(Kabul) – The Afghan government should include female negotiators in the upcoming multistate meeting on the Afghan peace process, Human Rights Watch said today.

Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China are scheduled to meet on January 11, 2016, in Islamabad, Pakistan, to revive peace negotiations that stalled in July after disclosure of the death of the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Members of the Loya Jirga, grand council, attend the last day of the Loya Jirga, in Kabul on November 24, 2013.

“Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s promises to include women in peace talks have so far amounted to nothing,” said Heather Barr, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The January 11 meeting is a key opportunity for him to show that his government is genuinely committed to women’s full participation in future talks.”

Afghan women’s rights activists have for years raised concerns 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 routine exclusion of women from the process. A 2014 study by Oxfam found that in 23 rounds of informal peace talks involving the Afghan government and the Taliban between 2005 and 2014, women were present on only two occasions. No women were ever included in discussions between international negotiators and the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s promises to include women in peace talks have so far amounted to nothing. The January 11 meeting is a key opportunity for him to show that his government is genuinely committed to women’s full participation in future talks.

Heather Barr

senior women’s rights researcher

The movement toward new peace negotiations for Afghanistan has come amid increased fighting and insecurity, international donor fatigue, and the drawdown of international military forces. A July 7 meeting in Murree, Pakistan, between the Afghan government and the Taliban, was heralded as the first formal meeting between the two warring sides. President Ghani assured women’s rights activists that they will be included in negotiations, but has also suggested that he did not intend to include women throughout the process, saying that he “will not bother them until the right time.” The Afghan government delegation in Murree did not include women.

Afghan women’s rights activists have repeatedly called for women’s full participation in the peace talks, as set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and later resolutions. 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 the years since, the Security Council passed seven additional resolutions on women, peace, and security. In October 2015, the Security Council convened a high-level review of the implementation of Resolution 1325, in which governments noted the continuing absence of female negotiators, and pledged to change that situation.

In June 2015, the Afghan government presented a national action plan to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 from 2015 through 2022. This plan includes the goal of “ensuring women’s effective participation in the peace process” and includes measures such as developing a roster of “potential women negotiators,” and developing capacity building for women negotiators. In September 2015, the government pledged to develop a detailed implementation plan for meeting the goals outlined in the national action plan, and to begin carrying out the plan in the first half of 2016.

“President Ghani should make women full participants in every stage of the peace process, and Afghanistan’s donors and allies should press him to do so,” Barr said. “Pakistan, the US, and China should emphasize the importance of female negotiators by ensuring that they also send female representatives to the January 11 meeting.”