Saturday, January 30, 2010

We MUST Hold Duty Bearer Accountable to Promises Made: Women's Rights Will Not Be Traded for Political Expediency

UK Minister David Milliband speaks at the Davos Debates on the London Conference and the importance of women as a central tenant to the political equation in Afghanistan.

British Foreign & Commonwealth Office summary of the Afghan Women's activity at the London Conference:

The women of Afghanistan articulated a serious concern that reconciliation with the Taliban would have a negative impact on women's rights in Afghanistan.

The Afghan women arrived with BBC's Lyse Doucet and positioned themselves in the media tent. At the press conference, Miliband, Spanta, and Kai Eide answered their question/concern with a firm answer that the Taliban are only offered reconciliation on the basis that they agree to work with the Afghan Constitution, and the words written within it that guarantee women's rights and equal participation.

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton: 'Women have to be involved at every step of the way'

'I also believe very strongly, as is apparent in what I say about this issue, that women have to be involved at every step of the way in this process. To that end, I unveiled our Women’s Action Plan. It includes initiatives focused on women’s security, women’s leadership in the public and private sector; women’s access to judicial institutions, education, and health services; women’s ability to take advantage of economic opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector. This is a comprehensive, forward-looking agenda that stands in stark contrast to al-Qaida’s recently announced agenda for Afghanistan’s women, attempting to send female suicide bombers to the West.'

For full transcrpit of Secretary of State Clinton's remarks at the London Confernece go to,

We Demand: “the status of women [must] not [be] bargained away in any short-term effort to achieve stability”.

Negotiating with the Taliban: the view from below

Deniz Kandiyoti, 29 January 2010

While the only official woman delegate in the Afghan mission to the London Conference pleaded that women’s rights must not be sacrificed on the altar of security concerns, women’s rights activists who had also travelled to London brought their own message.

At the conclusion of a gathering of nearly 70 countries and representatives of the international donor community in London on February 28, negotiations with the Taliban are firmly on the agenda, discussions revolving around the best way of achieving a peace settlement. Both President Karzai, in need of shoring up his shaky legitimacy, and the international powers, seeking an exit option from their costly military entanglement in Afghanistan, appear united on the principle if not the modalities of these negotiations. A two-pronged strategy of simultaneous military surge and meditation and talks for peace and a more inclusive political settlement are now on the table.

What will the implications of these new directions be for ordinary men and women of Afghanistan? How will the interests of civil society - national and international - be represented in this process? What of human rights and, more specifically, women's rights to which the international community had made vocal commitments in the aftermath of the Bonn conference in 2001? These were some of the questions raised on January 26 at a conference titled “An Alternative View: Afghan Perspectives on Development and Security” which aimed “to ensure that the needs of the Afghan people remain forefront on the international community’s agenda”.

Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Special Representative to UNAMA (2001-2004) offered a candid critique of past errors; the lack of representativeness of the Bonn process in 2001, the failure to expand ISAF forces outside Kabul at a point in time when it could have made a real difference and UNAMA choosing to politely ignore the reality of Operation Enduring Freedom, a counter terrorism operation at cross-purposes with the objectives of state-building. The unresolved issue of transitional justice - the failure to bring the past perpetrators of war crimes to justice - hung heavily in the air. Had justice been traded for peace in the post-Bonn settlement, finally achieving neither justice nor peace? Could the same errors be repeated again?

The increasing militarization of aid and its perverse consequences for effective, needs-based aid delivery dominated the concerns of civil society representatives. Why was it that the most insecure provinces, least able to absorb aid, received a disproportionate share of the resources while the poorest regions were being ignored? Did Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) imperil the work of civilian providers of aid through their connection with the military who are held accountable for the loss of civilian lives? Was aid increasingly being used as a tool of counter-insurgency? If so, does the assumption that aid contributes to peace building and counterinsurgency hold any water? The injection of aid can be shown, some argued, to have destabilizing effects when it provides incentives for noxious elites who have a stake in instability, undermining the goals of both counterinsurgency and development. Kai Eide, UN Special Representative to UNAMA warned that the current troop surge and larger military budgetary allocations would only accentuate what he called “the QIP impulse” - the tendency to pilfer money through so-called “quick impact projects” meant to win “hearts and minds”- and divert resources from bottom-up projects, conceived through proper consultation with the grass roots and geared to meeting people’s perceived needs. Civil society and the NGO community could play a critical role in meeting these needs, but could they be sheltered from pressures to pursue military objectives?

Dr. Hazrat- Omar Zakhilwal, Minister of Finance and Chief Economic Advisor to the President, complained that only 20% of total aid (10% of which was earmarked for specific projects) was channelled through the government and that aid had not assisted the state-building process. However, alongside the mismanagement and ineffectiveness of international aid, grave concerns were also expressed over widespread corruption, nepotism and lack of accountability at all levels, an expensive and ineffective justice system biased against the most powerless, lack of security, lack of progress in governance reforms and limited success in socio-economic development. This resulted in high levels of distrust between the population and the government, feeding the existing tendency to look for local solutions to the provision of public goods such as justice and security.

The possible social implications of the “reconciliation” process were uppermost in the minds of representatives of human rights and women’s rights organizations. Would compliance with international standard setting human rights instruments be upheld? What would the consequences for women’s rights be? Arezo Qanih, the only official woman delegate to the London Conference (in a 63-strong Afghan mission) made a plea that women’s rights should not to be sacrificed at the altar of security concerns. She invited the government and international community to honour their commitments to the goals of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), to develop a strategy for the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) and to respect international agreements. Kabul MP, Shinkai Karokhail, chairperson of Afghan women parliamentarians, pointed out that the goal of accountable and sustainable development could not be attained without investing in women’s needs and addressing their concerns.

In written statements, press conferences, presentations to Parliament and to the London Conference the group of women’s rights activists who travelled to London articulated their common platform. They explicitly asked that “the status of women is not bargained away in any short-term effort to achieve stability”. They also demanded that women constitute at least 25% of any peace process, including upcoming peace jirgas, in line with existing constitutional guarantees for women’s representation. International donors and the government were held to account over the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), the gender component of the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), governance reforms for gender equality and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325- endeavours initially backed by international donors, now at risk of being sidelined and ignored.

What are the prospects of these demands getting a hearing? BBC’s Today programme featured an interview on 27 January with one of the women’s rights activists from Afghanistan who expressed some of her concerns about the reconciliation process. She was asked whether she thought that abuses against women in Afghanistan had anything to do with the Taliban or whether they merely expressed aspects of Afghan culture. This apparently innocuous query has a depressing ring for many women’s rights activists who have seen their concerns systematically hijacked and their voices silenced for decades. When the mujahidin were in alliance with Western powers in the fight against the Soviet Union and in the subsequent period of civil war, their human rights abuses, including horrendous instances of gender-based violence, were largely passed over in silence. Yet these were the conditions that eventually paved the way for the Taliban victory and take-over. When Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the plight of women in Afghanistan was invoked as a humanitarian crisis justifying military intervention. Not only were the Taliban demonized, but a donor-funded infrastructure of mechanisms and institutions was put in place to secure gender justice and equality. It was clear from the start that the political buy-in for these measures was shallow - the passage of the Shi'i Personal Status Code through Parliament amply illustrates this point - and that the constituencies rallying around these policies had a very weak hand to play and were at constant risk of intimidation and retribution.

