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Safeguarding the achievements of 20 years of international engagement in Afghanistan : How to continue supporting the future of afghan women and girls and their access to education

UNGA76 Virtual Ministerial Side Event

21 September 2021, 12:00 -13:30 p.m. (EDT)

Distinguished colleagues,

As Chair of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, I greatly value the opportunity to share some of our observations and recommendations with regard to the crisis in Afghanistan.

In a joint statement recently led by the WG, we expressed deep concern about the rapid roll back of women’s and girls’ rights on full display to the world.

Such retrogression is not only in total contravention of international law, but it will undermine peace-building and development in Afghanistan for all people.

We remain deeply concerned about the invocation of culture and religion to justify discrimination and violent practices against women and girls and deny them access to education, in addition to many other things basic things.

United Nations human rights mechanisms have repeatedly emphasized that neither cultural diversity nor freedom of religion can justify discrimination against women.

Peace-building and conflict transformation processes present unique opportunities for the elimination of discrimination against women. However, they can also result in regression in the absence of timely action and political will.

Recognition of the universality, interdependence, and indivisibility of women’s and girls’ human rights in all spheres is key to achieving full and lasting equality, justice, and peace. Discrete interventions that fail to address the root causes of persistent discrimination and violence will not yield progress or help protect recent gains in any one specific area.

Afghanistan is legally obligated to uphold women’s and girls’ human rights and it cannot be granted exemptions to operate in a manner that violates international law and lowers the bar for the legal protection of women and girls.

The protection and advancement of women’s and girls’ human rights must be central to all laws, policies, political processes and responses, negotiations and institutional practices. There should be no compromise.

I hope that all of the commitments made by the honorable ministers today will translate into concrete action and demonstrate to people like Sonita and Wazma what the international community truly stands for and can do.

Meanwhile, we urge the international community:

  • To ensure the continued implementation of UNAMA’s mandate with a gendered lens, and with the full and equal participation of women in all levels of decision-making and in its operationalization.
  • To call for reinstatement of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to ensure that women’s and girls’ priorities are met.
  • To insist on measures to ensure that women are able to participate equally in the management and distribution of humanitarian assistance and to access it.
  • To promote and protect Afghan women’s civil society, human rights defenders, including their family members, and the independent human rights commission, through continued financial, political and other forms of support and addressing retaliation.
  • To ensure the creation of a robust, independent fact-finding and accountability mechanism to document and investigate past and ongoing human rights violations and international crimes by state and non-state actors in Afghanistan with a strong focus on women’s and girls’ issues and concerns.

Thank you.