23 August 2021: The Global Women Network of Peacebuilders (GNWP) urges a nationwide ceasefire in Afghanistan and an immediate cessation of violence. As the country faces an escalating human rights crisis and humanitarian catastrophe, we call on all parties to ensure respect for women’s human rights and protect women and youth peacebuilders, human rights defenders, journalists, and activists facing threats and violence.
On 15 August 2021, the Taliban seized power, including control of major cities in Afghanistan, just two weeks ahead of the complete withdrawal of American and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) troops. The subsequent deterioration of security, an ongoing drought, and the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have left 18 million people in need of humanitarian aid, over 300,000 people displaced, and hundreds of desperate asylum-seekers. In the Taliban-controlled areas, Afghan women are denied access to education, healthcare, protection, and freedom of movement. They are also being subjected to sexual slavery and forced to marry Taliban fighters. Additionally, the Taliban targets women and youth activists, peacebuilders, human rights defenders, and journalists who have risked their lives to advocate for peace, gender equality, women’s rights, and human rights.
Perpetuating oppressive gender roles is central to the Taliban’s governance vision. Therefore, the Taliban’s return to power has begun to derail gains in gender equality and the protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Despite their marginalization from the failed Intra-Afghan Peace Process, women have played a pivotal role in building sustainable peace in Afghanistan. The rights of Afghan women, youth, and other historically marginalized groups must be protected and preserved. Their leadership must be recognized, amplified, and supported in any peacebuilding or humanitarian response to the crisis. GNWP calls on the Taliban to adhere to international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks on civilians and women’s rights.
GNWP stands in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, especially grassroots women and youth peacebuilders. We echo their calls for:
1. Immediate action to protect women and women’s rights through:
- An immediate cessation of all hostilities, nationwide ceasefire, and adherence with international humanitarian law;
- Immediate support for the evacuation of Afghans who are at heightened risk of persecution by the Taliban, particularly women and youth human rights defenders, peacebuilders, journalists, and activists, through the provision of emergency visas and transportation; and the cessation of deportations of asylum seekers; and
- Protection of the rights of women, youth, LBGTQIA+ persons, and all other historically marginalized groups, particularly human rights defenders, peacebuilders, journalists, and activists, including through the provision of safe houses and relief and recovery services for survivors of gender-based violence and uninhibited access to education and healthcare.
2. Gender-responsive humanitarian action through:
- Immediate, safe, and unfettered access for humanitarian actors aiding across conflict lines through the establishment of humanitarian corridors; and
- A significant increase in funds for the Humanitarian Appeal for Afghanistan and flexible, direct, and rapid funding to frontline local civil society organizations responding to the urgent needs of women and other historically marginalized groups impacted by armed conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing drought.
3. Establishment of an inclusive national reconciliation process through:
- The establishment of an inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of national reconciliation for an inclusive, just, durable, realistic, and sustainable political settlement that ensures the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women, young people, and all other historically marginalized groups;
- Gender-responsive investigative processes, including those to be established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, to document and prosecute all war crimes and crimes against humanity; and
- A renewal of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and strengthening UN’s presence with a robust mandate and adequate technical and financial capacities to protect the rights of women, girls, and other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan.
Sustainable peace in Afghanistan will only be possible if it is achieved through an inclusive, locally owned, participatory, and bottom-up approach that addresses the root causes of conflict. It must ensure access to inclusive and quality education, adequate health care systems, a vibrant civil society, religious freedom, and gender equality. GNWP urges the United Nations Security Council and the broader international community to take all necessary action to restore security and civil and constitutional order in Afghanistan, including by re-initiating talks for national reconciliation, meeting urgent humanitarian needs and protecting civil society activists.
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