Will the women of Afghanistan now have to brace themselves to hear Western powers inviting them to find virtue in their culture in the shape of new policies more acceptable to negotiating partners in the reconciliation process? Or will international donors merely treat their earlier commitments as misguided policies that are best forgotten? As a critic of the ways in which some of these policies were implemented, I nonetheless believe that the international community should accept responsibility for their consequences. The women of Afghanistan, of whatever political persuasion, are entitled to their own voices. This they continue to be denied.

BBC News - Fox, Hutton and Frogh debate Afghanistan, human rights and the Taliban

The Afghan people are not asking for a quick exit strategy. Good governance and poverty eradication through a framework of inclusion and human rights - a sustained long term strategy for Afghanistan.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Afghan Women Civil Society Leaders React to the London Conference

Reaction from Afghan women civil society leaders to the Communiqué of the London Conference on Afghanistan

January 29, 2010

Background to women’s engagement in The London Conference on Afghanistan

The London Conference on Afghanistan on January 28th on security, governance, and regional cooperation concluded with important decisions on how to resolve Afghanistan’s conflict and governance challenges. Women of Afghanistan will be profoundly affected by these decisions, yet Afghan women were provided no official designation to feed into decisions nor negotiate conclusions In an event that spanned an entire day and included more than 70 countries, only a single Afghan woman was included to speak as part of the official agenda, co-presenting the concerns of Afghan civil society. Only through the help of BAAG in coordination with ACBAR, was she provided a few extra moments to also present a distinct message from the women of Afghanistan on their priorities for the future of the country to the assembled foreign ministers, military representatives, and other participants.

Afghan women will not be silent nor made to be invisible.

The Afghan Women’s Network supported extensive consultations with Afghan women leaders preceding the London Conference and then provided for four Afghan women civil society leaders to travel to London during the conference proceedings to present women’s perspectives on security, governance, and regional cooperation. The result was a package of concrete recommendations, presented as the statement to the London Conference.

This statement sets out Afghan women’s demand that the proposed reintegration process is not undertaken at the expense of women’s hard-won human rights. It stresses the need to ensure meaningful representation of women in any negotiations and in all governance reform initiatives. It underscores the centrality of women to deepening democracy, combating corruption, and brining peace and stability to the country. The full statement and recommendations are available on

While in London, the delegates used every possible opportunity to spread the message of Afghan women to official delegates to the conference, including foreign ministers, office of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, SRSG to Afghanistan Kai Eide, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. Their message was picked up by media throughout the world. Personally invited to the press conference of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, they were singularly recognized at the event by the Secretary for their courage and commitment to human rights.

Reactions to the Final Outcome Communiqué of The London Conference

The final communiqué of the London Conference clearly reflects the advocacy efforts of the Afghan women who traveled to London, and the document includes central priorities of the women of Afghanistan they were charged to represent. This accomplishment is recognized not only for the commitment of Afghan women, but also that of the Afghan government and its international partners to ensure that human rights must be at the heart of any efforts to seek a political solution to the conflict through negotiations and incentive packages directed to the Taliban. The women of Afghanistan endorse this provision and strongly recommend a rigorous monitoring system accompany any reintegration scheme to ensure women’s rights are not violated and that any such violation are aggressively and swiftly addressed as a national security concern.

Also warmly welcomed in the communiqué is the commitment to fully implement the National Action Plan for Women of Afghanistan and the newly signed Elimination of Violence Against Women Law. Additionally applauded is the renewal of the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to strengthen the participation of women in all Afghan governance institutions, including elected and appointed bodies and the civil service, To make these promises reality, the women of Afghanistan call on public decision makers to immediately develop a concrete strategy with meaningful affirmative action policies. Our more specific reactions to the official communiqué include the following recommendations:

On Security
- The phased growth and expansion of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police must be accompanied by efforts to ensure the security forces have the protection of women as one of their main functions. This can be enhanced through recruitment of more women in all security sectors, investment in Family Response Units, and training for the security forces and the justice sector on the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law.
- The Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to continue development of a National Security Strategy must be consistent with UN Security Council resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889. A National Action Plan on Women peace and security should be integrated as a core element of the national security policy, and a quota of women’s representation in all peace and security deliberations be established.
- Women should be consulted by and represented by the authorities developing the national Peace and Reintegration Programme. The proposed Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund to finance
the Afghan-led Peace and Reintegration Programme should ensure that a proportion of the financial incentives to communities to support reintegration are used to support women’s empowerment and development and the protection of their human rights through rigorous monitoring and redress.
- A specific proportion of international donor assistance to be channeled through multi donor trust funds such as The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan should be devoted to addressing women’s specific needs in the areas of reconstruction, rule of law, and access to formal justice.

In Governance:
- Women should be engaged in consultation to develop an overall plan for more effective and accountable national civilian institutions, including the civil service and the police.
- The training for 12,000 sub-national civil servants at the subnational levels should include skills building in analyzing and responding to women’s development and security needs. Affirmative action policies should be developed to ensure a significant portion of sub-national-level civil servants are women.
- The proposals for a new national policy on relations between the formal justice system and traditional dispute resolution councils must be treated as an opportunity to ensure that women’s constitutional rights are protected in any judicial or dispute resolution systems with an emphasiz on investing funds on the formal justice system
- Women must be centrally involved in all anti-corruption efforts to ensure that the specific forms of corruption that afflict them are addressed.

Next steps:
A clear agenda was established at the London Conference, including the announcement of an Af-Pak Peace Jirga, a Loya Peace Jirga, and the Kabul Conference. Each of these events provides opportunity for the Government of Afghanistan and its international partners to demonstrate the commitment articulated at the London Conference that reconciliation and reintegration will not take place at the expense of human rights and that women are central to bringing peace and stability to their country . Women must be fully represented at every stage of planning for these events and must be included at decision-making levels at the events themselves. In the months ahead, the Afghan Women’s Network will hold national consultations to prepare the women to participate and to be sure their perspectives are adequately represented in any decisions. We, the women of Afghanistan, are committed to working alongside the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to bring peace and prosperity to our beloved country and all of its people. We stand as full partners for the future of Afghanistan.

We extend our deep gratitude to international supporters who made this opportunity possible for the women of Afghanistan, in particular the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the Initiative for Inclusive Security, BAAG and ACBAR.

Afghan Women Civil Society Leaders Recognised at the London Conference

London Conference Committs to Upholding Afghan Women's Human Rights


Afghan Leadership, Regional Cooperation, International Partnership

1. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the international community met today in London to renew their mutual commitment towards helping Afghanistan emerge as a secure, prosperous, and democratic nation. Today’s Conference represents a decisive step towards greater Afghan leadership to secure, stabilise and develop Afghanistan. The international community underlined its support for the Government of Afghanistan and its security, development and governance.

