I’m in Brussels for a conference called Peace for all Afghans? organised by the European Network of NGOs in Afghanistan, Crisis Management Initiative, Heinrich Böll Stiftung and the Agency Coordination Body for Afghan Relief in cooperation with MEP Thijs Berman.
The question mark in the name of the conference symbolizes both the lack of peace and security on the ground for most Afghans and the doubt whether the current peace process is creating a peace for all. A sustainable peace, a peace for all, requires an inclusive and credible peace process in which a multitude of groups in society participate. This was stressed by Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, in his keynote speech. Piebalgs pointed out six areas that are crucial for security and development in Afghanistan – a credible peace process, a peaceful transfer of power during next year’s presidential elections, an urgent need to secure jobs, a need for transparency and fight against corruption, a need to secure justice and the rule of law and the necessity to safeguard human rights, and in particular women’s rights. Let’s hope that this analysis is reflected in EU’s efforts in Afghanistan ahead.
Two panels discussed an inclusive peace process and women’s involvement in the peace process. Nargis Nehan, Executive Director of EQUALITY, talked about achievements and challenges in terms of women’s participation. She pointed out that Afghanistan has seen progress in the field of gender equality after 2001. There are today women in leading positions in the parliament, government agencies, business, civil society and the media. At the same time, there are of course many, many challenges for women’s rights and security. The upcoming elections and the withdrawal of foreign troops next year and the ongoing transition of responsibility from NATO to Afghan security forces all constitute challenges to women’s participation in public life.
Hasina Safi from Afghan Women’s Network stressed that we must pay special attention to women in the transition process. Afghan Women’s Network in collaboration with Cordaid has just published a research report: Afghanistan: Monitoring Women’s Security in Transition. One of the key findings in the report is that women’s security is deteriorating in rural areas. However, people support the transfer of leadership to the Afghan Security Forces.
Both Nehan and Safi recommended the international community to fund women’s work for peace and security. Nehan stressed that the international community needs to support the process to develop and adopt a National Action Plan for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Safi urged international donors to support women and include women’s rights in their strategies for Afghanistan.
Despite the bleak picture and the many challenges ahead, it’s important not to be overwhelmed by fatigue argued Nargis Nehan. I bring her concluding words with me from the conference: “As an Afghan woman I’m not very pessimistic about the future. The future is bright – full of challenges, but bright.”