Remarks by Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of AIHRC, at Geneva Conferece

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to be speaking to you on sustainable peace building: safeguarding and strengthening human rights and women’s participation on behalf of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. I would like to address the urgency for a ceasefire, the importance of inclusivity of the peace process, specially victims’ participation and the significance of human rights for achieving lasting peace.

The current peace negotiations in Doha provides Afghans with a unique opportunity to end the war and suffering in the country. As the talks are ongoing, the urgency for ending the violence and agreeing to a ceasefire must be recognized and acted upon by both sides. The current levels and forms of relentless violence is damaging the credibility of the process and overshadowing any hope and optimism about the future of Afghanistan. Civilians continue to be targeted and harmed, in direct violation of international humanitarian law. Specific groups including women’s rights activists, journalists, human rights defenders & religious scholars across Afghanistan feel targeted and attacked. This environment of fear and intimidation is not conducive to a participatory peace process A break from the violence will create hope, bring credibility to the process and give all Afghans a real chance to have a voice in the peace process. As members of international community and friends of the Afghan people, we expect our international and regional partners to utilize their leverage for an end to this senseless bloodshed.

AIHRC emphasizes, as a principle, the importance of inclusivity and broad and meaningful public participation in the process. Recognition of the expressed wishes of victims and the general population should be at the heart of the deliberations; victims’ voices must be heard, their suffering acknowledged, and their humanitarian needs addressed. To this end, Direct testimonies of the victims must be an integral part of the process. The negotiation table should also actively seek out the voices of women, youth and minorities.

Afghanistan has made significant strides in improving our legal framework and access to human rights - however much remains to be done. Our progress has been uneven and for many Afghans in areas impacted by the conflict or in remote parts of the country, access to basic services and justice remain challenging. The conflict continues to take a devastating toll, leading to civilian losses, internal displacement, damage to key infrastructure and institutions and increasing the number of vulnerable groups, including the people with disability. The global pandemic Covid 19 has increased fragility and has particularly impacted Afghanistan’s poor. As we discuss ongoing partnership for peace, prosperity and self-reliance in Afghanistan 2020 Conference, we must continue to invest on achieving sustainable development goals in Afghanistan, improving the lives of all Afghans, combatting corruption and improving access to human rights & women’s rights, in laws and in practice. Peace is only just and lasting if it means an expansion of access to human rights across Afghanistan, not further limitation and shrinkage of rights for a people that have long suffered conflict, brutality and corruption.

To achieve lasting peace, we will need the international community to stand with Afghans to stop the violence/ preserve human rights and particularly the rights of women and minorities/ and to ensure that human rights and victims centered justice is integral to the process. AIHRC, as an impartial, independent entity, mandated to protect the rights of all Afghans, wants a clear role in the peace process in order to enable us to observe the process and provide expert input into the discussions about human rights to both parties.

Thank you.

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