Afghan women are consistently excluded from Afghanistan’s peace negotiations and formal talks about the country’s future, international agency Oxfam said today. Unless this discrimination is reversed, peace will be unsustainable, Afghanistan’s development will be compromised, and enormous human rights gains made since the fall of the Taliban will remain under threat.
In a new report released today, “Behind Closed Doors,” Oxfam tracked 23 known peace talks held between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the international community since 2005. It found that during talks between the international community and the Taliban, not one Afghan woman had been involved.
During talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, women were present on only two occasions.
By freezing-out women from the peace and development process, Afghanistan’s Western supporters are breaking promises made 13 years ago to support women’s empowerment. Oxfam said that unless Afghan women are given an active role, a legacy of the Afghan war will be Afghan women’s eventual suppression into poverty, directly undermining Afghanistan’s future prosperity.
Today Afghan women are still exchanged to settle disputes amongst families. They suffer some of the highest levels of violence ever seen in the country. Laws designed to protect their rights are under threat, and parliamentary quotas for women are dropping.
Oxfam’s Country Director for Afghanistan John Watt said: “The international community used women’s rights to help justify its presence in Afghanistan. Having brought about some improvements and investing more than $100 billion in aid, it would be a tragedy if progress was reversed. As donors rush to the exit, Afghans should not have to worry that the world will forget promises made to Afghan women and allow women’s rights to be negotiated away.”
As the possibility of a new round of peace talks gains momentum under a new Afghan government, Oxfam is concerned that a sustainable peace agreement will not be possible if women are denied a stake in negotiations.
“Undoubtedly, with the help of international aid and support, many Afghan women have made enormous changes in their lives in the last decade. Women are working as doctors, police chiefs, members of parliament and teachers. A record number of girls are in school. But millions more women in rural and isolated areas have not seen any changes. In some instances there has been a roll-back in any rights they may have gained,” Watt said.
“From the villages where we work to the highest levels of government we can see just how fragile women’s rights are. With new peace talks just around the corner, it’s time for the Afghan government and their Western allies to once again champion women’s leading role in Afghanistan’s future. They can not fail them now and decide their future behind closed doors.”
• The Afghan government should involve women at all levels of decision making in both formal and informal peace talks, including ensuring women are able to meaningfully participate in high-level political negotiations with the Taliban. This must be combined with ongoing assistance for women negotiators to ensure they can meaningfully contribute.
• A 30 percent minimum threshold should be established for women’s inclusion in the membership of all Afghan government peace bodies, including the High Peace Council (HPC), provincial peace councils and any bodies set up to replace them.
• Governments and donors should provide substantial and sustained funding towards implementation of the National Action Plan 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Improve donor coordination of international support through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in close coordination with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and other relevant ministries.
• The United Nations should ensure that all UN supported reconciliation and reintegration processes are explicitly linked to the promotion of women’s rights, including by ensuring women are actively involved in the vetting of ex-combatants for reintegration into society. In particular, take steps to improve the links between civil society and women’s local level peace-building efforts and the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program.