WPS Monitor: A Sustainable Peace in Afghanistan Needs Women at the Center

Monday, September 16, 2019
Issue: 
228

Editorial: 

A Sustainable Peace in Afghanistan Needs Women at the Center

by Jamila Afghani, President of WILPF Afghanistan

After 18 years of United States and its NATO allies in Afghanistan, the country is at a historical crossroads with a peace process that continues to substantially exclude women, and an electoral process that is being undermined by corruption, insecurity, and a drive to delay elections until after a peace deal has been reached. Women should be at the center of political life of Afghanistan and women’s meaningful participation in the political life of the country should not be sidelined due to myopic perspectives on what is required to bring about a sustainable peace, and insecurity and other challenges in getting women voters to the polls on September 28th. 

The ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the United States of America are being held behind closed doors. The agreements and final decisions that will be made will determine the fate of the people of Afghanistan, especially women who have suffered the most during the Taliban regime. It is not clear to us whether following any agreement  rights and representation will be preserved.

Although the United States has announced a policy to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, so far, Afghan women have been excluded from the peace talks it has been facilitating with the Taliban. Afghanistan’s government adopted the second generation of its National Action Plan on 1325 last month, however still, women’s meaningful participation seems like a dream. 

The upcoming Afghan presidential election is going to be held in a very time-sensitive period where insecurity, corruption, and mismanagement are major concerns. It is likely that Afghan women, due to many family and cultural barriers along with the above mentioned social and political challenges, will not be able to participate fully and meaningfully in the upcoming election. Therefore, even though their participation on some level is a step forward, there are still many obstacles that hinders the success and fairness of this movement. 

Therefore, WILPF Afghanistan has issued the following recommendations:

1.     There is an extremely urgent need for a ceasefire. This is also essential for warring parties because they are using force in order to gain the upper hand in the peace talks. We are against the use of military which badly impacts the life of common Afghan civilians. The United Nations and the international community must place pressure on both sides to stop war and pursue the direct negotiation process without any usage of violence.

2.     Women’s meaningful participation in upcoming peace negotiation is crucially important and both parties of conflicting interest must ensure women’s role throughout the whole process.

3.     The upcoming presidential election is going to be held by financial support of the international community. The support must go with condition of transparency, role and upholding of law, and respect for human rights and women’s rights.

4.     Work on a proper mechanism for reconciliation and development program for the post-peace period in order to help integrate the warring faction within the community.

There will undoubtedly be many stumbling blocks that need to be worked out on a whole range of issues, from where a future government’s legitimacy will come (through elections, and if so, what form of elections?) to disarmament and the costly reintegration of decommissioned fighters. The calls to protect civilians and civilian institutions answer to widespread popular feelings could also be turned on its head. When all parties start accusing one another of not heeding these calls, this could undermine the little trust already created and reflected in the joint resolution before intra-Afghan negotiations have even begun. Importantly, both the Taliban and the Afghan government have moved forwards. This has paved the way for direct talks between them becoming a possibility –the Taliban by sitting with government representatives, Kabul by not putting obstacles in the way of the Doha conference and by not insisting that their representatives appear in their official capacities. What remains critical is that women and women’s human rights and meaningful participation across the political and peace processes are respected and placed at the centre of priorities for all actors. 

 

(Photo credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

Putting words into action to support Afghan women’s rights: UN Security Council Debate on the situation in Afghanistan, 10 September 2019

​After nearly a year of talks between the Taliban and the United States, a peace deal has been publicly laid to rest at the behest of President Donald Trump, after yet another deadly attack by the Taliban that killed one US soldier, a Romanian army corporal and 10 Afghan civilians. The American president has been quoted as saying “As far as I'm concerned, they are dead”. It is unclear if negotiations will resume in the near future as presidential elections also loom large in Afghanistan.  

Two days later on September 10, 2019, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held its quarterly debate on the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the situation in Afghanistan, and its implications for international peace and security (S/2019/493).

Of the statements made by the 27 member states along with the briefers and European Union representative, 53.6% made mention of the importance of women’s meaningful participation in the peace process. Among these states Germany and Afghanistan were the clearest in pressing for this element of UN SCR 1325 to be a parcel of any peace negotiation efforts moving forward. The concern for roll-back on the rights of women and other marginalised ethnic and religious communities was also a cause for concern by member states. Member states gave support to the critical need to preserve the social, political and economic achievements made in Afghanistan, particularly by women, after the US invasion in 2001.

The UNAMA mandate will be renewed in mid-September. As the international community prepares to provide the assistance mission a new mandate in Afghanistan, and as UNAMA will continue to support the peace process in the country, it is imperative that the Council and Member States improve concrete support for and actively facilitate a ceasefire, the meaningful participation of women, strengthened accountability and justice, provide enhanced election security, and protect women human rights defenders, journalists, and officials.

Read our full analysis of the debate.

WILPF Afghanistan's National and Global Advocacy for Women’s Rights at the UN

WILPF Afghanistan with WILPF International submitted to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Afghanistan in January 2019. The submission provided a civil society background to women’s political participation in political life, including the current peace talks and upcoming elections, as well as the implementation of the Afghan National Action Plan. Read the UPR submission.

On 26 July 2019, Jamila Afghani, President and Founder of WILPF Afghanistan, briefed the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in Afghanistan. She stated, “ [...] despite the fact that women are disproportionately affected by the conflict, and although women and youth make up the majority of our population, they are minor players in political life and the economy. Women remain excluded from public life and sidelined in the current peace talks”. Her statement focused on the gendered impact of the conflict in Afghanistan, the importance of free and fair elections, and the need for women’s meaningful participation in the current peace talks.

Read the UNSC Briefing & watch the UN Web TV video.

 

Recent Work on Afghanistan

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Women, Peace and Security: Accessible Tools