2. At the London Conference, President Hamid Karzai built on commitments set out in his inauguration speech, which articulated clear priorities for stabilising and developing Afghanistan.

3. The international community pledged to maintain its long-term commitment to Afghanistan, as previously set out in the 2001 Bonn Agreement, in the 2002 Tokyo Conference, the 2006 Afghanistan Compact, the 2008 Paris Declaration and the 2009 The Hague Conference Declaration. The international community re-affirmed its support for the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions upholding the security, stability and prosperity of Afghanistan and in particular the role of the UN itself in achieving this goal.

4. Conference Participants emphasised that the Afghan Government and the international community are entering into a new phase on the way to full Afghan ownership. Conference Participants re-affirmed the goals of greater Afghan Leadership, increased Regional Cooperation and more effective International Partnership. Together we are committed to make intensive efforts to ensure that the Afghan Government is increasingly able to meet the needs of its people through developing its own institutions and resources.

5. The London Conference will be followed by a conference in Kabul later this year, hosted by the
Afghan Government, where it intends to take forward its programme with concrete plans for delivery for the Afghan people. These should be based on democratic accountability, equality, human rights, gender equality, good governance and more effective provision of government services, economic growth, as well as a common desire to live in peace under the Afghan Constitution. We remain convinced that together we will succeed.

6. The challenges in Afghanistan particularly in political, economic, development and security areas are significant and inter-related. It is in our shared interest to overcome them and we re-affirmed our commitment to doing so. The nature of international engagement in Afghanistan continues to evolve, in favour of increasingly supporting Afghan leadership in the areas of security, development, governance and economic assistance.

7. Conference Participants expressed gratitude to Afghan citizens, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and to those nations whose citizens and military personnel have served in Afghanistan. Conference Participants expressed their sorrow for all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for a secure and stable Afghanistan. Conference Participants also thanked those countries that have provided transit and related facilities to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the ANSF.

8. Conference Participants reiterated their resolve to combat terrorism, in particular Al Qaeda, and commended Afghan efforts to this end. Conference Participants condemned in the strongest terms all attacks by the Taliban and their extremist allies, including Improvised Explosive Devices, suicide attacks and abductions, targeting civilians, and Afghan and international forces. These attacks undermine stabilisation, reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan.

9. Conference Participants noted that most civilian casualties are caused by insurgent attacks. Conference Participants welcomed the determination by ISAF, in partnership with the Afghan Government and ANSF, to continue to do their utmost to protect and further reduce the risk to civilians and jointly to investigate civilian casualties.

10. Conference Participants welcomed the progress made by the Afghan security forces as they increasingly take responsibility for military operations. Conference Participants also welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s stated goal of the ANSF taking the lead and conducting the majority of operations in the insecure areas of Afghanistan within three years and taking responsibility for physical security within five years. To help realise this, the international community committed to continue to improve the capability and effectiveness of the ANSF. Conference Participants also committed to providing the necessary support to the phased growth and expansion of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) in order to reach 171,600 and 134,000 personnel by October 2011, as approved by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) on 20 January 2010. The international community also showed its full support for the continued development and implementation of the National Police Strategy. Beyond this, the Government of Afghanistan and the international community will decide if this is sufficient, based on the prevailing security situation and long term sustainability.

11. Conference Participants welcomed the decision by the North Atlantic Council, in close consultation with non-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) ISAF partners, in full agreement with the Government of Afghanistan and in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 9762, to develop, by the Kabul Conference, a plan for phased transition to Afghan security lead province by province, including the conditions on which transition will be based. Further to this, Conference Participants welcomed the shared commitment to create the conditions to allow for transition as rapidly as possible. This is with a view to a number of provinces transitioning to ANSF lead, providing conditions are met, by late 2010/early 2011, with ISAF moving to a supporting role within those provinces. Conference Participants welcomed the intention to establish a process among the Government of Afghanistan, ISAF and other key international partners to assess progress and monitor in areas other than security that influence transition.

12. Conference Participants welcomed:
ISAF’s increased focus on partnering ANSF and the principle that Afghan forces should progressively assume the leading role in all stages of operations;
the Government of Afghanistan’s determination to assume greater responsibility for detentions, in keeping with the growth of Afghan capacity, in accordance with international standards and applicable national and international law;
the contribution the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) is making towards the growth and expansion of the ANSF and urged the international community to meet outstanding requirements for trainers and mentoring teams, and to continue efforts in this respect;
the contribution made by EUPOL to monitoring, mentoring and advising the Ministry of Interior and supporting national and provincial level Afghan-led police reform and urged partners to reinforce and provide logistical support to EUPOL, especially in the provinces;
bilateral support to the ANSF from a range of countries and urged the international community to coordinate closely in this work with the NTM-A and EUPOL, including through the International Police Coordination Board (IPCB);
the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to continue development of a National Security Strategy with the support of the international community; and
the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to devise and implement a National Security Policy, which is to be presented at the Kabul Conference and which outlines the security infrastructure and roles and responsibilities of the different security agencies.

13. In the context of a comprehensive, Afghan-led approach, Conference Participants reinforced the need for an effective and enduring framework to create and consolidate a stable and secure environment in which Afghan men and women of all backgrounds and perspectives can contribute to the reconstruction of their country. In this context, Conference Participants welcomed the plans of the Government of Afghanistan to offer an honourable place in society to those willing to renounce violence, participate in the free and open society and respect the principles that are enshrined in the Afghan constitution, cut ties with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and pursue their political goals peacefully.

14. Conference Participants welcomed:
the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to reinvigorate Afghan-led reintegration efforts by developing and implementing an effective, inclusive, transparent and sustainable national Peace and Reintegration Programme;
plans to convene a Grand Peace Jirga before the Kabul Conference; and
the international community’s commitment to establish a Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund to finance the Afghan-led Peace and Reintegration Programme. Conference Participants welcomed pledges to the Trust Fund and encouraged all those who wish to support peace-building and stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan to contribute to this important initiative.

15. Conference Participants recognised the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in different areas of the country, particularly food insecurity. Conference Participants invited the international community to support the 2010 Humanitarian Action Plan.
Development and governance

16. Afghanistan faces formidable development challenges, which require sustained, long-term support from the international community. A better coordinated and resourced civilian effort is critical to overcoming these challenges. Economic growth, respect for Rule of Law and human rights alongside creation of employment opportunities, and good governance for all Afghans are also critical to counter the appeal of the insurgency, as well as being vital to greater stability in Afghanistan.

17. The international community noted the progress that the Afghan Government has made on economic development, including reaching the completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, which will provide Afghanistan with up to $1.6 billion in debt relief from major creditors. This takes total debt relief to around $11 billion. Conference Participants agreed that the priority, as established by the Government of Afghanistan, is accelerated progress on agriculture, human resources development and infrastructure, and to ensure these are underpinned by expanded capacity and structural reforms. Conference Participants looked forward to the new economic development plan, and to the start of discussions on a new Afghan-led IMF programme and to continued IMF in-country engagement.

