Afghanistan-New Zealand Inter-Parliamentary Dialogue
On Thursday 29th July, inter-parliamentary dialogue between Afghanistan and New Zealand was held to exchange views on shared efforts to reduce the Taliban’s current violence and call for an immediate ceasefire. Furthermore, discussions around efforts to promotes women’s meaningful representation and participation in the peace process, preserve and maintain women’s rights and build a strong foundation for an Afghan peace negotiation by emphasising proactive contributions, and human rights, as well as further joint efforts in the areas of mutual interest.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been engaged on regional and wider global inter-parliamentary discourse initiatives. Since the beginning of this year, Afghan women political activists, civil society and Members of Parliament have been engaged to discusses Afghan women challenges and concerns with different parliamentary and friendship groups around the world. Notable past discussions that supported the Afghan women’s discourse included regional and key international partners such as the parliaments of Germany, Norway, India, Canada, United States of America and the United Kingdom. The discussion built on the shared discourse to better connect Afghanistan and address shared concerns and challenges in the face of current peace negotiations and women’s rights.
Highlight of Speakers:
Ms Hasina Safi – Acting Minister for Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan
The women of Afghanistan will not have their rights set back by the Taliban. Women have firmly decided that the gains of the past twenty years must be preserved, protected and developed further. To ensure women’s rights are maintained the Afghan government and international partners must make sure participation in key sectors of Afghan Parliament and enable fair and equal representation in the ongoing development of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The women of Afghanistan are some of the most resilient and courageous in the world. Years of conflict and hardship has not deterred women from striving to positions in Parliament, the Police force, defence, business and civil society. However, women still face many challenges, but the development of the Law on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in 2016 as well as the draft on Prevention of Discrimination is a step in the right direction. Additionally, Chapter 2 Article 22 of the 2004 Afghan constitution states, “The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law.” In the current peace talks, the Taliban have disregarded the current constitution and instead advocated to draft their own which centres around their own interpretation of Sharia Law.
Hon. Priyanca Radhakrishnan - Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, Member for Maungakiekie, Labour Party
Ms Radhakrishnan strongly believes that everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality or socio-economic status should have the opportunity to live with dignity. In New Zealand, women’s leadership and participation is on an upward trajectory which is facilitated by the support of women and men alike. NZ also holds strategies in place that facilitates women’s progression in non-traditional sectors and closing the gender pay gap. It is important to ensure women and girls feel empowered to pursue their goals, undaunted by the obstacles that may arise. One instance includes the supply of free period products in schools which safeguards the dignity and respect of young women.
In addition, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of violence against women and girls among the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. The Parliament have currently adopted strategies to reduce this. Violence against women and girls is never acceptable and only hinders the progression of society. When all members of society feel empowered we can accomplish great things.
New Zealand stand in solidarity with women anywhere that face violence and inequality. This includes Afghanistan. New Zealand understands that Afghan women currently have several strategies in place to empower women including the National Action Plan for Women Advancement. However, ongoing support is important as reported in a UN Special Rapporteur Report that stated, “engrained structural and societal challenges hamper the realization of this goal, including gender discrimination and male preference.”
Regarding the March 15th Mosque attack, the government has taken all forty-four recommendations from the Royal Commission’s report on the matter with a strong focus on safety. Following this the Parliament has formed a major focus on counter terrorism and social cohesion among our ethnically diverse and culturally rich country.
Hon. Jenny Salesa MP - Chairperson, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
New Zealand is closely monitoring the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and would like Afghan’s to know the New Zealand people support you, especially the women and girls. The New Zealand military withdrawal was based on a national cabinet decision and any re-entry back into Afghanistan will be dependent on national cabinet.
Furthermore, the moral courage and bravery of Afghan women in the most harrowing of circumstances is nothing short of incredible. New Zealand cannot watch the gains Afghan women and girls have made over the past twenty years be lost. We will strive to discuss these issues at a New Zealand Minister level.
Hon. Jacqui Dean MP
New Zealander’s all want a safe and prosperous country. These circumstances provide us with the privilege to look ahead to maintain and enhance the role of women in New Zealand Parliament and wider society. Moreover, a stable democracy and strong representation of women across all key sectors and positions of government serves only to strengthen our country and its values.
It is important women work together to ensure our rights do not go backwards. New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the right to vote and we acknowledge that the gains we have today would not have been possible if it were not for the women before us who fought hard for our rights.
Ms Vanushi Walters MP - Member for Upper Harbour, Labour Party, Deputy-Chairperson of Justice Committee, New Zealand
As a Human Rights Lawyer the current issues on the ground in Afghanistan are very concerning. It is important to acknowledge four key points:
- Identify grave human rights violations and ensure justice can be delivered.
- Adequate access of ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) in Afghanistan.
- Maintain dialogue with the United Nations Human Rights Council.
- State Building and the role of international mechanisms to ensure long term development.