posted on Thu 25 Jul 2019 5:47 PM
Afghanistan: Briefing with a Focus on Women, Peace and Security

Tomorrow morning (26 July), the Security Council is scheduled to have a meeting following a recent trip to Afghanistan by a high-level UN delegation with a focus on women, peace and security. The delegation, which was in Afghanistan from 20 – 21 July,was led by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and included Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund Natalia Kanem, and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Briefings are expected from Mohammed, DiCarlo and women’s rights activist Jamila Afghani. No outcome is planned at this stage.

It seems that the briefing was initiated by Germany, which is both co-penholder, on Afghanistan, together with Indonesia, and co-chair, with Peru, of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security. Additionally, Germany co-hosted with Qatar the intra-Afghan talks in Doha that took place on 7-8 July. It appears that China and Russia were not open to holding a meeting dedicated solely to women, peace and security in Afghanistan. The proponents of holding the meeting apparently found a compromise by including a briefing by DiCarlo, who is expected to provide a more general update on the situation in Afghanistan, most likely also covering the security and humanitarian situation, civilian casualties in the conflict, and the status of electoral preparations.

The country’s presidential elections are scheduled for 28 September, and talks geared towards peace in Afghanistan continue. The talks in early July included participants from the Afghan government, the Taliban, and civil society representatives. As in the past, participants attended these intra-Afghan talks in their personal capacity. As the Taliban do not recognise the legitimacy of the Afghan government, they continue to refuse to talk to Afghan government officials in their official capacity. The outcome document of the intra-Afghan talks refers to assurances for women’s rights within the framework of Islamic values.

Mohammed is expected to brief the Council on the details and her impressions of the joint “solidarity mission” by the four female senior UN officials. The mission was intended to draw attention to the situation in Afghanistan ahead of the elections, and developments in the peace process, with a specific focus on the situation of women. During the mission, the delegation, together with the senior leadership of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), met with president Ashraf Ghani, chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, First Lady Rula Ghani, women and religious leaders, and the UN Country Team in Kabul. The delegation also travelled to Bamyan province and met with the provincial governor and women from fields including police, education, and journalism. They also visited a demining site, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site of the Buddhas of Bamyan (destroyed by the Taliban in 2001), a hospital, and UNFPA programmes tackling, among other issues, gender-based violence.

Afghani, who will likely brief via video-teleconference from Afghanistan, participated at the July intra-Afghan talks in Doha.  Among other functions, she heads the Afghanistan chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and is a member of the Afghan Women’s Network.

Council members supportive of the women, peace and security agenda and concerned about the implications for women’s rights if the Taliban are included in a future Afghan government may focus their remarks on this aspect of the situation and show support for the recent solidarity mission. They may draw from the IEG meeting on Afghanistan, held on 10 July, which all members but China attended. Other members, such as China and Russia, may address broader developments and issues in Afghanistan rather than focus on women, peace and security issues.

Looking ahead, the mandate of UNAMA will need to be renewed before its expiry on 17 September.