Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, April 26th, 2018

How Can We Efficiently Involve Afghan Women and Other Affected Parties in Peace Talks

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How Can We Efficiently Involve Afghan  Women and Other Affected Parties in Peace Talks

Nowadays Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) is warmly calling the Afghan Taliban for peace talks. They are calling the Taliban for peace in a time where they control some parts of the country and carry out large-scale attacks particularly in big cities and rising violent extremism which is threatening security, development and the fabric of Afghan society. However, since the start of efforts for peace talks with Taliban none of the government officials or international communities or other stakeholders made any remarks on women role in these peace talkswho are forming 49% of the country population.
On 5th September 2010 President Hamid Karzai established Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) in order to invite anti-government armed groups for peace talks. The members of the HPC were/are from different backgrounds however, most of them are from the backgrounds who do not believe in democracy and women rights and large numbers of them are even accused of human rights violation.  So far HPC had 70 members which had only 8 women members which the role of women considered to be only symbolic as the other members are not believing on the role of women in peace talks. Policymakers which were behind the establishment of HPC and practitioners of peace talks have often engaged in a top-down approach in the design of programs to counter violent extremism in Afghanistan. This top-down approach relies heavily on the insights of religious leaders, elders, politicians, and other elites while failing to incorporate the insights of those most affected by violence e.g. the shopkeepers, students, farmers, and other ordinary people specially women. Similarly International organizations, influenced by an incapability to reach an entire population, often depend on inputs from religious leaders, elders, local politicians, and other elites to understand the causes of violent extremism and to gauge the effectiveness of programs to counter it. Among this measurement the main part of the society which are women are ignored and similarly the people who directly affected from violence could never find themselves among the groups carry out the peace talks.
Statistics from peace talks in different nations show that when women participate in peace talks negotiations it was more helpful on achieving peace talks. Similarly study of 182 singed peace agreement of two decades showed that it is 35 percent more likely to last the peace agreement 15 years more when women involved in the peace talks however, women role is still globally remained sidelined in peace talks even after 18 years of United Nations first call for including women in peace talks.
Theoretically the Afghan government and HPC council insists on the role of women in peace talks but, the way they engage in peace talks and measure the success of peace talks are looking different. They are counting individual and small groups who put their arms down and join the government without believing onwomen rights which this type of measurement give us fake achievement of peace talks and giving us wrong indicators of women role in peace talk because, the joined individual or groups are not believing in women rights and there is chances that they will use violence against women in future as well.
The most practical way to achieve good result is to involve women, local community members, students, and civil society leaders which can infuse stagnant negotiations with new perspectives, engage and invest the local population in talks and ensure negotiations reflect realities on the ground. After decades of advocacy and few changes in practice, it is clear that the only way to achieve the essential changes needed is to introduce incentives to encourage inclusion of the mentioned groups.Similarly in today’s peace talks, negotiators usually have little incentive to seek out women for their teams as they are not believing in women role in peace talks and they believe that women participation means, women setting symbolically in the meeting chair and have not the right to talk and advice.
In order to insure the inclusion of women and other affected parties in peace talks, following important points should be taken into consideration.
The government and HPC should be convinced by civil society, politicians and international community to believe on the real role of women by giving them huge part in peace talks, local communities, farmers, students, and other affected parties in peace talks as they are the direct stakeholders in peace talks.After that the participation of the named group can make differences in the process of the peace talks.
The government and HPC have to include and take input from women in cities and villages, farmers, drivers, students, house makers, traders, and local business owners, as they have good understanding of local dynamics of violent extremism. They can define all the aspects they need in peace what they experienced as a result of violence.
The matrices for quantifying the sense of peace and security should be changed from counting number of attacks and number of casualties, views and likes in the propaganda videos. The matrices shouldfocus on other signs e.g. symbols of peace in villages and villagers’ eyes, women feeling safe while going out, number of male and female going to school, number of antennas erected on village rooftops and other indicators in the area where the anti-government armed groups accepted peace.
Finally, one of the promising aspects is to look for everyday peace indicator framework which means identify ways in which local populations are already successfully countering violent extremism. For example younger and older men and women are overcoming Afghanistan’s significant generational divide to work together in community watch groups to identify early signs of radicalization in vulnerable youth and to provide them with cultural and religious narratives to deal with their grievances. Within the watch groups (especially formed from women), elders or women as homemakers often have the wisdom of experience while youth have the specific understanding of how they are being recruited by violent groups and what their own points of vulnerability are.

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