(Kabul) – The Afghan government should quickly remedy its missed deadline to produce a plan to include women in the peace process, Human Rights Watch said today. In September 2015, the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani promised its key international donors it would finalize an implementation plan by year’s end and begin carrying it out in the first half of 2016.
Afghan officials have confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the plan has not been finished. Activists have urged donor governments to press the Afghan government to complete the plan, share drafts with donors, and seek funding for plan activities. Donors have yet to speak out publicly regarding the government’s failure to do so.
“Women’s rights activists in Afghanistan have been fighting for years for a place at the table where the future of their country is being decided,” said Heather Barr, senior researcher on women’s rights at Human Rights Watch. “The Afghan government’s failure to meet the promised deadline for developing this plan suggests a lack of seriousness about giving women the role to which they’re entitled.”
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. National action plans are a mechanism used by many countries to promote compliance with Resolution 1325. The Afghan plan includes the goal of “[e]nsuring 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.
Afghanistan’s 1325 National Action Plan (NAP) outlines general plans and aspirations, but does not provide any detail regarding timelines, budgets, benchmarks, or which government institutions will be responsible for implementing different components of the plan. The plan itself acknowledges this gap, saying, that the government, “acknowledges the need for a detailed implementation plan to ensure the successful implementation of the [1325 National Action Plan]. Hence, a separate implementation plan based on the matrices is set to be developed to clarify the responsibilities of the lead and supporting agencies during the implementation of phase 1 (2015‐2018) and the steps to be taken in terms of coordination, monitoring and evaluation and financing of the NAP.”
“President Ghani should ensure women are full participants in every stage of the peace process and should produce a plan detailing the steps that are needed do so,” Barr said. “Research from around the world shows that women’s participation increases the effectiveness, success, and sustainability of peace processes, so all Afghans will lose if women continue to be shut out.”
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 the discussions between international negotiators and the Taliban that were examined by Oxfam.
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China met on January 11, 2016, in Islamabad, Pakistan, to agree on a roadmap for revived peace negotiations. Earlier talks stalled in July 2015, after disclosure of the death of the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. 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. President Ghani has 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.”
On September 5, 2015, high-level representatives of more than three dozen donor nations convened in Kabul for a “Senior Officials Meeting,” the most recent step in an aid coordination process that began with the 2012 Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan and continued with the 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan. At the September 2015 meeting, the current Afghan government, led by President Ghani, made a number of commitments to donors, including the promise that it would finalize the 1325 implementation plan by the end of 2015 and begin implementing it in the first half of 2016.
“Donors have stayed silent while the Afghan government missed this crucial deadline and continues shutting women out of peace talks, “ Barr said. “The donors should show that they are serious about Resolution 1325 by pressing Kabul to produce a concrete and immediate plan for how women will be part of the process.”