18. Conference Participants welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to assume increasing financial responsibility for its own affairs, and underlined that critical reforms were needed to maximise domestic earnings, with a view to attaining fiscal sustainability over time, including:
increasing tax and customs revenues;
restructuring public enterprises in order to ensure greater accountability and efficiency; and
pursuing the Road Map of the 2007 Enabling Environment Conference as reflected in the ANDS;
continuing regulatory reforms including implementation of the new mining regulations and bearing in mind Afghanistan’s current commitments under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

19. Conference Participants welcomed:
the Government of Afghanistan’s plans for more coherent and better coordinated development. This involves aligning key ministries into development and governance clusters and refining the Afghan National Development Strategy development priorities, in particular infrastructure, rural development, human resources development, agriculture and the main areas of governance. It also involves developing a work plan, which should be completed by the Kabul Conference;
Conference Participants supported the ambition of the Government of Afghanistan whereby donors increase the proportion of development aid delivered through the Government of Afghanistan to 50% in the next two years, including through multi donor trust funds that support the Government budget e.g. the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan. But this support is conditional on the Government’s progress in further strengthening public financial management systems, reducing corruption, improving budget execution, developing a financing strategy and Government capacity towards the goal. Conference Participants confirmed their intention to establish a detailed roadmap with the Government of Afghanistan, before the Kabul Conference, and to provide technical assistance to help develop the Government’s capacity to achieve its goal;
The Government of Afghanistan’s plans to implement budgetary reforms, to increase budget execution rates and to take steps to improve domestic revenue collection in parallel with enhancing anti-corruption practices and institutions with the aim of achieving fiscal sustainability.

20. Conference Participants welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to develop an overall plan for more effective and accountable national civilian institutions, including the civil service. They welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s decision to approve the Sub-National Governance Policy and prepare implementing legislation in advance of the Kabul Conference. Conference Participants committed to support the enhancement of sub-national governance through the Government of Afghanistan’s single framework of priority programmes. To facilitate its implementation, the Government of Afghanistan intends to publish the criteria for administrative boundaries. Conference Participants welcomed commitments made by the Government of Afghanistan and urged the international community to provide additional support to train 12,000 sub-national civil servants in core administrative functions in support of provincial and district governors by the end of 2011.

21. Conference Participants acknowledge the Government of Afghanistan’s increasing efforts to implement the National Justice Programme with a view to making more transparent, fair, and accessible provision of justice available to all Afghans equally.

22. Conference Participants commended the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to improve access to justice and respect for human rights, including through its Justice and Human Rights Programme, political and financial support for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and the adoption and implementation of a new national policy as soon as possible on relations between the formal justice system and dispute resolution councils. The Government of Afghanistan reiterated its commitment to protect and promote the human rights of all Afghan citizens and to make Afghanistan a place where men and women enjoy security, equal rights, and equal opportunities in all spheres of life. Conference Participants also committed to strengthening the role of civil society.

23. Conference Participants welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s whole-of-government approach to fighting corruption, and its ongoing work to mount a concerted effort to tackle the key drivers of corruption, through development of clear and objective benchmarks and implementation plans, in advance of the Kabul Conference, including but not limited to:
empowering an independent High Office of Oversight to investigate and sanction corrupt officials, and lead the fight against corruption, through decree within one month;
during 2010, establishing a statutory basis for related anti-corruption bodies, including the Major Crimes Task Force and the Anti-Corruption Tribunal, guaranteeing their long-term independence;
enhancing the effectiveness of the senior civil service appointments and vetting process and revising the civil service code. This will include, by the time of the Kabul Conference, identifying the top level civil service appointments;
the intention of the President to issue a decree prohibiting close relatives of Ministers, Ministerial advisers, Members of Parliament, Governors and some Deputy Ministers from serving in customs and revenue collection departments throughout government;
as a priority during 2010, adopting comprehensive legislation agenda to make Afghan laws consistent with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, including the Anti-Corruption Penal Code, to expand provisions related to asset declaration; and
inviting Afghan and other eminent experts to participate in an independent Ad Hoc Monitoring and Evaluation Mission which will make its first monitoring visit to Afghanistan within three months, develop clear and objective benchmarks for progress and prepare periodic reports on national and international activity for the Afghan President, Parliament and people, as well as the international community.

24. Conference Participants committed to helping the Government of Afghanistan’s anti-corruption efforts by providing assistance to the new institutions and committed to increase the transparency and effectiveness of its own aid in line with the June 2008 Paris Conference Declaration and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. In particular, Conference Participants agreed to:
work with the proposed anti-corruption bodies to review existing procedures and investigate instances of corruption that involve internationals; and
work with the Government to improve procurement processes, including establishing additional measures to ensure due diligence in international contracting procedures.

25. Conference Participants noted the decision by the Afghan Independent Election Commission to postpone Parliamentary elections until 18 September in accordance with the Afghan Constitution and electoral law. In this regard, Conference Participants welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of the 2010 Parliamentary elections and to preventing any irregularities and misconduct. Conference Participants also welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to work closely with the UN to build on the lessons learned from the 2009 elections to deliver improvements to the electoral process in 2010 and beyond.

26. The international community welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to implement the National Action Plan for Women of Afghanistan and to implement the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law. Conference Participants welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to strengthen the participation of women in all Afghan governance institutions including elected and appointed bodies and the civil service.

27. Conference Participants emphasised the pernicious links between the narcotics trade, the insurgency and other criminal activity, including corruption and human trafficking. Conference Participants therefore welcomed:
the recent progress the Government of Afghanistan has made including the 22% reduction in poppy cultivation last year and increase in the number of poppy free provinces from 6 in 2006 to 20 in 2009;
the undertaking by the Government of Afghanistan to update the National Drugs Control Strategy during 2010, which will include targeted programmes of agricultural development and the reduction of poppy cultivation;
the ongoing support of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International community to support the Government of Afghanistan to counter this trade;
the continuation of the “Paris-Moscow” process in counter-acting illegal production, consumption and trafficking of narcotics and the elimination of poppy crops, drug laboratories and stores. Also the interception of drug convoys as well as the continuation of consultations on the marking of pre-cursors and greater bilateral regional cooperation; and
the contribution to multilateral anti-narcotics efforts by the Plan of Action of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Members, adopted in March 2009 by the Special Conference on Afghanistan in Moscow.
Regional cooperation/international architecture

28. Conference Participants reaffirmed their support for a stable, secure and democratic Afghanistan, acknowledged Afghanistan’s potential role as a land-bridge between South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Far East and renewed their pledge to work together actively to this end. Conference Participants underscored that regionally-owned and steered initiatives stood the best chance of success and welcomed a number of recent initiatives that showed the need for neighbouring and regional partners to work constructively together. In this context Conference Participants noted the recent Istanbul Regional Summit on Friendship and Cooperation in the “Heart of Asia” and its Statement. This regional co-operation includes reaffirming the principles of the Good Neighbourly Relations Declaration of 2002, and working actively for:
Afghan sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity;
Non-intervention in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and mutual non-interference;
Afghan-led peace, reintegration and reconciliation efforts;
Ending support wherever it occurs on each other’s territory for illegally-armed groups, parallel structures and illegal financing directed towards destabilising Afghanistan or individual neighbours;
Combating terrorism including but not limited to increased intelligence- sharing, dismantling the logistical, financial and ideological support for terrorist networks and tackling the causes of radicalisation;
Development of trans-regional trade and transit; including work on infrastructure and progress on energy, power transmission lines and transport infrastructure, including railway networks;
Conducive conditions for the return of Afghan refugees; and
Trans-regional co-operation against the narcotics trade.
Supporting people-to-people contact, including interaction and exchanges between the civil society, academia, media and private sector.

