Thursday, 22 December 2016

End of year update from BAAG - policy maker and public engagement

We launched the exhibition of photos from our Afghanistan Journalism Competition winners, Magda Rakita and Mark de Rond.  The first venue was the Atrium Gallery in the London School of Economics, a buzzing public space passed through by hundreds of students, teachers and members of the public every week.  We held a launch reception on the opening day, 28th November 2016, to which at least 40 people attended (those were the ones we managed to note on the attendance sheet, I think there were a few others!).  The evening included short speeches by Mark and Magda, and an insight into the reality of mental health treatment and perceptions in Afghanistan by Dr Yousuf Rahimi, an esteemed Afghan mental health expert and previous advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Health.
We got all creative and made a video of the event - watch it here!

And here are some photos from the installation and the launch event.

Once the exhibition closed in London on 9th December we rushed over to Dublin with it on the 12th and installed it in the gallery space of Europe House, the offices of the European Union in Ireland.  The exhibition will be open to the public there until 6th January 2017.  Again we held a small launch reception to which 14 guests came.  The Irish Times promoted the exhibition in their Saturday newspaper on the 10th and published an online gallery of the images on the 14th - which you can see here.
A few photos from the Ireland launch:

As a prolific social media user, our photographer Magda has succeeded in publishing her photos and Mark's accompanying text in a number of other online outlets - Big Smoke (Australia),, and Medium (the latter had 18,600 views and 4,000 reads by 10th December).  In addition, we were thrilled that BBC Persian interviewed Magda and filmed BAAG's Director in front of the exhibition for an extended news piece about mental health in Afghanistan.  You can see an online version of their news piece here.  Moreover, that link has been posted on the BBC Persian Facebook page where, at time of writing, it has received 70,000 views, 174 shares and 2,300 likes.

BAAG also managed to deliver its two national policy maker round tables in the closing months.
Our first was on November 29th and addressed the outcomes of the recent Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, asking if the commitments (financial and deliverables) made there by the Afghan government and international community were likely to see real change for the Afghan people.  We had a specialist speaker on human rights and another on stability and the peace process.

A couple of weeks later we held our second round table, this time a joint affair with two BAAG member organisations, Christian Aid and Global Witness (14th December).  Both organisations have specialist knowledge on drugs policy and development and the impact of illegal mining respectively, so our event asked how illicit economies such as these had an impact on development progress and prospects. We had expert speakers on these two themes and a third who looked at development progress in terms of the high numbers of Afghans choosing to leave the country (and thus indicating their lack of faith in development prospects/progress).  A reporter was hired who is drafting a paper that will be shared with the project partners and widely with UK policy makers in early 2017.
A total of 11 policy makers attended these two events, 7 of whom were engaging in a M4D event for the first time. The events were held in the Houses of Parliament estate and were organised with support from the APPG on Afghanistan (All Party Parliamentary Group).

Not the most exciting photo, but this was the panel at the Illicit Economies Round Table, showing L-R Stephen Carter of Global Witness (speaker on illicit mining), David Mansfield (expert speaker on opium production in Afghanistan), Jawed Nader (BAAG Director and event moderator), Professor Heaven Crawley (expert speaker on migration) and Madeleine Moon MP (Chair of event and of APPG Afghanistan):

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