United Nations Side-Event Reaffirms International Support for Afghan Women


New York, NY—March 23, 2021—Diplomats from over a dozen countries condemned the targeted killings of Afghan women and called for women’s equal and meaningful participation throughout the Afghan peace process during an event on the sidelines of the 65th UN Commission on the Status of Women co-hosted on March 19 by The Permanent Missions of Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States–on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan–together with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

“More than 20 women were assassinated in the past few months, one by one they were attacked on their way to or from work. Journalists, social activists, doctors, judges, whose only apparent guilt was trying to build a strong democratic and egalitarian society….Their sacrifice will not be in vain,” said H.E. Rula Ghani, First Lady of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Ambassadors to the UN from Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, United States, Ireland, Germany, Finland, France, Turkey, Belgium, and Turkmenistan, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, the State Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and HRH the Countess of Wessex joined Afghan civil society leaders to discuss how the international community can more effectively ensure Afghan women’s safety, their meaningful participation at all levels of the peace process, and that the gains they have made are preserved and advanced. A refrain from all the speakers was the recognition that peace will fail if women’s rights — as guaranteed in the Afghan constitution — are threatened or erased.

“There is more that needs to be done to protect women’s rights, but it’s also important to protect the progress so far–such as improvements in girls’ education and maternal mortality–which risks being reversed if the peace talks are not inclusive, allowing women to participate fully, equally, and meaningfully,” said H.E. Barbara Woodward, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN. She added The UK has supported the International Civil Society Action Network to develop a protection framework for women peacebuilders in Afghanistan, encouraging others to adopt the recommendations.

Several speakers bemoaned the small number of women appointed as delegates in the current peace talks taking place in Doha and called for women’s equal participation in informal and formal peace dialogues and any future political settlement.

“This year’s CSW theme of women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in political and public life and decision-making makes today a perfect occasion to celebrate the strength, resilience, and perseverance of Afghan women. The stakes are higher than ever as Afghans work to end violent conflict and establish a sustainable peace,” said H.E. Elisabeth Millard, Acting ECOSOC Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations. She paid tribute to 7 of the Afghan women tragically murdered in recent months who posthumously received the US State Department’s International Women of Courage award.

“Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan is one of our priorities in the UN Security Council. As co-pen holders [with Norway], Estonia continues to support an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process that preserves the political, economic, and social achievements of the Afghan people since 2001,” said H.E. Eva-Maria Liimets, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia.

“On the 8th of March I had the opportunity to discuss the progress of the Afghan peace talks with some of the women negotiators in the Republic’s delegation—effective negotiators in their fields of expertise and strong leaders who play an important role in advancing equal opportunities for women and building a better future for Afghanistan. A key takeaway was that more work remains to create the necessary space for women leaders and experts at all levels in Afghanistan’s peace process,” said H.E. Audun Halvorsen, State Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway.

HRH The Countess of Wessex, a champion for Women, Peace & Security for the UK, joined the discussion, calling on international leaders to “listen to women of Afghanistan.” She added: “We need to ask, why are men so afraid of having women in the room? Afghan women have shown that they are so effective in acting for peace.”

Afghan civil society leaders Mary Akrami, Executive Director, of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and Shkula Zadran, Afghan Youth Representative to The United Nations spoke of their distrust of the Taliban, and the need for the international community to help ensure that rule of law, freedom of speech, and women’s rights will be protected.

Other speakers emphasized the critical role that the United Nations will play in Afghanistan moving forward. H.E. Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs noted that the Secretary-General  just appointed seasoned mediator, Jean Arnault, to be his personal envoy on Afghanistan and Regional issues. She also noted the extensive role that the UN has been playing in Afghanistan and its ongoing commitment to the women, peace and security framework. Other speakers spoke of the need for international assistance to be conditioned on future protection of the rights of women, children, minorities.

“There is no future peace in Afghanistan without the constitutional protection and active promotion of women’s rights. The international community will not accept it — that’s what you all said [today] – and the Government of Afghanistan will not accept it…And most importantly, the people of Afghanistan will not accept it,” said H.E. Adela Raz, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN.

“Peace gained at the cost of women’s rights is not peace. We must stand with Afghan women who are critical to Afghanistan’s future and any prospect for a durable peace. This is a time for the international community to redouble its efforts on behalf of an inclusive peace process at all levels, said Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security who moderated the conversation.


Media Contact
Sarah Rutherford

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.