29. Conference Participants welcomed the fact that Afghanistan and its regional partners would have opportunities in 2010 to develop and co-ordinate contributions to advance these principles. Conference Participants noted the value of a more coherent and structured approach to individual initiatives. In this respect, Conference Participants welcomed the fact that Afghanistan has invited the relevant regional bodies (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Economic Cooperation Organisation in accordance with their respective mandates) and others including the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to develop as soon as possible a co-ordinated plan for Afghanistan’s regional engagement. Conference Participants invited the countries, regional organisations and fora concerned to offer regular updates, including at the Kabul Conference.

30. Emphasising the theme of enriching regional cooperation, Conference Participants welcomed the contribution made by specific bilateral and regional projects including that of the OIC on education and tackling radicalisation, the OSCE and the Afghanistan-Pakistan Cooperation Workshop (Dubai Process) on border management. Conference Participants were grateful for the information given by several countries on bilateral initiatives including the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement, on which they welcomed progress achieved and looked forward to a timely conclusion, and the Indonesian programmes for capacity building including technical cooperation in the fields of education, health, agriculture, poverty reduction, renewable energy and small and medium enterprises.

31. Conference Participants recalled that the international community was engaged in Afghanistan in support of the Government of Afghanistan. Until such time as the Government of Afghanistan is able to assume the responsibility, Conference Participants noted with appreciation that UNAMA continues to be the primary international organisation for coordinating international support in line with the UNSCR 1868. Conference Participants welcomed:
the Afghan Government’s presentation of clear priorities;
the international community’s commitment to more effective and properly resourced civilian engagement to support the Afghan Government in order to improve the impact of international civilian assistance;
the international community’s commitment to align its assistance more closely with Afghan priorities, in keeping with Paris Principles on aid effectiveness, thereby increasing Afghan government capacity;
the international community’s intention to work closely with UNAMA to reinvigorate civilian delivery;
the appointment of a new NATO Senior Civilian Representative; and
the decision of the EU to strengthen its presence in Kabul under one single representative.

32. Conference Participants welcomed the decision by the UN Secretary General to appoint Staffan di Mistura; the decision by the NATO Secretary General to appoint Mark Sedwill; and the forthcoming appointment from the European Union (EU) High Representative; and looked forward to their taking up their jobs in the first few months of 2010. Conference Participants invited them to work closely together to ensure closer coordination in Kabul. Furthermore while noting recent improvements in the functioning of the JCMB, Conference Participants invited the co-chairs of the JCMB to recommend to its members additional measures to make the JCMB ever more effective.

33. Conference Participants took the opportunity to thank the incumbents: UN SRSG Kai Eide, NATO SCR Fernando Gentilini and EUSR Ettore Sequi and EC Head of Delegation Hansjörg Kretschmer for their invaluable work and commitment to Afghanistan.

34. We look forward to reviewing mutual progress on commitments at the Kabul Conference later this year.

Afghan Women Dominate Media at London Conference,%20unifem%20&st=cse,8599,1957537,00.html

Afghan Women are Recognised by World Leaders

Afghan Women at The Heart of the Quest for Peace

Thursday, 28, Jan 2010 07:35

In the relatively quiet media centre at today's Afghanistan conference in London, it was a small group of female Afghan civil society activists which managed to command all the attention.

One was Selay Ghaffar, from Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, who was interviewed by earlier.

Most early discussion of the conference focused on president Hamid Karzai's proposal for the "reintegration" of Taliban insurgents into society. However, by the final press conferences this afternoon questions were being asked about the potential impact of such a move on Afghanistan's women.

The Taliban regime was notorious for its treatment of women, banning them from appearing in public without the burqa and preventing them from acquiring any sort of further education or employment. Today, Afghan women are officially free of such impediments. In September 2009 Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan, even admitted the first female recruits into the Afghan police force.

However, many worry that if the Afghan government focuses its attention on winning over the more moderate members of the insurgency, its dedication to improving the conditions of women within the country may suffer. Ms Ghaffar told that if the Taliban were reintegrated, women "will be sitting back in our homes behind the curtains".

The hosts of the conference were keen to emphasise this afternoon that such a scenario would never unfold. David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, stated firmly that any reintegration would be contingent on insurgents accepting the Afghan constitution, in which women's rights are enshrined. The outgoing United Nations special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, was even more emphatic. "We cannot compromise [the human rights of any Afghans]", he said, let alone half of the population.

As was expected, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton returned to the issue when making her statement at the close of the conference. Women were crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, she said, which was the women's action plan she was unveiling was so important. This plan was a "comprehensive, forward-looking agenda" in stark contrast to al-Qaida's tactic of using women as suicide bombers. It would improve women's security, access to the judicial system and education, positions of leadership in the public and private sector, and ability to take advantage of increasing economic opportunity in the country.

As the grand finale to her press conference, Mrs Clinton asked the four Afghan women to stand to general applause. The finishing touch appeared to underline that, at least rhetorically, international leaders view the rights of Afghan women as inviolable in the search for peace.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Only ONE Afghan Women Speaks at London Conference

The London Conference on Afghanistan

January 28, 2010

As the only Afghan woman scheduled to address the plenary, I must spend a moment to focus on women’s needs and priorities and the role women should play in efforts to stabilize and rebuild my country.

Afghan women are acutely aware of the need to improve security on-the-ground. We are paying the largest price for the resurgence in violence and we benefit most from peace and stability. Evidence from around the world is clear: societies are more peaceful, stable and productive when women have equal status with men.

Over the past few weeks, there have been extensive consultations with Afghan women leaders to prepare our messages to this Conference today. We have put these in writing and we hope you all have a copy. I will focus my comments on the key issues that must be addressed – not only in words, but in important practical ways:

1. Women must have a voice in all decision-making about the future of the country. This must include any peace jirgas, conferences on development, or negotiations to reconcile competing factions. Women have a broader view of security, different priorities in development, and specialized knowledge and expertise that should be leveraged in efforts to return peace to the country.

2. Women’s rights and status must not be bargained away in efforts to reconcile competing factions. In any negotiations, women’s rights must be protected. We have fought too long and too hard to improve the status of women – rights that were completely eroded in the past. Compromising our rights will not bring peace; it will only undermine efforts to develop my country and leave unfulfilled a fundamental promise the international community made to Afghans in 2001. We look to the Afghan government and the international community to guarantee that our existing constitutional rights will be protected and advanced.

