Behind Closed Doors

The risk of denying women a voice in determining Afghanistan’s future

Publication date: 24 November 2014
Author: Elizabeth Cameron and Dr Jorrit Kamminga

Women’s rights have been held up as one of the most tangible gains of the international intervention in Afghanistan. Yet, despite 13 years of promises from the international community that women’s rights are a high priority, these gains remain fragile and are at an increasing risk of erosion.

Behind Closed Doors looks back over the timeline of past peace negotiations, and analyzes the victories and defeats for women’s rights since 2001. Thirteen years on, Afghan women fear a rollback of their rights in a political climate that is full of uncertainties. 

With the West partly disengaging from Afghanistan and peace talks with the Taliban expected to gain momentum, the international community and the new Afghan government must stand by their promises and include women fully in negotiations on the future of Afghanistan. 

Key recommendations

  • The Afghan government should involve women at all levels of decision making in both formal and informal peace talks, including ensuring women are able to meaningfully participate in high-level political negotiations with the Taliban. This must be combined with ongoing assistance for women negotiators to ensure they can meaningfully contribute.
  • A 30 percent minimum threshold should be established for women’s inclusion in the membership of all Afghan government peace bodies, including the High Peace Council (HPC), provincial peace councils and any bodies set up to replace them.
  • Governments and donors should provide substantial and sustained funding towards implementation of the National Action Plan 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Improve donor coordination of international support through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in close coordination with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and other relevant ministries.
  • The United Nations should ensure that all UN supported reconciliation and reintegration processes are explicitly linked to the promotion of women’s rights, including by ensuring women are actively involved in the vetting of ex-combatants for reintegration into society. In particular, take steps to improve the links between civil society and women’s local level peace-building efforts and the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program.