• Statement of Civil Society at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan

Statement of Civil Society at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan

07 December 2018

On the 28th November the 13th high-level international conference on Afghanistan took place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Afghan Civil Society was proudly represented by a delegation of 10 civil society activist who selected two spokepeople to deliver the civil society statment. The collaborative statment was delivered by Mr Naeem Ayubzada and Ms Frozan Irfan Mashal. An audio of the statement can be found here and translations into Dari and Pashto will be published shortly. 

Mr Naeem Ayubzada addresses the International Delegations

Mr President, Chief Executive, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour to speak to you today on behalf of the nearly one thousand people who took part in the countrywide consultations organized by civil society in preparation for the Geneva conference. We commend the remarkable achievements of the people of Afghanistan in coping with such difficult circumstances, which would have been far worse without the generous international assistance, government leadership and the sacrifices of men and women in uniform, aid workers, teachers, journalists and other civilians.

We also acknowledge the difficulties associated with achieving sustainable development in a context of conflict, when the focus of the government and international community has to be on security and meeting humanitarian need. The people of Afghanistan have shown trust and hope for the future by turning out to vote in the recent parliamentary elections. An impressive number of Afghan men and women voted, despite the security threats, and overcame the pessimism created by previous fraud.

Afghan men and women voted for hope. In overcoming the pessimism created by previous fraud their votes were investments, which should be honoured by the Afghan government. Many of the problems that voters faced during the last Afghan government could have been avoided. Logistical failings that saw people waiting for hours in long queues due to false reports that their votes had already been cast, missing ballot papers, malfunctioning biometric devices, voting centres which remained closed as the staff had not turned up, and, even more significantly, the election management bodies were thought  to have been politicised.

These issues, if not resolved, will continue to tarnish the reputation and legitimacy of the next presidential election and the government of Afghanistan, reducing even further the trust of Afghan citizens in state institutions. We would also like to recommend that the 2019 Presidential election should not be delayed in favour of the reconciliation process with the Taliban. 

Similarly, corruption continues to erode government efficiency and legitimacy but the government’s commitment to curb corruption in the higher executive and military sectors is yet to produce a tangible outcome. Most people who want their papers to be processed in government offices are expected to pay bribes and this has sadly become the norm. People outside the system, especially women, who do not have the means to pay for employed positions are hit the hardest. The state of affairs at grass roots level is compounded by political patronage systems at the higher level.

But how can the culture of corruption in Afghanistan be eradicated if those accused of mass fraud are given top leadership positions in the country?


Ms Frozan Irfan Mashal addresses the International Delegations 

As we gather in this splendid room, in this beautiful and peaceful corner of the world, we cannot help but remember the anxieties of an Afghan mother who sees her son stepping through the door, not knowing if he would return home alive; the pressures that young men and women are feeling if they cannot find a job, particularly if they have debts from university to pay or the rest of the family to feed or are examples of the increasing number of people with a disability struggling to make ends meet in an inhospitable climate. Providing jobs is essential, including in the industrial and agricultural sectors, so that people can bring themselves out of poverty.

With the relentless killing and maiming of record numbers of civilians and military personnel, the ever-mounting numbers of people escaping conflict and drought, and the number who go to bed hungry not knowing when their next meal will be, Afghan citizens are facing great uncertainty in all aspects of life. The people plough on through the difficulties in the hope that better days are coming but while we are known for our resilience we, like other human beings have a breaking point.

We therefore welcome the prospect of a political settlement that will put an end to most violence in Afghanistan. To reach such a settlement it is necessary for the government to think strategically, to honour inclusion in the process when it has been promised and to involve women in all peace negotiations, not to negotiate away the gains made at the price of women’s rights.

A peace that is narrowly defined as the cessation of violence or a ‘quick fix’ cannot be sustainable. A peace process that understands, involves and takes into account the views of people at the micro and macro levels of conflict and generates trust, can achieve a lasting peace. We therefore call on international donors to fund peace building at all levels of social and political life. 

Peace is also contingent upon justice and the rule of law and therefore the implementation of laws that are just, such as that for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. . The EVAW law is not enforced by all courts in the same way and the result is victims of violence are not protected by the state. Reports from so many organizations, CEDAW, Amnesty, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission continue to give details of the thousands of cases of violence against women, killings, beatings, acid attacks, domestic and sexual violence.

Other laws, such as the law related to freedom of information, have not been implemented either and we call upon the government and international partners to invest in implementing the existing laws before designing new ones. We would also call upon the government for a more consultative approach when drafting laws.

Civil society actors continue to be key players in the development of the country and act as  bridges between the government and local communities. We appreciate that the government undertakes some consultation with civil society actors on important laws, however these consultations need to become more systematic and part of routine governance in the provinces as well as in Kabul. As the government is preparing to review the NGO law we call for an official consultation process with civil society actors before the Bill is presented to the Cabinet.

On behalf of Afghan civil society organizations we would like to thank all of you most sincerely for the support you have given Afghanistan for the past 17 years and some of you for longer. We realise that neither government nor donor support is inevitable, nor is it inexhaustible. We are therefore committed to monitor our own performance and integrity. Long term and sustainable development objectives can be more easily achieved by enhancing the current partnerships between the government, the donors and international civil society.