3. The military surge must be complemented by an equally robust effort to boost civilian support for recovery and long-term reconstruction. Only with a commensurate, coordinated, and complementary effort to invest in social and economic development, enhance government efficiency, root out corruption, and enhance rule of law will long-term peace and prosperity be attainable. Do not focus on short-term, quick impact projects; address human development needs. Undertake those efforts in partnership with Afghans themselves – women and men— and gear programs to long-term sustainable development outcomes.

4. Finally, in seeking to enhance rule of law, make sure to protect women’s rights. Informal and traditional justice systems have historically proved discriminatory to women. Without careful checks and guarantees, violations of women’s rights will go unpunished and women’s voices will not be heard. As you seek to increase access to justice, intensify efforts to improve the formal justice system, because women’s access to equal justice is far greater when formal, legally binding systems of redress exist with greater capacity for independent monitoring.

Women in Afghanistan are critical partners for peace. Women’s engagement is not an optional extra component of stabilization and recovery; it is a critical precursor to success. Women’s empowerment will enable you to deliver long-term stability, democratization, and development. Thank you.

Afghan Women Civil Society Leaders Meet World Power Brokers, Presenting Them with Statement for Women’s Inclusion

Afghan Women Civil Society Leaders attend Prince of Wales reception and present statement to, amongst other world leaders, Secretary of State Clinton, President Karzai, President Merkel, Ambassador Holbrooke, Ambassador Eide, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Milliband MP, Foreign Minister of India Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Foreign Minister of Belgium Yves Leterme, Foreign Minister of Luxemburg Jean Asselborn, Foreign Minister of France Bernard Kouchner, Forieign Minister of Canada Lawrence Cannon, Foreign Minister of Australia Stephen Smith, Foreign Minister of New Zealand Murray McCully, Ambassador James Wright and Ambassador Sedwill.


With only one Afghan woman officially attending the London Conference, and no women on the Government of Afghanistan delegation, the House of Commons discussion focused on the question, with such significant rhetoric around women’s rights and inclusion, where are the women, and why was there resistance to their inclusion?

WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT OUR FUTUREwe are extremely concerned that a ‘reintegration’ policy/ talks with the Taliban will result in a rolling back in the gains made in women’s human rights since 2001. Women’s rights must not be bargained away in the interest of short term peace and security, and to the detriment of long term peace and stability. Any approach to security must to be about the security of all people of Afghanistan – the Government of Afghanistan and the international community must adhere to their obligations under UN SCR 1325, including ensuring that Afghan women are involved in peace and security process.

While we as Afghans may not like it, an immediate withdrawal of troops, a speedy settlement, would be a failure for your Government and mine. We need time, we need patience. We do not need quick fit solutions. We are extremely cautious of this ‘reintegration’ that everyone is talking about. First there needs to be a reconciliation process – and this is a process, one that may take some time. And it must include a holistic transitional justice process so that those who have committed violence in my country are held to account for that violence.

We, Afghan women, are not helpless victims of violence and of our circumstance. We are agents of change. We need opportunities to engage in the dialogue – at the local, national and international level. We want to be treated as human beings who deserve the right to exist equal to others.

Women must be included in all future discussions on long term strategies for Afghanistan

Afghan Women’s Leaders’ Priorities for Stabilization

Statement and RecommendationsJanuary 27, 2010
We, Afghan women leaders and representatives of women’s civil society organizations, concerned about the absence of women’s perspectives on proposals being discussed at The London Conference on Afghanistan have created recommendations for stabilization that bear in mind the obligation to consult women and address their priorities and needs.

Afghan women are the first to benefit from stability and pay the heaviest price for the resurgence in violence. Sustainable peace will not be achieved without women’s full participation. They are mobilized as never before to protect the gains they have made with the help of the international community since 2001 and to contribute to the peace process by promoting security and good governance grounded in respect for human rights and equality. We call for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and related resolutions calling for women’s full participation in peace building as part of all initiatives to accelerate conflict resolution and recovery in the country.

The following recommendations were developed during an extensive consultative process with Afghan women leaders in Kabul, followed by Dubai on January 24th and London on January 26th to feed directly into the topics for discussion at the Ministerial meeting on January 28th.
I Security

Fundamental to progress in Afghanistan is enhanced security on the ground. But achieving true security will require more than military stabilization; it will require women’s freedom of movement and access to basic services—police protection, justice, health care, education, and clean water. Additionally, it will necessitate social change in private as well as public life; rampant domestic violence and other abuses of women’s rights exacerbated by conflict are major contributors to women’s insecurity. Women experience instability differently from men; they therefore have specific perspectives on how to achieve security for all Afghan citizens. To fully engage all Afghans in efforts to create a secure environment, we recommend that:
Women must be represented in all peace processes. Consistent with constitutional guarantees for women’s representation, women must comprise at least 25% of any peace process including any proposed upcoming peace jirgas. They must be represented in any national and local security policy making forums, such as the Afghan President’s National Security Council.

Reconciliation guarantee women’s rights. The government and international community must secure and monitor women’s rights in all reconciliation initiatives so that the status of women is not bargained away in any short-term effort to achieve stability.

Security policy must protect women. All efforts to enhance security in Afghanistan must better serve women. This can be achieved by:

- training national and international security personnel regarding Afghan laws and in particular the Elimination of Violence against Women law;
- recruiting women to security services, especially national police, UNPOL, international peacekeepers, civilian and military staff of PRTs; and
- expanding the number of Family Response Units in local police districts to enable more culturally sensitive and responsive engagement with women.

II Governance and Development

Investment to expand women’s engagement and effectiveness in public decision-making, in electoral politics, public administration, and in civil society help to deepen democracy, tackle corruption, increase the legitimacy of government, and concentrate the focus of public sector management on providing basic services. To strengthen women’s leadership skills and to promote gender-responsive public sector performance we recommend that:
National gender equality policies be implemented. International donors should make aid contingent on accelerated implementation of existing policies for the advancement of women in Afghanistan, especially the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, and the cross-cutting gender component of the Afghan National Development Strategy.

Governance reforms advance gender equality. Good governance reforms should advance gender equality and the capacity of public services to respond to women’s needs by:

a. upgrading to senior management gender focal points in all national institutions and strengthening the gender units;

b. extending current quotas to all branches and levels of elected and appointed government;
c. supporting special measures to help women overcome obstacles to effective political competition (e.g.: measures to prevent political violence against women, measures to overcome access barriers to public debate, training, and resources);
d. enforcing the 30% quota to civil service positions at all levels;
e. strengthening of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and ensuring it participates in all decision-making clusters to ensure attention to gender and women’s needs.
Aid should be tracked for women’s rights. All aid should be monitored to track its effectiveness in promoting women’s rights and gender equality. Donors should ensure that a minimum of 25% of funds are dedicated specifically to achieve gender parity. Financing for Afghan women’s organizations should increase to strengthen women’s implementation of the development agenda and civil society participation in reconstruction.

