Afghanistan Security Council welcomes successful conclusion of Loya Jirga

The Council members paid tribute to the Afghan people and their leaders “for such a large and peaceful gathering so soon after the interim administration took office,” the President of the 15-member body, Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe of Syria, said in a press statement.The council also stressed the importance of the work of the UN, particularly Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, and the efforts of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in helping to ensure a secure environment in which the Loya Jirga could take place.The statement came after the Council was briefed in an open meeting by a senior UN official on the recently concluded Loya Jirga. The meeting was chaired by Farouk Al-Sharra, Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, told the Council that the nine-day Loya Jirga could be described as a success for three reasons: the fact that it was held at all; that it accomplished what it was mandated to do under the Bonn Agreement, and above all, that Afghans “were able to gather together peacefully, debate heatedly, yet ultimately agree on fundamental questions regarding their common political future.”Mr. Prendergast also pointed out that an obvious disappointment was the inability of the Loya Jirga to agree to a formula for selecting a legislature. However, overlooked in the highly publicized disputes and bitterness of that issue, was an encouraging reformist vision presented by Mr. Karzai. In his acceptance speech on 13 June, the President had made proposals concerning national commissions on national defence, national security, foreign investment and return of property. His vision included a lean government structure focusing on the people rather than maintaining a heavy bureaucracy.As for the security situation, Mr. Prendergast noted that it had deteriorated in some parts of Afghanistan and asked the Council “to again consider the possibility of a limited expansion of the International Security Assistance Force to areas outside Kabul.” read more

Convo Plate aims to spark mental health talks on campus

As important as it is to get the conversation about mental health started, it’s equally important to keep it going.To ensure meaningful discussions continue at Brock University, the Active Minds club has presented the institution with a symbolic ‘Convo Plate.’The decorative dish is intended to not only spark mental health conversations, but to also inspire people to do something for their mental health every day.“Passing the plate means you are raising awareness for mental health and want to be a part of the conversation,” said Active Minds President Michelle Balge, who recently presented the gift to Sarah Pennisi, Director of Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC).The Paul Hansell Foundation, an organization committed to raising youth mental health awareness, created the #ConvoPlate movement in hopes of seeing the dishes make their way around the world.Brock University’s Active Minds club recently presented the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre with a ‘Convo Plate’ meant to spark conversation about mental health.They have since found homes with a number of influential people, including mental health advocate Margaret Trudeau, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A plate is also on its way to Kensington Palace for Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.Balge, who is set to graduate this fall with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, is currently an intern at the Paul Hansell Foundation.“I hope Brock recognizes that conversations about mental health need to happen every day,” she said. “Whether the plate is passed on to someone else, another school or if it stays at Brock to generate discussions here, the plate will be doing its job. Although passes are encouraged, if a plate is kept somewhere that can spark conversations, then it is getting just as much use there as it would be anywhere else.”Sarah Pennisi, Director of Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre, felt the passing of the plate helped to recognize her team as important contributors to students’ mental health.“We understand the vital work of fighting stigma through conversation and engagement,” she said. “It is stigma that may prevent students from reaching out when they need support.”Pennisi said she is honoured to have received the plate from the Active Minds club.The plate will be put on display in an area to help generate discussion, though the exact placement has yet to be decided.“We need to encourage people to take care of their mental health just as much as their physical health,” Balge said. “With increased awareness, programs and education, we can hopefully help people to get access to treatment sooner.”Brock is celebrating Mental Health Week from May 1 to 7 with a series of events taking place on campus. A full list of activities is available in a recent Brock News story. read more