Reflecting on recent conversations in Doha and Kabul, USIP’s Belquis Ahmadi says that Afghans told her they want peace, but are not willing to sacrifice the hard-won gains of the last 18 years to get there. As U.S.-Taliban talks move forward, the extent of the Taliban’s evolution on issues like women’s rights remains in question. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” says Ahmadi.
USIP recently partnered with New America to convene roundtable discussions with government, civil society, and humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organizations to learn from the past decade of women’s programming in fragile states such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on these discussions, this report provides guidance for improving future programming to not only integrate the needs of women but also recognize the role women play in transforming violent conflict and sustaining a durable peace.
This year marks a full century since American women won the right to vote, lending particular resonance to 2019’s International Women’s Day. For USIP President Nancy Lindborg and her guest, Penny Mordaunt, the U.K. secretary of state for international development and minister for women and equalities, the March 8 celebration was an ideal moment to reflect on women’s progress in their countries and globally and to highlight remaining obstacles to women’s full participation in society.
As talks between the U.S. and the Taliban raise hopes for peace in Afghanistan, the country’s women fear another—and related—possibility: That their hard-won rights to participate in the nation’s political and economic life could again be washed away by the Taliban’s rigid views on gender.
Afghan political leaders met in Moscow this week with Taliban representatives amid new momentum in diplomatic efforts to end Afghanistan’s war. Like other recent discussions, including those between U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Qatar, Afghan women remain almost entirely excluded. Yet mostly unnoticed amid the formal diplomacy, Afghan women at their country’s grass roots already have managed negotiations with local Taliban leaders.
Highlighted by the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize award to Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad—advocates for survivors of wartime sexual violence—the issue of sexual abuse has gained international recognition. USIP’s Kathleen Kuehnast attended the ceremony, saying, “People were standing in solidarity to what they were hearing. We can no longer be indifferent about this type of criminal activity.”
After nearly 40 years of war, Afghanistan and the international community are urgently seeking paths for a peace process. But amid the tentative efforts—a three-day ceasefire in June, the peace march across the country by hundreds of Afghans and talks by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad—a somber question hangs for women and human rights advocates. How can Afghanistan make peace with the Taliban while protecting democracy and women’s rights?
Awarding the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to advocates for survivors of wartime sexual violence, Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, indicates that the issue of sexual abuse has gained international recognition. This comes ten years after the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1820, which declared that conflict-related sexual violence constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. This Special Report highlights the limited scope of the resolution, examines the connections between sexual violence and conflict, and urges key stakeholders to view sexual violence—both during conflict and after—as a threat to international peace and security.
The bottom line is Afghan women want peace and they want to have a say in how it is negotiated. Without women at the negotiation table, a long-term and inclusive peace is dramatically less likely. Indeed, studies show that the inclusion of women in peace negotiations, leads to peace agreements that are representative of the needs of the people they affect and, therefore, more sustainable.
When nations affected by violent conflict try to make peace, the evidence is clear on what works. For a durable peace agreement, women must be included throughout the process. While the U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed that goal in 2000, women still are excluded from peace processes. Among 504 peace accords signed by 2015, only 27 percent even mentioned women. A U.N. study of 14 peace processes from 2000 to 2010 found that women comprised only 8 percent of negotiators and 3 percent of signatories.