Women’s access to justice be enhanced. Traditional dispute resolution systems have historically been gender biased. Resources must be invested in expansion of the formal justice system to give women access to justice and ensure that all judicial mechanisms comply with the constitution of Afghanistan, women’s rights under Islam and international standards.

III Regional Frameworks/International Architecture
We commend the regional cooperative forums focused on trade, refugees, and drug trafficking for their efforts to involve women. As regional mechanisms are developed to address cross-border security challenges, we advise that:
Women’s regional peace coalitions be engaged for dialogue. Any regional efforts should engage women and leverage the relationships they have built through existing networks.
Women be involved in creating new regional mechanisms. Women should help design any new approaches to and structures for stabilization and reconstruction in Afghanistan as well as efforts to create regional forums for cooperation. Any such processes and structures should engage women at all levels of decision-making and should implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and related resolutions calling for women’s participation in conflict resolution, prevention of violence, and protection of vulnerable groups.

Regional forums be used to stop human trafficking.

Afghan Women Civil Society Leaders Meet with Ambassador Holbrooke’s Office to Express Concerns over Lack of Inclusion In London Conference

Afghan women’s human rights defenders met with Ambassador Holbrooke’s office on the morning of Wednesday, January 27th and emphasized to his office their concerns over the lack of Afghan women’s participation at the London conference itself and the importance of Government of Afghanistan and international commitment to integrating women into any and all upcoming peace negotiations.

UK Minister for Foreign Office and Commonwealth Ivan Lewis Vows to Ensure that No ‘Reintegration’ Settlement Will Trade Away Afghan Women’s Rights

Arezo Qanih joins Amb. Kai Eide, Government of Afghanistan Minister of Finance Dr Omar Zakhilwal, UK Minister of State and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Ivan Lewis MP, UK Defense Minister Bill Rammell MP and UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Mike Foster MP.

Amongst others, Shinkai Kharohil and Arezo Qanih speaking on accountability and CSO recommendations for the future of Afghanistan respectively
Amongst others, Orzala Ashraf Speaks on the Importance of Women at all Levels of Governance Structures in Afghanistan

Tuesday, January 26th: Afghan civil society met in London for a British Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG) hosted conference, ‘An Alternative View: Afghan Perspectives on Development and Security'. Throughout the day CSO actors engaged in heated and lively debate on the future of Afghanistan. Amongst those speaking were Afghan women, Shinkai Karohil (Member of Parliament, Government of Afghanistan) and Orzala Aschraf (Independent Civil Society Activist) and Arezo Qanih (Programme Manager, Education Training Centre for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan).

The discussions were wide and varied:

· The importance of national ownership over strategy and development in Afghanistan, including military sector;

· The importance of the inclusion of Afghan women throughout all levels of public space – in particular in all peace negotiations (including jirgas), throughout all levels of government and within social services;

· Women’s rights will not to be traded away in exchange for a politically expedient peace settlement;

· The need for better coordination of aid – the delinking of aid from military objectives to ensure it is working to achieve development objectives. Aid to be needs-based rather than politically driven;

· To shift away from PRT led-development projects to putting aid into local communities for expenditure. Additionally, aid funded projects to move away from short impact projects to long term impact projects;

· Any solution must include an emphasis on accountability and ending violence and corruption with impunity. An inclusive and participatory transitional justice must be part of this;
· Listening and participation were emphasized as the first lessons of peacebuilding;
· The need to develop and invest in viable economic alternatives, such as investment in agriculture.

Afghan Women Civil Society Leaders Meet in Dubai to Discuss Peace and Security for Afghanistan in the Context of the London Conference


We, the leaders and representatives of women NGOs in Afghanistan, deeply concerned about the exclusion of Afghan women in the upcoming London Conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010, gathered in Dubai on 23-24 January 2010 and participated in the Dubai Women’s Dialogue conducted by Afghan Women’s Network with the support of UNIFEM Afghanistan Country Office and the Institute for Inclusive Society, to consolidate the messages of Afghan women to the aforementioned Conference.

We recognize the achievements of the past eight years in restoring women’s rights under the law, positioning gender in the national strategy, starting the removal of gender based discrimination in laws and policies, promoting women’s participation and leadership in public life, improving women’s access to education and health services, and adopting the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), among others. All of these should be continued and vigorously implemented throughout the country, particularly by holding all government agencies and senior officials accountable, increasing budgets for gender, and putting more women in decision making positions.

Yet, the status of Afghan women continues to be one of the worst in the world. Despite government commitments to improve their well being, they remain underrepresented in all spheres of society and their economic and social status remain a matter of great concern. Although more men die in armed conflict, the women population continues to be lower because of very high maternal mortality rate, which is the second highest in the world. The well-being of women and their contributions are imperatives of sustainable economic growth and the furtherance of a democratic and inclusive society. All measures must be exerted to accelerate the process of bringing women to the mainstream of national life by developing their capacities, creating an enabling environment for the enjoyment of their rights and freedoms, and accelerating the delivery of basic social services nationwide.

We expect that the London Conference will result in greater clarity of direction and priorities for the new administration, which includes renewed assurance to implement its existing commitments to Afghan women, backed with increased resources and accountability of public officials. The exclusion of gender in the agenda of the London Conference and the lack of women representatives in the GoIRA’s delegation is a reflection of the low regard that the government gives to the views and concerns of the women population. The results of the London Conference should note the recommendations of the Dubai Women’s Dialogue and the London Women’s Preparatory Conference and include them as working materials for the preparation of the Kabul International Conference on Afghanistan which will take place later in 2010.

In regard to the main substantive agenda of the London Conference on Afghanistan, we submit the following concerns and recommendations for consideration:

A. Security

1. Our collective experiences in the way peace is being pursued in the country have not been positive. Military presence in our communities results in increased restrictions to our mobility, which disrupts our work, participation in public life, social interactions, family harmony and access to community resources, such as water and fuel. When our men are injured or killed, we are pushed to assume responsibilities for which we have limited skills, less opportunities and very little support from government. We expect our government and the international community to listen to our vision of how peace could be promoted in our communities and incorporate them into existing peace and security approaches.

2. While the Government of Afghanistan recognizes that civilian support is a key to the promotion of security, its concept of strengthening civilian support and how it affects women are still unclear. Women experience armed conflict differently and have a more pro-life vision of how peace must be pursued. However, the security sector does not listen and consider women’s ideas within their current frameworks. The security sector should hold a high level dialogue with women leaders to listen to their recommendations on how to strengthen civilian support to security and what they can offer to make it a meaningful reality. Toward this end, we call upon the government and the international community to support a process for women peace advocates to gather before the holding of the planned Peace Jirga after the London Conference to consolidate their positions and choose their representatives to the process. We also wish to emphasize the need to use the result of the Jirga in a way that will not undermine the authority and powers of duly established democratic institutions.

