The Intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and Afghan officials are due to begin in Doha tomorrow, Saturday September 12. The peace talks – already delayed for months – undoubtedly mark a critical moment for the future of the country as they have the potential to put an end to decades of violence. However, sustainable peace can only be achieved if the agreement reached reflects the will and aspirations of the entire Afghan population and creates a robust roadmap for rebuilding confidence and trust within society. There has been much talk about the need for women to play a substantive part in these talks, particularly as so much is at stake. And research has also repeatedly shown that including women in peace processes leads to more sustainable outcomes for everyone.
Coinciding with the start of the talks, we are releasing our Better Peace Tool (BPT) booklet in Farsi/ Persian. First published in 2015 (second edition in 2018), the BPT offers guidance to effectively include women peacebuilders and gender perspectives in mediation and peace processes. It explores the evolution of peacemaking, particularly in the 20th century, and outlines the most common barriers to inclusion of women peacebuilders as well as civil society more broadly. It presents practical steps for how to overcome those barriers, achieve sustainable peace and social transformation.
What the international community can still do as the intra-Afghan talks move forward:
- Identify, facilitate and support independent women-led peace delegations
- If official delegations do not include women peacebuilders, host/ facilitate an independent delegation to talk to the parties prior and during talks to tell them what they expect to see coming out of the process.
- Create space for women to negotiate the issues on the agenda and see what solutions they come up with.
- Stop rewarding violence. Reward the peacebuilders who have taken on the responsibility to protect their communities. Ensure their full participation.
- While the men with guns need to come to the table, they must not be given the right to determine the future of the country without being accountable to their communities.
- If peacebuilders are excluded, consider pulling funding from the process.
- Vet any agreement with the peacebuilders who put their life on the line for their countries.
Afghan women have shown remarkable resilience. For decades they have engaged in awareness-raising, networking, training, education, mobilization, and advocacy efforts to guarantee peace and equal rights for all. In Afghanistan like elsewhere, during the COVID-19 pandemic women have been at the forefront of the humanitarian response, using their existing networks and ties to the communities to provide lifesaving relief services and educate local communities about containing and preventing the spread of the virus. During war as well as humanitarian crises, women peacebuilders have again and again demonstrated a sense of responsibility to protect their communities.
Those of us engaged in supporting, facilitating and enabling peace processes have an equal responsibility to reform peacemaking and mediation processes to include and protect the peacebuilders who are an essential counterweight to those who wield power through the barrel of a gun.
With the intra-Afghan talks just kicking off, there is still an opportunity to rectify past oversights. The onus is on the international community to ensure that more peace builders than the few remarkable women on the government delegation are at the peace table. We owe this to the women of Afghanistan who in a recent “Letter to Allies” clearly stated: “We seek accountability in the process: accountability from Afghan leaders but also from leaders like you, who can use your influence to shape a better outcome and help ensure its implementation.” We owe this, as the parties that take little or no responsibility for protecting populations will continue to resist the participation of those who represent the real concerns and experiences of communities enduring violence.