Despite years of efforts aimed at expanding women’s rights and opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, women in those countries face major obstacles in consolidating these gains. Recognizing that women’s empowerment contributes significantly to stability, USIP convened experts to assess what has been learned in developing women’s programs in Afghanistan and Iraq and to establish best practices for future programs in conflict zones.

302

Summary

  • As Afghanistan and Iraq enter a difficult transition period, women in these countries are increasingly vulnerable to having their rights and opportunities set back at least a generation. Deteriorating security in both countries also places women on the front lines again.
  • In Iraq, the women’s rights movement has stagnated, quotas protecting women’s political inclusion risk being eliminated, and efforts have stalled to revise Article 41 of the Iraqi Constitution, the problematic article that relates to personal status laws.
  • In Afghanistan, women continue to be largely excluded from the peace process, and reconciliation efforts with the Taliban could undermine the significant gains women have achieved since 2001. 
  • Advancing women’s empowerment is an essential priority for the transition in each country as it can contribute directly to sustainable stability. The current transition period represents a critical time to assess lessons learned from U.S. engagement in both countries, particularly regarding women’s programming.
  • Undertaking such an assessment is timely and important given serious budget constraints facing the foreign affairs community, potential donor fatigue, and limited resources. 
  • By identifying common challenges and best practices, these lessons can carry over into future programming for women in conflict and postconflict zones, thus making such projects more effective. 
  • The lessons learned and best practices that emerge from this project will inform implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.

About the Report

During 2011, the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) brought together a “community of practice” focused on examining lessons learned from conflict and postconflict programs of support for women in Iraq and Afghanistan. This community comprises representatives of U.S. government agencies and departments, international and domestic NGOs, along with members of congressional staff and the U.S. armed forces, and representatives of allied embassies.

This review of lessons learned is in the context of the recent executive order (EO) from President Obama (December 19, 2011), which emphasizes that it shall be the policy and practice of the executive branch of the U.S. government to have a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Most relevant to this effort, the EO recognizes that “promoting women’s participation in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, as well as in postconflict relief and recovery, advances peace, national security, economic and social development, and international cooperation.

About the Authors

Kathleen Kuehnast directs the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at USIP. Manal Omar directs the Iraq, Iran, and North Africa Programs at USIP. Ambassador Steven E. Steiner served as a senior adviser in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Previously, he was a senior adviser in the Office of Trafficking in Persons and director of the department’s Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative. Hodei Sultan is a senior program specialist in USIP’s Center for Conflict Management’s Afghanistan Program.

Related Publications

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

Thursday, March 25, 2021

In February 2020 the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement that paved the way for the first direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan republic since 2001. This nascent peace process has sparked hope for a political settlement to the four-decade-long conflict, although slow progress and increasing levels of violence threaten to derail the process before it gains momentum.

Type: Fact Sheet

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

By: William Byrd

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s badly damaged Ministry of Finance is critical for the state’s survival today and will be equally important during a peace process or under any interim or power-sharing arrangement. Without curbs on political interference and corruption at the ministry, Afghanistan will be hard pressed to ensure that aid pledges made at November’s Geneva international conference materialize.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

“No Going Backward”: Afghanistan’s Post–Peace Accord Security Sector

“No Going Backward”: Afghanistan’s Post–Peace Accord Security Sector

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

By: Annie Pforzheimer; Andrew Hyde; Jason Criss Howk

Failure to plan realistically for needed changes in Afghanistan’s security sector following a peace settlement—and failure to start phasing in changes now—will lead to post-settlement instability. This report examines the particular challenges Afghanistan will face, with examples from the climate following peace settlements in other parts of the world offering insight into what may occur and possibilities for response.

Type: Peaceworks

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

Thursday, March 11, 2021

By: Veronique Dudouet; Andreas Schädel

In the 20 years since governments declared it imperative to include women’s groups and their demands in peace processes, experience and research continue to show that this principle strengthens peace agreements and helps prevent wars from re-igniting. Yet our inclusion of women has been incomplete and, in some ways, poorly informed. Now a study of recent peace processes in Colombia, Mali, Afghanistan and Myanmar offers new guidance on how to shape women’s roles. A critical lesson is that we must ensure this inclusion from the start.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

View All Publications