14 July 2023, Hiroshima, Japan – As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) held a book launch and roundtable to mark the publication of "The UNITAR Hiroshima Fellowship for Afghanistan: An Anthology".
The book, co-edited by Nassrine Azimi, founding director of the UNITAR Hiroshima Office, and Humaira Khan Kamal, original team leader for the Fellowship, is a collection of writings on the history, challenges and achievements of the Afghanistan Fellowship Programme, implemented by the UNITAR Hiroshima Office for 15 years since its establishment. Roundtable participants from around the world with diverse backgrounds were invited, many directly involved with the Fellowship, to freely discuss the contents of the book and the lessons learned during the training from their personal perspectives.
With the unstinting support of the Hiroshima Prefecture and other partners, the UNITAR Hiroshima Fellowship for Afghanistan provided learning for more than 500 trainees since 2003, the very year the UNITAR Hiroshima Office was established. At the end of each training cycle, usually 9-12 months long, participants visited Hiroshima to experience firsthand the history of Hiroshima's reconstruction while learning to develop their individual skills for social and organizational reform.
UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNITAR, Nikhil Seth, sent a video message for opening remarks “The lessons UNITAR itself has learned from the Fellowship, and applied in its other post-conflict work, are yet another testimony to the ongoing nature of our bonds with one another, and with Afghanistan. This book, and your gathering here today, prove again that Fellowship seeds planted are not lost, and may yet surprise us in wonderful and unimagined ways.”
In her introduction Humaira Khan-Kamal, co-editor of the book said that“ … no mere capacity building program such as ours can prevent tragedy or misfortune, but the stories in this book demonstrate that mutual respect, empathy and community ownership of outcomes does survive the great global games and continues to resonate in the individual lives of the community.”
Michael Fors, Fellowship core faculty, stated in the opening that the Afghan Fellowship ‘has left a lasting impression on all of us to this day’. Lorne Jaques, another core faculty, said that the spirit of the Fellowship was the spirit of the compañeros, which means companions in Spanish. Mariam Ghanznavi, a former trainee and later volunteer coach for the Fellowship, reminded all of the urgency of doing what can be done for today’s Afghanistan. Fawad Akbari, 2009 Fellow of the Fellowship, described “Afghan Fellowship did really well by leveraging the capacity, the passion and the enthusiasm of coaches, mentors and resource persons”. Mihoko Kumamoto, UNITAR Director of Division for Prosperity and the Hiroshima Office, stated that “the AFP offered a great model to enhance the capacity of people and organizations in a country.” Sharapiya Kakimova, UNITAR core team member, reminded of the spirit of the Fellowship with the oft-quoted ‘The Pull of the Future is stronger than the push of the Past’.
Monte Cassim, a member of the AFLP/BGNet(*) international advisory panel, quoted Churchill "Failure is not fatal. Success is not final. It’s the courage to carry on that counts” and encouraged future activities of the AFLP/BGNet. Sabahuddin Sokout, a pillar of the Fellowship and UNITAR focal point in Afghanistan, explained Afghanistan’s current situation and the potential of botanical gardens and work with nature.
The roundtable ended with remarks by Nassrine Azimi, co-editor of the book: “We have now expanded the roots of the Fellowship,… and we will continue, in some way, the work we started in this city more than 20 years ago.”
(*)The Afghan Fellowship Legacy Projects (AFLP) is brainchild of two friends and veterans of the UNITAR Hiroshima Fellowship for Afghanistan (hereafter referred to as "AF"), Nassrine Azimi and Humaira Khan-Kamal. When, after its exceptional 15-year run, the Hiroshima Fellowship wrapped up, they felt that the alumni had many experiences to share, an important story to tell, and a unique network upon which to build future projects. The AFLP was thus established as a pro bono initiative within UNITAR’s Hiroshima Office, and currently consists of two legacy projects ー a Botanical Gardens Network (BG-Net) campaign and a collective book and blog by the AF Community itself.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a dedicated training arm of the United Nations. In 2021, UNITAR trained 370,139 learners around the world to support their actions for a better future. In addition to our headquarters in Geneva, we have offices in Hiroshima, New York, Bonn and various networks around the world.
One of the eight divisions of UNITAR, the Division for Prosperity, based in the Hiroshima Office and Geneva Headquarters, seeks to shape an inclusive, sustainable and prosperous world. World-class learning and knowledge-sharing services on entrepreneurship, leadership, finance and trade, digital technologies, and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are offered. We empower individuals from developing countries – especially women and young people – to address inequalities. Our alumni are making a difference in least-developed countries, countries emerging from conflict, and small-island developing states.