Today, Ambassador Eklil Hakimi spoke at a panel discussion titled, Women, Peace and Security in Afghanistan: Prospects on the Way Forward. The purpose of the discussion was to examine ways to better ensure an active role for women in the current peace process and reconstruction efforts. The event was hosted at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C.
During his remarks, Ambassador Hakimi referred to various statistics, such as school enrollment and life expectancy, to cite the progress that women in Afghanistan have achieved in the last decade.
He said that “Women are a crucially important segment of Afghanistan's population and make a valuable contribution to our country. Afghanistan cannot afford to allow the position of women to diminish because we need the help of Afghan women as our country prepares for the long-term process of transformation.”
In regards to the peace process, Ambassador Hakimi explained that the Government of Afghanistan is fully committed to upholding UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. He discussed the efforts the government is making to implement resolution 1325 and clarified that during the negotiations there are certain redlines that the Government of Afghanistan will not budge on. For example, “The Taliban must respect the Constitution, including the rights it guarantees to women and minorities.”
The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast, Director of the Gender and Peacebuilding Center at United States Institute of Peace. Other speakers on the panel included Dr. Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Ambassador Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of USAID, Ms. Samira Hamidi, Afghanistan Country Director for Afghan Women's Network, and Ms. Eva Biaudet, Ombudsman for Minorities for the Government of Finland.
Ms. Hamidi, who traveled all the way from Afghanistan for today's event, echoed Ambassador Hakimi's opinion of women's valued contribution to Afghanistan when she argued that this discussion is not solely about women's rights, “It is about what women can offer Afghanistan.”
Dr. Tuomioja, in his remarks, said that, “Strong afghan ownership and leadership are the cornerstones of the process. We have been impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of our Afghan colleagues at all levels of administration…We will retain our long-term commitment to help Afghans to safeguard the advances made in gender equality in the last ten years and supporting the Afghan process for human rights and equality.”
All panelists were in agreement that women need to have their voices heard during Afghanistan's peace process and reconstruction efforts. However, Ambassador Hakimi, in his final point, reminded the international community to “Bear in mind the reality on the ground… change will not happen over night,” change in Afghanistan will happen gradually, as society comes to understand the benefit of women's full participation.