International Policy Digest

World News /23 Nov 2019

The UN Hasn’t Forgotten the Women of Afghanistan

On Monday, the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan was launched. The group is dedicated to promoting dialogue and strengthening the role of women in Afghanistan.

The launch was led by Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s first female Permanent Representative and Karen Pierce, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

This unprecedented timely initiative comes as Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. The U.S. is considering withdrawal and the Taliban has been participating in peace talks— two paramount developments that could greatly impact the lives of Afghan women.

In 2001, Washington’s presence led to the demise of the Taliban’s regime and the liberation of Afghan women from the Taliban’s shackles. Since then, Washington has played a significant role in empowering Afghan women. A U.S. withdrawal could potentially reverse the gains of the last eighteen years.

Moreover, as the Taliban seeks to gain political power through the peace talks, their earlier reign in the 1990s cast doubt about the Taliban’s willingness to genuinely protect the rights of women.

Washington’s withdrawal and the potential concessions to the Taliban as a result of the peace talks has sparked a debate in domestic discourse and at international forums on the role of Afghan women in the post-war era. What would a post-war Afghanistan look like for Afghan women? What role would Afghan women play in sustainable peace-building?

Yet, these aren’t the only challenges that Afghan women face. As victims of over 40 years of conflict, Afghan women are fighting a multi-front war. They’re tackling patriarchy, domestic violence, and poverty.

The Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan serves as an avenue of discussion to address these very important questions while enabling relevant stakeholders to coordinate effectively. Further, it brings the issue of women in Afghanistan at the forefront of the UN agenda.

Ms. Raz and Ms. Pierce are part of a growing number of UN ambassadors with experience working in Afghanistan. Their experiences contribute to the growing momentum for an inclusive Afghanistan with women playing a central role.

Eighteen years ago, the international community stood alongside the U.S. as it rallied support for the women of Afghanistan. Monday’s launch was another step in that direction.