Human rights in countries of concern - afghanistan
Latest Update:31 December 2013
Technical preparations for the 5 April presidential and provincial elections remain on track. The top-up for voter registration has reached expected levels, including for women. A broad range of candidates have registered to compete in the elections, particularly at the provincial level, where there have been a significant number of candidates representing minority groups. With the start of a new year, there is a growing sense of determination amongst Afghan civil society groups to defend the gains made on human rights over the last decade.
The Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for human rights and for Afghanistan, Baroness Warsi, visited Afghanistan 5-6 November. She met female parliamentarians and civil society representatives to discuss the challenges facing them. She reaffirmed the UK’s long-term commitment to the country and stressed the importance of consolidating progress made over the last decade, including the rights of women. The Minister also co-chaired, with the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr Ershad Ahmadi, the Joint Commission to review implementation of the UK-Afghanistan Enduring Strategic Partnership (ESP). The ESP, signed by the Prime Minister and President Karzai in January 2012, includes a shared commitment to peace, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Baroness Warsi underlined the importance of upholding historic gains in all areas since 2001, including human rights, education and health.
The Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, visited Afghanistan on 25-26 November. She spoke to civil society organisations that receive UK support and discussed the challenges they face when working on women’s issues. During her meeting with President Karzai, she sought reassurance that women’s rights would be protected by the Afghan Government beyond the security transition. She announced an additional £8m for the Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT II) programme to support both the 2014 presidential and provincial elections, and the 2015 parliamentary elections, bringing the UK’s total funding for the programme to £20m. She also announced a new £7.5m programme to strengthen political institutions that will i) help Parliament recruit and retain its female staff in key positions; and ii) help to build the capacity of elected female provincial councillors, including in the areas of negotiation, leadership and constituency outreach. In addition, she confirmed that, from this year, at least ten grants of up to £2m from the Tawanmandi programme to strengthen Afghan civil society will be provided to organisations working primarily on the elimination of violence against women and girls. DfID also intends to provide a further £3m to help strengthen access to justice for women in up to six provinces throughout Afghanistan. The Secretary of State signed a formal Programme Arrangement with Deputy Education Minister Rasa and Finance Minister Zakhilwal for the Girls’ Education Challenge. This formalises DfID’s recent pledge of £47 million to support access to community-based education for girls living in the poorest rural areas of Afghanistan.
The finalised list of candidates in the 5 April 2014 presidential and provincial council elections was announced on 20 November, though some may yet be disqualified or withdraw. Out of the 27 candidates who put themselves forward for the presidency, the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission disqualified 16 candidates, leaving 11. Three women were nominated as second vice presidential candidates, including the ex-Governor of Bamyan Province, Habiba Sorabi. The voter registration campaign to capture those not previously registered for the 2009/10 elections has seen over 3.3 million people added to the registration list; almost 35% of those are women. The UK welcomed the appointment of the Media Commission, set up to monitor the reporting on and fair broadcasting of the electoral campaigns, and to address any related violations and offences. On 8 December, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission invited Presidential candidates to present their plans on Human Rights. Six of the 11 candidates were represented at the event, which highlighted this as an important policy area for the presidential campaign starting on 2 February.
The UK was active in drawing attention to women’s rights and women’s rights defenders throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, beginning on 25 November. Ms Greening reiterated the UK’s long-term commitment to the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, and commended the courageous and dedicated efforts of those who work to defend the rights and fundamental freedoms of others. The British Embassy supported the UN Secretary General’s ‘Orange the World’campaign and undertook a range of events and media activities to raise awareness of this issue. Baroness Warsi expressed solidarity with Afghan women in their struggle against violence on International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day on 29 November.
On 4 December, the Embassy hosted a NGO-led workshop on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Drawing together representatives from Afghan civil society, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and FCO, DfID and MOD, recommendations for the UK’s next National Action Plan (NAP) for Afghanistan were discussed. Issues raised will help to ensure that the UK’s work continues to reflect the needs of women in Afghan society.
The UNAMA report, “A way to go: An update on Implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women” was issued on 7 December. The report called on the international community to support the government of Afghanistan in its efforts to implement the reforms set out in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, and the recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, by channelling development assistance accordingly.
Representatives of Northern Ireland’s Causeway Institute for Peace-Building and Conflict Resolution visited Kabul in December, at the invitation of High Peace Council (HPC) Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani. The Causeway Institute works to support international peace-building efforts, drawing on the experience of the Northern Ireland peace process. During their UK-funded visit, the delegates ran a series of workshops for civil society organisations, youth and women’s groups to discuss the important role civil society played in Northern Ireland and the need for inclusivity in peace-building efforts.
Latest Update: 30 April 2013
The UK continues to offer practical and political support to the Afghan government to help it honour its national and international human rights obligations and commitments. The country has seen decades of conflict. It is not surprising that significant challenges and obstacles remain. Improving respect for human rights is a long-term project. Overall, there were both positive and negative developments in the human rights sphere in Afghanistan in 2012. Civil society led the debate about reform of the electoral process in a manner that has not occurred prior to previous Afghan elections. Civil society organisations also informed discussions between the international community and government of Afghanistan at the Tokyo Development Conference, and there continues to be space for open debate in the Afghan media. The UK has provided training for the security forces on human rights, but significant challenges remain in this area. It is also deeply worrying that those who commit violence against women are rarely brought to justice, and human rights defenders continue to face significant risks. We are committed to improving the rights of women, ensuring there is space for civil society organisations to operate without restrictions, and developing strong institutions ahead of the 2014 elections.
With some success, in 2012 we built on the human rights commitments made by the Afghan government and the international community at the Bonn Conference in December 2011. The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF), agreed at the Tokyo Development Conference on 8 July, reaffirmed the Afghan government’s commitment to strengthen governance, including respect for human rights, the rule of law and the Afghan constitution. We welcomed the importance the May Chicago NATO Summit attached to a democratic Afghan society, based on the rule of law and good governance, where the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens are respected. The summit endorsed a Strategic Progress Report on mainstreaming UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security into NATO-led operations and missions. The first Afghanistan–UK Joint Commission meeting in October, to review implementation of the Afghanistan–UK Enduring Strategic Partnership Document signed in January, was co-chaired by Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin and FCO Senior Minister of State Baroness Warsi. At this meeting, ministers reaffirmed both countries’ commitment to the protection of human rights, especially women’s rights. The UK contributed £500,000 to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) to support its work on human rights, including the protection of human rights defenders.
In 2013, we will continue to support the Afghan government in implementing its TMAF commitments. The UK is due to co-chair the first review of the TMAF during 2014. Human rights, in particular women’s rights, will be an important part of this review. We will continue our support to the AIHRC, and will encourage all Afghans to let it function without undue interference. In addition we will work to ensure that human rights considerations and the protection of women’s rights are embedded in the transition process up to and during 2014. We will work for improved implementation of the Afghan Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law. In addition, Afghanistan will undergo its second UN Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in 2013, having had its first in 2009.
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