Workshop Report: Implementing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Afghanistan (hosted by Liechtenstein)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
The Government of Liechtenstein
Southern Asia

The report is a chair's summary of the discussion and findings from a workshop held in Liechtenstein on WPS in Afghanistan in January 2012. PeaceWomen/WILPF participated in this workshop. The Government of Liechtenstein, with the support of the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD), organized from 28 to 30 January 2012 a workshop in Schaan/Liechtenstein, hosted by H.E. Foreign Minister Aurelia Frick, on the implementation of the WPS agenda in Afghanistan, in particular in view of the upcoming negotiations on the mandate renewal of UNAMA. Participants included Afghan women leaders, both from Government and civil society, representatives of States, in particular members of the Security Council, senior UN officials, NGO representatives as well as academics. The workshop served the dual purpose of exploring ways for the Council to translate the thematic agenda into its country-specific work (a goal that Liechtenstein has consistently pursued as a member of the S-5 group), and of contributing to the effectiveness of UNAMA's mandate and the improvement of the situation of women in Afghanistan. The meeting was held under the Chatham house rule, and the findings and recommendations contained in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of all the participants in the workshop.

Findings and recommendations

• While important progress has been made with regard to the situation of women over the past decade, the current achievements are both insufficient and fragile. A reduction in the international engagement could jeopardize in particular the gains made in the area of women's rights.

• There is a risk that both the protection and the participation pillar of the WPS agenda are neglected as the international community is focusing on the withdrawal of the military presence. This risk must be countered, including through a robust and coherent mandate for UNAMA.

• Women must be integrated meaningfully into an inclusive transition and peace process, including at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

• Consultation with Afghan women and civil society organizations at the community level must be a priority for domestic and international actors, especially regarding future donor activities and transition and peace negotiations.

• A “Plan B” must be developed, especially related to the protection of the rights of women, should the peace process fail.

• Afghan women want peace, but not at the cost of losing hard-won gains and not a peace without justice.

• “Women's issues” need to be addressed throughout all of Afghanistan's government ministries and must not be relegated solely to the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

• Women must be more actively recruited into the security and the judicial sector to better protect women's rights, facilitate the economic and political participation of women, fully implement the Elimination of Violence against Women law, and guarantee equal treatment before the law.

• The Afghan penal code must be strengthened to include a clear definition of rape and to enable punishments for criminal acts committed in the name of honor.

• A strategic communications plan, including outreach at the community and national levels and publication of relevant documents (e.g. resolution 1325) in local languages, is needed for awareness raising, especially related to women's constitutional rights, legal protections against violence, and the long-term implications of traditional harmful practices such as child marriage.

• The UN and the Afghan government can influence the participation of women by appointing more women to leadership and visible positions, especially as political advisors, ambassadors, special envoys, and special representatives.

• The international community needs to support civil society groups and to focus more on monitoring, reporting, and benchmarks for aid to facilitate better government accountability on women's issues and participation.

• UN missions need to better integrate and enable specialists to serve as women's protection advisors with skill sets that include security expertise, gender analysis, and human rights.

• Measures should be taken to move from advocacy for women's protection and participation to pragmatic and concrete considerations and plans to achieve desired outcomes.

Recommendations for inclusion in the UNAMA mandate

1. Include monitoring and analysis of sexual violence based on language in resolution 1996
(OP 24)

2. Include monitoring the implementation of any peace agreement from a human rights perspective, including safeguards for human rights and women's rights defenders.

3. Include specific operational elements from resolutions 1325, 1888, and 1960 in the UNAMA mandate, using as examples mandate resolutions for Cote d'Ivoire, Somalia, and Sudan, and their specific provisions for security arrangements, capacity-building, and transitional justice.

4. Include stronger wording on women's political participation in all decision-making processes, including initiatives aimed at achieving sustainable peace based on language in resolution 1889 (OP1) and PRST 2011/20.

5. Incorporate language from resolution 1889, especially from OP6, OP9, and OP10 related to data analysis, funding and capacity building, and consultation with civil society and women's organizations, and including gender-specific benchmarking indicators.

6. Include reporting and monitoring using gender-specific benchmarks related to Afghan security forces (OP24).

7. Incorporate specific language on women's economic empowerment, including reference to alternative livelihoods given women's potential victimization vis-à-vis poppy eradication plans (OP28).

8. Strengthen language related to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (OP6d), emphasizing the independence of AIHRC and its functioning according to Paris Principles.

9. Include specific references to sexual violence as part of OP36 on violence and discrimination and OP37 related to the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

10. Include specific reference to children and armed conflict in particular regarding attacks against schools and teachers in conflict pursuant to resolution 1998, and to girls' access to education based on resolution 1889, OP11.


The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda of the Security Council is considered one of the landmark achievements in its thematic work. In its resolution 1325 (2000), the Council addressed for the first time the impact of armed conflict on women and recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention and peace processes. The thematic work initiated by resolution 1325 has been reinforced and expanded by follow-up resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), and 1960 (2010), which together form the Women, Peace and Security agenda of the Council. At the same time, integrating this agenda into the country-specific work of the Council has proven very challenging, despite the Security Council's continued political recognition that gender is indeed central to lasting and sustainable peace and security. The implementation of the WPS agenda on the ground is thus lagging far behind the ambitious conceptual framework that the Council has created over the past decade.

A case in point is Afghanistan, where the Security Council has been actively involved for many years. While the situation of women has consistently attracted great attention in the international community, the WPS agenda has made only minimal advances. The situation for women overall remains difficult and highly insecure, even after a lengthy international presence and engagement under the umbrella of the UNAMA mandate. This is true for both central aspects of the WPS agenda: on the protection side, sexual violence against women and girls, including abduction, rape and trafficking, is widespread. Women human rights defenders face attacks and intimidation. In some parts of the country, they are effectively prevented from continuing their work, as several high-profile women have been attacked and some of them killed. On the participation side, some progress has been achieved with respect to the presence of women in political positions. But overall, the representation and active participation of women in political processes and economic activities remain limited. There is an acute risk that women will be effectively excluded from peace talks, against the stated beliefs and commitments reflected in the WPS agenda.

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Implementing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Afghanistan Workshop