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Recommendations for Steering Group Conference on Afghanistan

To: Donors Steering Group on Afghanistan
From: Kenneth Roth, Executive Director

As the Donors Steering Group meets in Brussels this week to plan for assistance in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and to prepare for the ministerial conference in Japan next month, we recommend that urgent attention be given to four areas that are often given insufficient attention in post-conflict relief and reconstruction. These are justice and accountability; demining; participation of women; and reintegration of refugees.

Justice and Accountability
Rebuilding a justice system and ending Afghanistan's culture of impunity is not just a long-term goal; it is an urgent need if security is to be re-established and civilians protected. Funding and technical assistance for secure and humane detention centers, and for the training of police, is critical; the transfer of security functions from armed warlords to national police will not be easy.

The Bonn agreement calls for the interim administration to establish, with assistance from the UN, a Judicial Commission to rebuild the country's domestic justice system. Major resources should be allocated for recruiting and retraining jurists, prosecutors, attorneys, police officers and court personnel from the Afghan diaspora and from within Afghanistan itself.

Even if the pre-1973 Afghan legal system never extended far beyond the major cities, it is worth noting that tribal justice systems operative in rural areas are unlikely to be able to address crimes, including property crimes, committed by a party that is not a member of the tribe or ethnic group in question. Land disputes will be a major issue, and resources may be needed specifically to address this issue.

The Bonn agreement also includes a provision for an independent Human Rights Commission. Annex II of the agreement also states that the UN shall have the right to investigate human rights violations. Many human rights organizations, including ours, have recommended that a Commission of Experts be established to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious abuses in Afghanistan. Such a commission could begin to collect evidence immediately without prejudging how or before what kind of court that evidence would be used. It will need operating costs covered as well as expenses, such as the cost of forensic expertise, incurred in analyzing and preserving evidence.

Human Rights Watch has also recommended a screening process, carried out by local authorities in conjunction with international monitors, to exclude from the new armed forces and civilian police force of Afghanistan anyone implicated in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

At the Brussels conference, we urge the Steering Group to designate a task force to develop a strategy on justice and accountability issues, for presentation in Tokyo.

Donor support for humanitarian mine action requires a long-term, multi-year commitment. Donors should recognize the significance and impact of the indigenous programs managed by the UN Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA) and carried out by fifteen implementing partners inside the country. Donors should recognize that there is a decade-long track record for international mine action support in Afghanistan. The funding shortage of 2000, which curtailed some mine clearance activities for a period, must not be forgotten. International assistance must support all the pillars of mine action: clearing the mines, educating the population about the threat - including returning refugee populations -assisting survivors, and destroying existing stockpiles. Funding these activities should be a top priority.

In light of the systematic discrimination against women by the Taliban, it is vital that a new Afghanistan government establish laws guaranteeing women's rights to education, free expression, mobility, employment, and health care. We urge donors to consider the "Brussels Action Plan" adopted by the UNIFEM conference of December 10-11, including the following recommendations:

- Fund a Commission of Afghan Women, to provide names of Afghan women to the interim/provisional government, to ensure women's participation in all aspects of governance; with the necessary infrastructure (computers, telephones, technical assistance, and transportation costs).
- Establish immediately a UNIFEM Fund for Afghan Women to support and promote capacity-building for women leadership. Such a fund could provide small grants to Afghan women with demonstrated leadership skills, to procure infrastructure, supplies, and technical assistance.
- Provide food security geared directly toward Afghan women - food assistance and general distributions. Fund monitors to ensure that programs directed at women are successful.
- Immediately begin massive teacher training courses to ensure the reopening schools on March 22, 2002 (the beginning of the Afghan school year). Many women in Afghanistan were teachers in the past, and there are enormous needs for female education in the wake of the Taliban regime. Prioritize equalized education - noting that comprehensive education for boys can contribute as well to improved equality among men and women.

Refugees and the Displaced
The interim administration will include a department for refugees, displacement and repatriation. Adequate funding for this new department and its civil society partners is essential. At the same time, donors should ensure adequate funding and support for UNHCR and NGO protection and assistance work in Pakistan, Iran, and other host countries for Afghan refugees, who must be allowed to remain until they are able to return voluntarily under conditions of safety and dignity.

During the process of voluntary return to their homes, displaced persons and refugees have specific protection needs that will need funding. Targeted assistance to help returnees resume farming or gain access to adequate shelter will be important this is one area where quick-impact projects would be particularly useful. At the same time that assistance is provided for these rural areas, funding priorities should also anticipate the staggered returns that are likely to occur - with refugees first returning to urban areas before conditions have improved enough to allow them to return their villages of origin.

Donors and their Afghan partners should pay particular attention to the protection needs of displaced women and children and ensure that women play a key role in the planning and implementation of return and reintegration programs. Funding for women's programs should be directly channeled where possible to Afghan women's NGOs. Funding should be provided to ensure that refugees and displaced persons are integrated into all training and demobilization programs, and that reintegration programs are crafted so that they reach disabled, internally displaced, illiterate, and rural returnees. In all of these programs, women and children should be participants in and targeted beneficiaries of such programs.

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