Women at the Peace Table: Rhetoric or Reality? Women’s participation and influence in the peace and reintegration process in Afghanistan


  • David Harriman
  • Helene Lackenbauer

Publish date: 2013-05-17

Report number: FOI-R--3659--SE

Pages: 55

Written in: English


  • Afghanistan
  • UNSCR 1325
  • women’s participation
  • women’s rights
  • peace process
  • peace negotiation
  • peace agreement
  • High Peace Council
  • Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program
  • APRP
  • Provincial Peace Council
  • women mediators
  • women negotiators
  • Taliban
  • armed opposition
  • National Security Council
  • National Consultative Peace Jirga
  • NCPJ.


The situation of women in Afghanistan has been a prominent area of rhetorical focus of the international community in the post-Taliban era. After years of armed conflict and forced exclusion from the public sphere, women have gradually emerged as social, political and economic actors. Some of the most widely recognized achievements have been in the legal and policy sectors. Under the pressure of the international community and the Afghan women's lobby, the Afghan government has removed discriminatory laws against women, ratified a constitution that promotes non-discrimination; and facilitated women's participation in national elections through civic education, voting and candidacy. This study seeks to examine whether these developments actually represent the significant change and progress for women that has been claimed. This is especially important in the context of Afghan women's participation and influence in the ongoing peace and reintegration process. Interviews, conducted in Afghanistan with representatives at the political-strategic level, showed that the future peace negotiations between the government and the Taliban pose a threat to women's rights, since the government and international actors have not disclosed the concessions they are prepared to make. The process is non-inclusive and non-transparent, and it is unclear what is being discussed in the pre-negotiations talks. Women participate to a limited extent in the High Peace Council and Province Peace Councils, but are excluded from the National Security Council, which is a highly influential body that advises the President on peace and security matters. In general, women are not afraid of the return of the Taliban, but of men who have been armed by the international military coalition. The international community is perceived, both by the female parliamentarians and the civil society representatives interviewed for this study, as an important protector of women's rights and for ensuring women's participation. The study found that there is a discrepancy between the civil society's and female parliamentarians' expectation on what a future peace agreement should entail, and the objectives of the government. While the civil society and the female parliamentarians strive for 'positive peace', the government - together with the international military coalition - is, seemingly, interested in weakening the insurgency and closing a power-sharing deal with the armed opposition. This may result in unsolved conflicts and grievances among the population, which is detrimental to achieving sustainable peace. Furthermore, a complicating factor is the relationship between the military Counter-Insurgency (COIN) strategy and the Afghan Peace and reintegration program (APRP). The fact that military goals are interwoven with peace efforts creates inconsistency in the process and may compromise the armed opposition's confidence in the APRP.