Consensus Building Jirga: To intervene or not?

What was 9/11? How did it change the world forever? What is NATO? What happened in Afghanistan’s history that led to war?

Students will engage in a consensus building activity to exercise their critical thinking skills involving Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan and the War on Terror.

Consensus building has been a part of Afghanistan’s history for centuries and is known as a jirga. It involves Pashtun elders in a community council using mediators to hear and debate disputes as a means to find a resolution. Once the jirga hears both sides of the conflict and considers the options, it comes to a decision by reaching a consensus. For centuries jirga participants had to travel over rugged terrain on foot to reach the jirga meeting place.

Although students will not need to physically travel far, they will need to reach a consensus of their own through a jirga on two critical questions: Should Canada be obliged to intervene when NATO asks it to? Should Canada have intervened in Afghanistan?

Instructions (teacher):
  1. Split the class into 6 groups. Students read their assigned sections (A-F). Students can read their section on the page here or the teacher can print the sections. (What was 9/11? What is NATO? What happened in Afghanistan’s history that led to war? (5-10 mins.)
  2. Each group summarizes to the entire class the most salient parts. (10-15 mins) Students can use the 5 W’s + H (who, what, where, why, when, how).
  3. Once the entire class hears each team’s summaries, they then have to debate in their original groups the following questions and come to a consensus. (8-10 mins)

Question: To intervene or not to intervene? Should Canada be obliged to intervene when NATO asks it to?
Question: Should Canada have intervened in Afghanistan?

  1. Each team needs to debate the above questions and come to a consensus. They must explain to the class what their decision was and why. (15-20 mins).
  2. Option- teacher can change the group composition- ask one student from each group to join the next group to vary debates.

Teacher prompts to help discussion:

  • Who is responsible for world peace?
  • Should Canada help its allies?
  • What is Canada’s responsibility to other nations who are fighting for democracy?
  • What should Canada’s role be on the world stage?
  • Is military intervention sometimes the only way?
  • Should nations work out their problems on their own?
  • What responsibility should the world have towards human suffering?
  • Should Canada export its values?

Note that this activity can now be filled out directly on your computers – no need to print! To use the fillable function, be sure to download the PDF.

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