• publish: 24 March 2021
  • time: 3:39 pm
  • category: Politics
  • No: 17260
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Male-dominated peace talks highlighted at UN Security Council

Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday and warned that rushing the peace process could tip the balance and set off a full-scale civil war.

In her address, she also said the country’s peace talks remain dominated by a group of elite men, some of whom have themselves been responsible for perpetuating violence.

According to her, any settlement that excludes the wider public will almost certainly be short-lived and is unlikely to lead to lasting peace. 

“Building peace takes more than a deal among elites,” she said, calling for a more inclusive national endeavour that ensures the participation of women, minorities, youth, civil society and the vibrant Afghan media, as well as victims.

She said a minimum of 30 percent of the participants in the peace talks should be women, and more steps are needed to achieve full gender balance in the future.

“At the recent conference in Moscow, I, like many Afghan women, was shocked and angered to see only one Afghan woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, in a room full of men discussing the future of my country,” she said.  

She said Afghan women have fought for their human rights for many decades, and have made considerable progress in education, employment and political participation.  They are experts everywhere, from the fields of politics to public administration, security, business, science and information technology.  

Excluding or marginalizing them from the main discussions about the future of Afghanistan is not only unjust and unacceptable but unwise and unhelpful to a lasting peace, she said.

Emphasizing that Afghans are exhausted by war and yearn for peace, she underlined the urgent need to bring the population relief from relentless violence.  The peace process must reflect the concerns and aspirations of all people, with citizens’ fundamental rights recognized and upheld — not violated or “bargained off”.  

Peace in Afghanistan will contribute to peace in the region and the world, she stressed, welcoming the heightened role of the United Nations and the Security Council in that process.

As Council members took the floor, many pledged their unwavering support for the people of Afghanistan but some emphasized the need to ensure that the ongoing talks in Doha and elsewhere remain both Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, while stressing that no solution to the country’s problems can be imposed from the outside.  

Several delegates also pointed to the potential imminent withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a move that must be very carefully considered, as it may have serious security implications or risk reversing hard-won gains already achieved.

Targeted killings labelled War Crimes 

The representative of Estonia declared:  “With the violence and attacks on civilians, the need for humanitarian assistance and the COVID-19 pandemic, the conditions now in Afghanistan are looking worse than they have in a decade.”  

It is particularly troubling to hear that the security situation in the country has deteriorated to its worst level since UNAMA’s inception, and the recent wave of deliberate attacks targeting civilians is indefensible, he said.  

Emphasizing that such assassinations may be war crimes and that they must be investigated and perpetrators held to account, he said the increasing violence is also impeding the work of humanitarian actors at a time when nearly half the population of Afghanistan requires assistance.  

Echoing other speakers’ calls for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, he went on to note that the soaring violence has contributed to diminished public confidence in the peace process. 

The representative of Norway said her country’s four overarching priorities in the Council — peace diplomacy, the equal participation of women, the protection of civilians, and climate change and security — are all highly relevant to Afghanistan, and she intends to bring these issues to the forefront.  

Welcoming initiatives towards securing international support for the Afghan peace process, including the recent meeting in Moscow and the upcoming meeting in Turkey, she said these initiatives must complement and build on the Doha talks. 

She also said the full, equal and meaningful participation of women is also essential, not only at the negotiating table but in every room where decisions about the future of Afghanistan are being made.

The representative of Niger said attacks and other acts of intimidation against civilians should not be used as a means of pressure to obtain concessions from the other party in the negotiations.  He said any good negotiated solution must include the protection of constitutional rights of Afghan women and youth.  

He also stressed the need to address the question of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as security sector reform.

The representative of Vietnam urged all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law and allow unhindered humanitarian services, while also calling for stronger efforts to combat the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and crime.

The representative of Tunisia expressed regret that the negotiations taking place in Doha have not yet brought about the expected results and said all parties must abide by their responsibilities under international law and protect civilians.

He called on the Taliban in particular to end its attacks, honour its counter-terrorism commitments and engage with the government.  

He agreed with other speakers that violence must end in order for Afghans to regain confidence in the peace process and that women must be fully and meaningfully included in all aspects of those negotiations.

The representative of France said the full, active and effective participation of women in all formats of the peace process is essential for its long-term success and said peace will not be sustainable as long as drug trafficking continues to gain ground.  

The representative of Kenya expressed grave concern that terrorism persists in Afghanistan as a means for political ends, and urged all parties to cease hostilities while welcoming regional and international efforts to support the peace process. He said women remain underrepresented in key bodies, including both negotiating teams, as well as the High Council for National Reconciliation.

Other Council Members also emphasized the need to end the violence and for women to have a greater role in the peacemaking process. 

The representative of India said that an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan is “the need of the hour”,  while the representative of Russia stated there is a need to consolidate all international and regional efforts and new initiatives must be carefully contemplated. 

Mexico’s representative of Mexico meanwhile expressed concern that women remain underrepresented at all levels of decision-making. 

It is notable that out of 46 members of the newly created Afghan Commission on Women’s Affairs, only nine are females, he said. 

Women must be fully and meaningfully included and their voices must be heard, he added.  

The representative of Ireland also voiced concern over the low levels of female representation at last week’s meetings in Moscow, and shared the opinion expressed there by the sole female delegate, Habiba Sarabi, that “51 per cent of people should not be ignored”.

The representative of the United States, Council President for March, speaking in her national capacity, said for peace agreements to be durable and just, the universal human rights of all, including women and minorities, must be respected. 

It is also critical to do more to support women and girls in Afghanistan.  Violence was meant to silence.  

“I will not be silent,” she said, adding that Afghan women will not be either. Their strong voices must be included in discussions on their future.

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