What's In Blue

Posted Fri 8 Dec 2023

Afghanistan: Closed Arria-formula Meeting

On Monday (11 December), Security Council members will convene for a closed Arria-formula meeting on “women’s perspectives on Afghanistan”. The meeting is being organised by Switzerland and co-sponsored by Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the co-penholders on the file. It will run from 8:30 am to 10 am and take place at the offices of Switzerland’s permanent mission to the UN in New York. Two representatives of the Women’s Forum on Afghanistan, a platform led by Afghan women leaders that aims to ensure the inclusion of Afghan women in the dialogue and decision-making of the international community on the future of Afghanistan, and two additional representatives of Afghan civil society are expected to brief. Participation in the meeting, which will be chaired and moderated by Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl (Switzerland), is limited to current and incoming Council members.

Switzerland has prepared a concept note for the meeting, which says that it aims to highlight “avenues to ensure women’s participation and leadership in the implementation of the recommendations contained in the independent assessment on Afghanistan” and offer “an opportunity for Council members to engage with civil society perspectives as they consider the way forward”.

The Afghanistan independent assessment was requested by the Council in resolution 2679 of 16 March, which asked that the assessment “provide forward-looking recommendations for an integrated and coherent approach among relevant political, humanitarian, and development actors, within and outside the [UN] system, in order to address the current challenges faced by [the country]”. Resolution 2679 also requested that the independent assessment be provided after consultations with “all relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders, including relevant authorities, Afghan women, and civil society, as well as the region and the wider international community”.

The independent assessment report includes several findings regarding the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. It notes that the situation of women and girls was the “single most common issue raised” in the consultations conducted during the independent assessment and indicates that it was highlighted “by every Afghan stakeholder group consulted”, including representatives of the Taliban. It says that all stakeholders have expressed concern about the situation of women and girls in the country and observes that the restrictions imposed by the Taliban, including those relating to education and work, “are not consistent with the fundamental values embodied in the Charter of the United Nations or under international law, nor are they conducive to Afghanistan’s political and economic stability”. The report also says that the restrictions contravene Afghanistan’s obligations under numerous international treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and notes that the basic rights of women and girls are critical to building “state capacity for long-term development and economic growth and peace and security”. It further states that formal reintegration of Afghanistan into the international system “will require the participation and leadership of Afghan women”.

The report proposes an “engagement architecture” to guide the international community’s political, humanitarian, and development activities in Afghanistan and makes four recommendations:

  1. A series of measures aimed at addressing the basic needs of Afghan people and strengthening trust through structured engagement.
  2. Greater international attention to, and cooperation on, issues that impact regional and global security and stability.
  3. A roadmap for political engagement intended to fully reintegrate Afghanistan into the international community in line with its international commitments and obligations.
  4. The establishment of a set of mechanisms designed to coordinate and oversee the recommendations made in the report.

Regarding the measures aimed at addressing the basic needs of Afghan people, the report stresses that “adherence to principles of non-discrimination and inclusion” and “respect for women’s rights and efforts toward their meaningful participation” should be ensured and advanced if these measures are pursued. It also says that assistance to women and girls should be prioritised if international assistance is expanded. (For more information on the recommendations, see our 27 November What’s in Blue story.)

The roadmap for the reintegration of Afghanistan into the international system outlined in the report is founded on two components: adherence by the Taliban administration to Afghanistan’s international obligations and the establishment of intra-Afghan political dialogue. In terms of the first component, the report notes that Afghanistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a party to several core human rights treaties, and says that its commitments under these treaties require protection of the rights of women and girls in both law and policy. It also suggests that “measurable steps” to immediately remove restrictions on the rights of women and girls to education, employment, freedom of movement, and access to public spaces and essential facilities are one of the “key benchmarks” by which progress on the first component can be measured.

In relation to the second component, the report recommends that “specific strategies should be considered to ensure meaningful participation of Afghan women in the process throughout”. In a similar vein, the section of the report that proposes a set of mechanisms to oversee the implementation of its recommendations says that it is “imperative” for Afghan women to participate in all fora that affect the country’s future and for options that enable their meaningful and consistent participation to be “actively developed and implemented”.

In this context, the concept note prepared by Switzerland proposes several questions to help guide the discussion on Monday:

  1. What can Council members and member states do to ensure that Afghan women in all their diversity are heard and participate in the implementation of the roadmap proposed by the independent assessment to address all key issues and priorities identified, including economic and development issues, inclusive governance and rule of law, and security?
  2. What concrete measures must be taken to ensure Afghan women’s full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation and the prioritisation of women’s and girls’ rights across the proposed mechanisms to support engagement?
  3. What tangible and credible first steps according to the benchmarks laid out in the report should the international community expect from the Taliban as a meaningful demonstration of their recognition of their obligations under international law, in particular pertaining to women and girls?
  4. What are the potential entry points in engaging the Taliban towards taking such steps?

Monday’s meeting will mark the third time that all Council members have met to discuss the report. On 10 November, Council members discussed the report during an informal lunch organised by Japan and the UAE, and on 28 November the Council convened for a private meeting regarding the report. Feridun Sinirlioğlu, the special coordinator of the independent assessment, briefed on both occasions. It appears that several members emphasised the importance of the meaningful participation of women and girls in the implementation of the report’s recommendations. Some members have apparently expressed concern about the sequencing of the recommendations and suggested that the Taliban must make progress on human rights, particularly those of women and girls, before other measures referred to in the report are pursued. It seems that some members have also sought further detail on the key benchmarks that would measure the Taliban’s progress towards fulfilling Afghanistan’s treaty obligations.

It appears that the co-penholders have been discussing a draft resolution on the report with other members. At the time of writing, the first draft of this resolution has not been formally circulated to all members. If a draft is circulated, the negotiations are likely to be contentious.

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