Zones: Media Resilience in Afghanistan,” examined the difficulties facing journalists operating in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, both from a security perspective and the challenges of accessing information. Ali M. Latifi, Asia Editor, The New Humanitarian, and a Kabul-based Al Jazeera English correspondent, said that despite the sector’s economic collapse and censorship, the media has still found ways to function and report on important issues such as girls’ education. However, Sana Safi, a broadcast journalist at the BBC World Service, pointed to the misinformation and disinformation that has arisen in the absence of local voices and access to information. 

Other sessions included “Afghanistan Imagined by Afghans,” which explored the diverse narratives of Afghanistan, emphasizing the power of storytelling to enhance understanding of the nation’s complex social, historical, and cultural dynamics. “Climate Change and Natural Resource Governance” highlighted the pressing environmental challenges facing the country. Compounded by other complexities, the escalation in livelihood insecurity and food scarcity is giving rise to an expanding humanitarian crisis.

GU-Q will continue focusing on pressing natural resource challenges at its “Sustaining the Oasis: Envisioning the Future of Water Security in the Gulf” conference, which is open to the public from November 12 through 13 at the Four Seasons Hotel. A collaboration between GU-Q and the Earth Commons Institute at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, the influential global gathering of experts, policy-makers, and practitioners will explore the historical and future significance of water in the region, addressing both human and ecological needs in the face of a changing climate. 

Full information on the program and registration details are available on the Hiwaraat Conference Series website at