Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from International Alert

  1.  At this critical time in the history of Afghanistan and for the global community, International Alert would like to take this opportunity to raise and reiterate urgent concerns in the context of women's inclusion in the diverse peace processes that are taking place in Bonn and that will continue elsewhere in the coming months.

  2.  The Bonn meeting is a very positive move towards a broad-based representative government in Afghanistan. The recent United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security reaffirmed the importance of the equal participation of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. We would like to stress the importance of this commitment and to encourage the central inclusion of gender concerns and the perspectives of women in such meetings. Women represent 60 per cent of the population of Afghanistan. In the 1980's, women represented 70 per cent of the teachers, 40 per cent of the doctors, 15 per cent of the legislature and 50 per cent of the government workers. Experienced and highly capable women are available to work for the disarmament of their country and the formation of a democratic government.

  3.  Despite the extreme oppression in recent years, Afghan women have helped sustain their community by providing essential health care, education, relief and other humanitarian services in Afghanistan and neighbouring states.

  4.  By unanimously adopting Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Security Council stressed in no uncertain terms: "the importance of (women's) equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution."

  5.  The Resolution also: "urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict." It calls on all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements to: "adopt a gender perspective, including, inter alia: (a) The special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction; and (b) Measures that support local women's peace initiatives and indigenous processes for conflict resolution, and that involve women in all implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements."

  6.  There is a broad and global constituency of concerned organisations and individuals committed to the implementation of 1325. Positive steps have been made to integrate gender perspectives in peace building processes. There are many precedents for the involvement of women at all stages in the prevention and resolution of conflict, most notably in the conflicts within Northern Ireland, Somalia and Burundi.

  7.  Afghan women leaders have spoken passionately of the need for wide regional representation. Recently in Kabul, women demonstrated for the protection of human rights, demanding peace for the country, access to education and involvement in decision-making processes. It is important that any transition or future government in Afghanistan includes the perspectives of those who have shown their commitment and contribution to building sustainable peace but who have been previously marginalized, moving beyond the perspectives of those responsible for perpetuating the conflict and violence.

  8.  Today the situation in Afghanistan presents both a challenge and an opportunity, both in terms of women's protection and their participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building processes. In the past, Afghanistan has not been given enough attention from the international community, resulting in unrepresentative extremist groups asserting power over the larger diverse population and causing immense human suffering. This is the moment for the international community to take its stand on behalf of peace, democracy, human rights. A critical component of this is the full participation of women at every level of decision making and negotiations towards that end. We hope that you will ensure that the government acknowledges these concerns and takes appropriate action at every available opportunity.

Women Building Peace Campaign

International Alert

30 November 2001

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