Statement on Afghanistan by Civil Society Reference Groups

September 22, 2021

We, the National, Regional, and Global Civil Society Reference Groups of Spotlight Initiative, are very concerned about what is happening in Afghanistan. Most especially with the situation that women human rights defenders are put in as the Taliban takes over and forms their new government. As such, we would like to share with you our collective demands.

As part of huge international institutions like the UN and EU, we urge you to include your voice and use your influence on the following:

  • We understand some governments are reaching out for talks with the Taliban, and we request the UN and EU work strategically through/with these governments to promote and protect women's rights and human rights.
  • We support the demand from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), MADRE, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) that the Human Rights Council establish without delay a robust, adequately-resourced investigative mechanism into all violations and abuses by all parties, including the Taliban – mandated to investigate any gendered dimensions of such violations and abuses, and to report regularly, including intersessionally. We ask that you members of the Spotlight Governing Body and Operational Steering Committee add your voice to this demand.

As the body that decides on all things Spotlight, we strongly demand the following:

  • As members of Spotlight’s civil society reference group structure, we urge Spotlight to funnel emergency funding to Afghan women’s collectives and WHRDs themselves to support integrated protection efforts and ongoing work, as a priority. The GRG stands ready to help facilitate or support these efforts in any way.
  • We respectfully request that members of the Governing Body and Operational Steering Committee do everything in your power to secure the evacuation of WHRDs from Afghanistan, in your institutional negotiations with the Taliban.
  • We request an update on the safety of our fellow CS-RG members in Afghanistan, as well as others who have worked with the UN/EU on women’s rights and GBV, and as guided by the Spotlight Specific Integrated Protection Approach (SSIPA).
  • As the situation evolves, we urge the EU/UN to remain guided by Afghan WHRDs in determining any next steps for Spotlight/GBV work in the country.
  • We specifically request that Spotlight funds are redirected to directly reach the ground (local women’s groups and organisations, not public bodies or INGOs) until women's rights, including women's access to full and unequivocal participation and decision making are guaranteed by the Taliban administration.
  • We understand UN and EU colleagues are currently working to secure the protection of WHRDs, activists and journalists in Afghanistan. We thank Secretariat colleagues for their quick work in establishing contact with Afghan RG members, and ask that this be maintained and supported institutionally in order to assess their current status, needs and possible support.

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