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Afghanistan: Don’t Leave Women Out of Peace Talks

Talks Should Include Female Negotiators, Not Surrender Women’s Rights

(New York) – Afghanistan’s new government should commit to including women on the negotiating team for any future peace talks with the Taliban, Human Rights Watch said today.

On February 24, 2015, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told a cabinet meeting that peace talks would begin “within weeks,” but declined to provide any additional details. These would be the first negotiations since the government of President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah assumed office in September 2014.

“If peace talks in Afghanistan move forward, all parties should ensure that women have a meaningful presence on the negotiating teams,” said Heather Barr, senior women’s rights researcher. “President Ghani should protect human rights – especially women’s rights – by including women on the government’s negotiating team.”

Recent Afghan government statements indicate efforts to restart peace negotiations, but provide no clarity on government plans to “ensure increased representation of women” in all decision-making and mechanisms regarding conflict resolution, as set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and later resolutions.

Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, played a historic role in stressing the importance of women’s “equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” In years since, the Security Council passed six additional resolutions on women, peace, and security. In 2015 the Security Council will convene a high-level review to push for greater implementation of resolution 1325 around the world.

During past efforts at peace negotiations, Afghan women’s rights activists have repeatedly spoken out about their fears that the government will trade away women’s rights in an effort to reach an accommodation with the Taliban. These fears have been exacerbated by the exclusion of women from the process. A 2014 study by Oxfam found that in 23 rounds of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban since 2005, one woman from the government was present on two occasions. No women were ever included in discussions between international negotiators and the Taliban.

Previous negotiations have typically occurred with little transparency, with the public often learning of them only after they occurred. This has prevented Afghan civil society groups, including women’s rights activists, from providing meaningful input to the government on their human rights concerns and their recommendations for ensuring human rights protections in the event a settlement is reached. For instance, activists seeking justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity have had no real opportunities to ensure that amnesty for these crimes will not be on the table in the negotiations.

“President Ghani has an opportunity to pursue peace negotiations in a manner that will reassure all Afghans that their human rights concerns will be taken into account,” Barr said. “He should seize this opportunity, and Afghanistan’s donors should press him to do so.”

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