United Nations human rights experts share the unease Afghan civil society representatives voiced in London last week about the protection of women’s human rights during peace negotiations with the Taliban.
The body that monitors the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) released a statement on Friday expressing concern over the exclusion of women from high level decision-making at and during preparations for last week’s London conference and the “absence of clear strategies to protect women’s rights in the process of the discussions leading to negotiations with representatives of the Taliban.”
Afghan women were not included in the Afghan Government’s official delegation to the London conference and only one Afghan woman was permitted to speak on behalf of civil society as part of the official conference program.
At tandem non-governmental events, Afghan women –aidworkers, human rights activists and elected officials— repeatedly stressed that any negotiations with the Taliban must involve Afghan women and be conducted with strict pre-conditions, including the acceptance of the Afghan Constitution by all parties.
President Hamid Karzai used the conference as a platform to announce his intention to hold a “Grand Peace Jirga” with local leaders from throughout Afghanistan to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban.
In its response to the official communiqué of the conference, the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), an umbrella organization representing Afghan women’s NGOs, called the announcement an “opportunity for the Government of Afghanistan and its international partners to demonstrate […] that reconciliation and reintegration will not take place at the expense of human rights and that women are central to bringing peace and stability to their country.”
The statement said, “Women must be fully represented at every stage of planning for these events and must be included at decision-making levels at the events themselves.”
In the months ahead, AWN plans to hold events throughout Afghanistan to prepare the women to take part in future peacebuilding efforts, including reintegration of former Taliban fighters, and to advocate for women’s involvement as “full partners” in any negotiations.
“We, the women of Afghanistan, are committed to working alongside the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to bring peace and prosperity to our beloved country and all of its people,” said the AWN statement.