Kabul’s citizens desperately need an end to the violence. The city spent much of last week burying its dead, again and again. On May 31, a truck bomb exploded at a busy intersection, killing 150 people and wounding more than 300. On June 2, nine people were killed and more wounded when police clashed with protesters marching in the wake of the bombing. On June 3, three suicide bombers detonated at the funeral of one of the slain protesters, killing at least 12 more and injuring dozens.
The last attack happened the evening before the Afghan government’s latest effort at peace talks, the Kabul Process, began. And despite security challenges and the damage to the building where the meeting was to be held, the talks went ahead – a testament the urgency with which the Afghan government sees these talks.
Yet the Kabul Process is already missing a crucial factor to a successful outcome. Research shows that full participation by women in peace negotiations increases the chances of a deal being reached and it being successful. Yet the “family photo” of the meeting participants, 47 Afghan and foreign dignitaries, included only two Afghan women.
In previous talks, Afghan women have sometimes been totally absent, sometimes been relegated to note-taking roles, and have never appeared in numbers sufficient to transcend tokenism. A long-promised plan by the Afghan government to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women’s equal participation in issues surrounding peace and security, has been beset by delays and apathy.
The Kabul Process aims to bring together regional actors to support peace, and to put the Afghan government more clearly in charge than in prior efforts. But in the marginalization of women, the Kabul Process is already a continuation of earlier, unsuccessful, efforts.
This is a grave mistake for all Afghans who long for security. Last week, Afghan women died beside men in the bombing, and marched beside men in the protest. If peace is to come, they must also sit next to men at the negotiating table.