Statement on the Exclusion of Afghan Women in the Third UN Conference in Doha

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) is deeply concerned about the absence of Afghan women in the third UN-led conference on Afghanistan taking place in Doha, Qatar on June 30, 2024. It is reported that the Taliban demanded that no Afghan women be allowed to participate in the meeting and that the agenda does not include women’s rights. The UN appears to have obliged these conditions, with the Taliban agreeing to participate as a result.

Dr. Lauryn Oates, Executive Director of CW4WAfghan echoes the concerns of other human rights organizations around the world: “There cannot be any discussion about Afghanistan without talking about the systemic violation of women’s rights there, because this is the root cause of the current crisis and all the problems that stem from it, including those on the agenda of the Doha meeting: poverty, stalled economic development, and challenges in the agricultural sector.” She adds, “It is impossible to have a meaningful and productive discussion on these topics in the absence of women, who represent half the population of the country. The international community, including the UN, has repeatedly engaged in rhetoric around the importance of women’s representation and participation, and Afghan women’s complete absence from the third Doha talks is an egregious case of hypocrisy.”    

Since August 2021, the Taliban have issued more than 90 edicts limiting women’s rights including banning women and girls from attending school or higher education beyond the sixth grade, restricting access to healthcare, and prohibiting females from leaving home without a male guardian. Afghanistan is the only country in the world that prevents women and girls from accessing their human right to education.

“The United Nations have declared that Afghanistan has the most serious women’s rights crisis in the world, yet women’s rights are not included in this important forum,” said Oates. The UN  special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, presented his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council only a week ago, in which he described an “institutionalized system of discrimination, segregation, disrespect for human dignity and exclusion of women and girls,” and called for gender apartheid to be considered a crime against humanity. His assessment and recommendations were widely endorsed by human rights experts, and by Afghan and global civil society organizations and advocates. The UN and all states participating in the Third Doha meeting should also  CW4WAfghan hopes to see the acknowledgement that gender apartheid exists in Afghanistan, and that the recognition of the invaluable contributions of women in the socio-economic growth and development of the country is impossible without women, and that not having women at the table strengthens, rather than fights, gender apartheid.    

CW4WAfghan supports the calls of other organizations and advocates to have Afghan women at the table. Excluding the concerns of civil society and women’s rights advocates from the agenda and Afghan women from the forum discredits the Conference, and helps legitimize the Taliban and their system of gender apartheid. As an organization that exists to make the right to learn a reality for Afghan women and girls, we are in daily contact with women and girls whose lives have been upended by the discriminatory and cruel policies of the Taliban. Their voices, experiences and concerns should be part of any high-level discussions on Afghanistan, and it should be acknowledged that there are no solutions to Afghanistan’s considerable challenges that do not include the full restoration of the rights of women and girls.