3. In framing the national peace and reintegration framework, we stand firm by the principles of ‘no compromise on human rights’ and ‘reconciliation before reintegration’. We are concerned about the lack of consultation and consideration of the needs and views of the citizens, including the women. National healing is the foundation of sustainable peace and this will not be possible unless reintegration is preceded with reconciliation. Granting amnesty and reintegrating ex-Talibans without regard for justice will reinforce the unconstitutionally-passed Amnesty Law in condoning crimes and human rights violations in times of war. This could elicit retributions that will imperil sustainable peace. In no way will we accept a reintegration program that is not based on justice and respect for human rights, including women’s rights. We demand that government inform the citizens about the negotiation deals and the roles and stakes of regional neighbors and the international community in the process.

4. Security is an issue that women constantly face within their own families. Their advocacies for women’s rights and gender equality elicit family discord that escalates into domestic violence. Families should be a target of advocacy on non-violence and religious institutions should serve as partners of the State in promoting a more egalitarian and non-violent domestic relations.

B. Development and Governance

5. By ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Government of Afghanistan has an obligation to ensure that laws and policies are free from gender-based discriminatory provisions. It has been observed (with the enactment of the Shia Personal Status Law (SPSL) that the Parliament is likely to continue enacting laws that could violate the policy of equality and non discrimination under the Constitution. Women’s organizations and civil society groups should be consulted in the review and development of national laws and policies. As a matter of procedure, all laws and policies should be subjected to gender assessment before they are adopted, and the capacity of the Parliament for such purpose should be built. It should set up a mechanism to undertake a gender assessment of all legislative proposals and such mechanism should function in close consultation with MOWA and gender advocates.

6. Despite the adoption of NAPWA in March 2009, the strategy for its implementation has not yet been clarified. MOWA and the Cluster on Governance should immediately adopt and issue a set of guidelines to accelerate the implementation of NAPWA, particularly in provinces where the needs of women are most serious. The government should also adopt gender sensitive standards for the review, design, implementation, reporting, and monitoring and evaluation of the government’s national priority programs to ensure that they will advance the status of women in accordance with the priorities set under the NAPWA. All existing national programs should also be redesigned to attain the six gender sensitive targets of Afghanistan’s MDGs.

7. The rejection by Parliament of the two recent female candidates for the Ministries of Women and Public Health without clear justifications and blatant disregard for the advocacies of women supporters has been very disappointing. Likewise, the 2009 Presidential and Provincial Council Elections marked a decline in women’s political participation, due largely to lack of planning on the part of the government to address Afghan women’s specific challenges and opened the door for reported manipulation of women’s votes for fraudulent purposes. We urge the GoIRA to take stock of where it is now in fulfilling its commitments under the Millennium Development Goal 3 to increase female representation in elected and appointed bodies at all levels of governance to 30% by 2020. In the newly set up government, we strongly press for at least 30% representation of women as decision makers – i.e. as members of the Cabinet and Supreme Court, and as deputy ministers, governors, mayors, and advisers to the President and high level policy mechanisms of government. This is a special imperative to ensure that women are included in peace, reconciliation and security discussions.

8. The incidence of violence against women, especially physical violence such as murder, repeated battering, and sexual abuse, continues to be pervasive. A fragile justice system that is incapable of providing effective response contributes to the perpetration of this problem. Existing policy debates around women's political participation tend to overshadow the more urgent need to protect women from violence. The UN Special Rapporteur should pay attention to this reality and systematically raise the issue at the proper level to find swift solutions, including the development of capacities among the pillars of the justice system, health, and educational institutions in order to prevent, protect and secure justice for Afghan women who experience violence.

9. In the implementation of the Sub-national Governance Policy, the accountability and mechanism for ensuring gender responsiveness of sub-national governance should be established. It is recommended that local councils on gender equality be formed within high level bodies that make policies/decisions and coordinate actions on sub-national development. Likewise, there is a need to assess the effectiveness of national programs in promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality. We reject the practice of using women-specific resources to build infrastructures and other projects without consultation with women, and we urge that such resources be used for the development of women’s capacities.

10. Aid effectiveness has been an issue in Afghanistan. More and more resources for peace and development in the country are being used outside of the government framework for projects that are seen as unsustainable and not in line with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) priorities. More importantly, such projects have not been effective in promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality. The Elimination of Violence against Women Special Fund administered by UNIFEM should be used as an example of how donors could work together and more effectively around a gender issue. There is a need for an oversight body on aid effectiveness for Afghanistan to address this issue. The TOR of this body should include attention to cross cutting concerns including gender and should make provisions for voices of women to be heard in its planning and decision making activities.

11. The quota or affirmative policies in the Constitution had shown very positive results. We urge the government to expand the implementation of quota and other affirmative action policies to promote the participation of women in all aspects of life.

12. We are concerned about the systematic exclusion of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) from vital processes and mechanisms, including in the London Conference on Afghanistan. We recommend that MOWA be a member of the Governance Cluster. Its participation in all levels of policy making should be ensured and support should be provided to continue the strengthening of its capacity for policy advocacy on women’s empowerment and gender equality. In addition, representation of women in all government clusters must be ensured.

14. The Terms of Reference (TORs) for international advisors to be deployed in Afghanistan should incorporate clear requirements for gender capacity. We also demand that gender balance and gender perspective be ensured in the selection of advisors to be deployed in the country.

C. Regional Engagement

We have very positive experiences on regional cooperation around the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality within the region. However, many of our engagements with groups and counterparts in the neighboring countries continue to be outside of the national framework for regional cooperation. We urge the government to give women a space in re-thinking the focus and scope of its regional cooperation framework and consider gender as a key aspect of regional engagement on security, reintegration, and economic cooperation.

The absence of gender perspective on regional cooperation is evident. The government should utilize the existing regional coordination and cross border agreements to promote women’s advancement, particularly on women’s trade, capacity development, education, health, leadership, participation in the regional peace processes, and strengthening of national women’s machineries. The governments in the region should involve their national women’s machineries in their regional cooperation initiatives and ensure that such cooperation fosters women’s well being across borders.

We expect the international community and our government to consider the above statements and recommendations and pay attention to the voices of Afghan women whose perspectives, energies and potentials are essential to sustainable peace and the attainment of the goals of the ANDS.

On our part, we commit to:

Utilize the above analysis and recommendations to mobilize nationwide engagement of Afghan women in national and local development processes, including the preparations for the Kabul Conference;

Foster solidarity and sisterhood among Afghan women, leading to the development of a vibrant Afghan women’s movement with support base in all provinces;

Continue to build our partnership with men in every possible opportunity and initiate a dialogue towards a shared vision to strengthen their roles and contributions to the promotion of gender equality;

Further strengthen our partnership with international agencies working for the promotion of women’s advancement, especially in providing meaningful and organized support to the government in implementing NAPWA and other commitments on gender equality; and

Optimize the use of media and non-traditional communication technology to accelerate sharing of information and improve communication among women, organizations and individuals working for the advancement of Afghan women.

Adopted this 24th January 2010 in Metropolitan Dubai Hotel, City of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.