MARIAM SAFI, Executive Director of the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies, highlighted current trends, ground conditions and issues related to the peace process. While great progress had been made since 2001, with a vibrant generational youth, women’s representation and a promising democratic system of governance, the hope of a brighter future was beginning to fade. In an ever more complicated theatre of conflict, safe zones had become battlefields, with the Taliban, along with its Haqqani Network, and ISIL (Da’esh) affiliates targeting civilians. It was extremely alarming that 1,224 women had been killed in 2017, compared to 285 in 2009, she said, imploring the Council and the international community to ensure that transitional justice was not compromised in the pursuit of peace and reconciliation.

Security challenges were not the only cause of despair, she said, emphasizing that for the first time, young single women comprised a significant number of refugees. While Afghans had long agreed on the need for peace, differences persisted on the best way forward, including how the rights of women would be protected and how their participation would be guaranteed in the implementation and monitoring of a peace agreement. “For Afghan women, it is imperative for the State to define the type of peace that would ensue from negotiations,” she said, adding that Afghan women believed the future of their rights to be intricately linked to the outcomes of the peace process.

The time had come to expand the role of Afghan women from mere presence to active engagement, consultation and inclusion, she said. Any changes to the Constitution resulting from a peace agreement with the Taliban must not erode the rights and freedoms of Afghan citizens. The Council must closely monitor any such amendments and ensure that the Taliban implemented confidence‑building measures. Emphasizing that an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process would not in itself halt terrorism, she said that almost all rural women — when asked to identify obstacles to peace — had highlighted regional interference. “The Security Council and the international community must persuade Pakistan to engage constructively in all efforts to curb the threat of terrorism and support an intra‑Afghan dialogue for peace,” she said, asking international partners “to stand beside us, not behind us”.

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