After the creation of Afghanistan's National Unity Government (NUG), ensuring women’s participation in good governance, peacebuilding, security and countering terrorism was a priority of the AUG and its strategic partners. After a decade and a half we don’t see full and meaningful participation of women in these sectors. Although women are present within the AUG cabinet, their voices and concerns are rarely heard particularly on issues of gender equality, political participation, security, the peacebuilding process and forcible displacement. Women constitute approximately 25% of the Afghan Parliament, however their demands for women’s rights are not taken seriously by the parliament.
Furthermore, the security situation is deteriorating, terrorism is growing, there is an absence of women in the local government and those who are employed lack protection mechanisms. These are part of the challenges and obstacles affecting the political participation of women.
Since terrorism is a known political violence, it always leads to thousands of victims at the national, regional and international level, and women are always impacted in large numbers. In discussions on countering terrorism at the national, regional and international level, women have never remained silent. Women activists expressed their hatred and aversion to all terrorist groups and condemn their actions. Terrorist attacks disturb the human conscience, break the social fabric, while it is women and children who suffer immensely from terror attacks.
Afghanistan is a country where 1 in every 4 people have experienced displacement due to corruption, discrimination, poverty, unemployment, prejudice and natural disaster. It is the country with largest refugee population in the world after Syria. Within the 65 million displaced persons worldwide, 22.5 million are refugees and 2.5 million are from Afghanistan.
However, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is higher than the number of Afghan refugees worldwide. IDPs are facing severe challenges such as poverty, lack of access to basic services, poor living conditions including: lack of clean drinking water or healthy food, increase of disease, lack of shelter, discrimination, insecurity are just some of the issues which are threatening the lives of thousands of IDPs in Afghanistan.
Although most IDPs are dependent on the government and aid from international humanitarian organisations, this assistance does not cover all the IDPs in the country. The assistance given by the Government and international humanitarian organisations is minimal level not addressing the critical needs of IDPs, particularly women and girls.
The absence of women in the peace process and ignorance of women’s role are serious concerns of women’s rights activists, particularly WCLRF and WRN. More concrete steps must be taken to ensure the full and meaningful participation of women in the Afghan peace process. Although recent changes within the structure of the High Peace Council and the increase in women’s participation is a positive step, much more must be done to include women as their participation has been proven to ensure more lasting and sustainable peace.
In this declaration the WCLRF and WRN highlight some of the major challenges of women and list the specific recommendations to the national, regional and international stakeholders.
Recommendations to the National Unity Government
According to the Afghan National Action Plan (NAP) AUG should strive to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, support and facilitate women’s participation in the peace process, particularly in the HPC and its local committees and increase the active role of women in the Peace Process leadership.
Assurance to protect the achievements of women in the last half decade during the negotiation with extremist groups through the active presence of women at the peace negotiation.
Increase the presence of women within the central and local government leadership as well as the decision making level, recruit women based on the existing gender equality policies within the ministries and for the provincial governors and district governors.
NUG should have the most intense mechanism to fight terrorism and should have strict punishment mechanism to prevent any type of negligence by the security personal.
NUG should develop a protection policy for the refugees and displaced families, for the support of Afghan refugees in other countries, particularly neighboring countries.
NUG should facilitate and support the active and meaningful participation of Afghan women refugee to represent Afghanistan refugee women at important, national, regional and international negotiations.
Recommendations to the International Community
Requesting the international community to support the AUG to combat terrorism, punish the culprits and avoid exemption, as terrorism is an international phenomenon Afghanistan requires international support to fight it.
The International Community should act as a civil society observer on the implementation of gender equality policies, especially on the implementation of the UNSCR 1325 NAP, HPC strategy, Afghan Women’s Action Plan (NAPWA) and other important documents on enhancing accountability, transparency through the evaluation of the achievements.
Afghanistan should ratify the Un International convention on refugees and agree with bordered states of the region on protection standards for forcibly displaced persons, keeping in mind the differential needs of women.