WASHINGTON – July 30, 2020 – This week, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and Cordaid, a leading Dutch relief and development organization, hosted a high-level virtual discussion on Afghan women’s role in the upcoming intra-Afghan talks.
“This is a particularly critical moment to call world attention to the importance of Afghan women’s meaningful participation in the anticipated peace talks because the stakes are high for Afghanistan, the region and the international community,” noted moderator Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director of Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
“The future rights and role of women in Afghanistan must be a priority and that starts with their substantive involvement in the peace process,” said Former U.S. Secretary of State and Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy at Georgetown University Madeleine K. Albirght during the event. “Peace cannot be made on the backs of Afghan women. Women need to be a party to the negotiation, not just an issue to be discussed.”
The participants, who included both Afghan women leaders and diplomats who have been engaged on Afghanistan, called for national and international officials to ensure Afghan women’s meaningful participation in an inclusive peace process and to preserve Afghan women’s rights. Some of the key recommendations raised in the discussion include:
- The international community should make international funding and assistance conditional on the realization and enforcement of women’s rights, both during the intra-Afghan talks and in any resulting agreement. The international community must be united around the preservation of Afghan women’s rights.
- Any peace agreement should include monitoring mechanisms with benchmarks and metrics, that includes Afghan civil society and international oversight, to assess the Afghan government’s adherence to commitments in support of women’s rights and participation.
- The Afghan government and international actors must not give the impression that they will pull back on international engagement without a sufficient exit strategy that promotes lasting peace. The international community must move away from a short-term focus. When negotiating an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led intra-Afghan peace agreement global partners should not give any party the impression that they are eager to pull out or pull back international engagement.
- The Afghan government and international actors involved in the peace process should ensure that Afghan women are centrally engaged in the negotiations with the Taliban at every stage of the peace process. Meaningful participation is not just about the numbers of women engaged in the talks. Meaningful inclusion means being a decision-maker. It calls for a commitment and political will to ensure that the voices and concerns of Afghan women will be present in every step of the negotiations. The negotiating team should consistently reinforce women’s rights in talks with the Taliban to ensure the gains women have achieved in recent decades and their constitutional rights are not sacrificed in the negotiation process.
- The Afghan government, with support from women’s groups and civil society, should develop broad domestic consensus about the importance of women’s meaningful inclusion and encourage the Afghan people to support an inclusive peace process. The Afghan government and the international community should avoid feeding into the false narrative that educated and urban women cannot speak on behalf of Afghan women. Such assumptions are not made of Afghan male policymakers and negotiators. Regardless of where Afghan women live in their country, they bear the brunt of conflict and are at the forefront of working for peace. Male leaders should also be encouraged to utilize their position in society to advocate for the preservation and acceleration of women’s rights.
- The peace process should provide equal engagement and opportunities for enablers of peace across all sectors of Afghanistan including civil society, women’s groups, youth groups, minorities, private sector, academia, and other segments of society.
Panelists included Former Ambassador of Afghanistan to Norway Shukria Barakzai; Former Afghan Minister of Mines, Petroleum and Industries Nargis Nehan; Former UN Special Envoy to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria Staffan de Mistura; and Director of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of Stability and Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Marriët Schuurman.
“The resilience, courage, and leadership of Afghan women is a story of hope. They are not victims, but agents in their own right with a diversity of opinions. The international community should be there to lend support. It should be a shared commitment with the equal participation of Afghan women on the ground,” said Ambassador Marriët Schuurman.
A full recording of the discussion is available online.
About Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security (GIWPS)
Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful, and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies, and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. We engage in rigorous research, host global convenings, advance strategic partnerships, and nurture the next generation of leaders. Housed within the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, the Institute is headed by the former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer.
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