Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar on Monday opened the two-day 2020 Geneva Conference on Afghanistan where he said that “peace efforts should lead to a reduction in violence in the country.”
Atmar said that without a peace deal, the Afghan government has released thousands Taliban prisoners, but “violence is still high in Afghanistan.”
The 2020 Afghanistan Conference is the last pledging conference of the Transformation Decade (2015-24), which aims to take the country towards self-reliance, and is expected to renew the international community and Afghan commitments to the development and stability of Afghanistan up to 2024.
The main conference will take place on November 24 with representatives of at least 100 countries to discuss key challenges and accomplishments for Afghanistan occurring the day before.
Addressing the event, Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani said the Afghan Republic gives all guarantees that human rights will be respected.
She said the Republic and the Constitution respect the diversity of the Afghan population, adding that the Taliban has delayed the start of the peace negotiations in Doha.
Taliban’s perspective on women's rights has not changed and that they have made “vague” commitments in this respect.
State Minister for Peace Affairs and peace negotiator Sayed Sadat Mansoor Nader Naderi said that the peace process should be inclusive.
“Afghanistan needs continued support from the international community to preserve its gains in pursuit of peace,” he said.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said women's rights cannot be compromised, adding that “Afghan women should have meaningful participation in the peace process.”
“Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have not lessened following the start of the Doha talks in September,” he said.
Afghan chief negotiator Masoom Stanekzai said that the woman members of the Afghan Republic negotiating team are active and motivated and that “they are not only fighting for women's rights but for the rights of all Afghans.”
He also said that the violence will not end in Afghanistan unless the problem of Afghan refugees is addressed.
“There is a need for a reintegration and return plan for the refugees,” he said.
Stanekzai said any peace deal should also ensure the rights of internally displaced persons and return refugees.
“We must prevent the repeat of history in Afghanistan,” Stanekzai says.
Norway Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide says peace negotiations bring hope, but challenges remain. She says violence remains high and that reducing violence and reaching a ceasefire is urgent.
Sweden's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Rydberg addressing the side event of the Geneva conference said women's rights must be protected in the peace efforts in Afghanistan.
He said progress in Afghanistan is still limited and fragile, adding that Sweden welcomes the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“We urge the parties to put an end to violence and reach a ceasefire and protect gains made in the last two decades,” he said.
Shahrzad Akbar chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in an address to the side event of the Geneva conference says Afghanistan needs an immediate reduction in violence.
The human rights chairperson says the peace process needs to be inclusive and that everyone's voices should be heard in it.
Peace negotiator Habiba Sarabi in an address to the side event of the Geneva conference says Afghanistan needs long-term support by the international community.