Peace Day 2009: “So that all Afghans can live in dignity and peace”
20 September 2009 - As Peace Day 21 September approaches UNAMA is featuring articles from UN agencies on the work the UN is doing for peace in Afghanistan. 11: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Afghan society is confronted with multiple challenges as it strives to build a foundation for a just, peaceful, and democratic society. Three decades of fighting and related lawlessness continues to cast a shadow that inhibits the development of a society based on the rule of law.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the failure to address even the most obvious and flagrant human rights violations and abuses that have characterized different periods of the armed conflict.
UNAMA and the OHCHR (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) are actively engaged with different Afghan stakeholders to maintain the issue of transitional justice on the political agenda.
This includes working with Afghan civil society, the media, government and the international community to promote accountability, healing, reconciliation, and above all, to end the cycle of violence in which impunity continues to flourish.
Only by addressing the violations and abuses of the past can Afghans hope to secure a peaceful future.
Deeply-entrenched problems, such as extreme poverty and marginalization, also pose serious threats to the realization of a durable peace.
Significant progress had been made in areas such as health, education, agriculture and private-sector reform. Much still remains to be done to improve the quality of life of Afghans.
UNAMA/OHCHR is fully committed to helping Afghans achieve social and economic justice including, in particular, greater protection for the most vulnerable in society.
One such priority is combating discrimination against women. Through a combination of field work and public advocacy, UNAMA/OHCHR seeks to change social and cultural attitudes that effectively condone violence against women as well as their exclusion from decision-making, reinforcing their unequal status and marginalized position in society.
Women constitute half the population of Afghanistan; they represent half of society’s potential to build a peaceful future. No peace process can succeed without their empowerment and participation in decision-making processes that affect Afghanistan’s future.
The intensifying armed conflict in Afghanistan is, without doubt, the greatest immediate threat to peace. It is exacting an increasingly heavy toll on civilians.
Already, in the first six months of 2009, UNAMA recorded a rise of 24 per cent in the number of civilian deaths over the same period last year. The majority, some 60 per cent of all deaths recorded, are attributed to the insurgents.
The biggest killers are suicide attacks, the use of improvised explosive devices by the armed opposition, and air-strikes by pro-government forces.
UNAMA monitors and analyzes the impact of the conflict on civilians. This helps in the identification of trends and measures that will enhance the protection of civilians, including the avoidable loss of life.
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and others in the UN, are strong advocates of the need for measures that will pre-empt civilian deaths.
The UN persistently reminds all parties to the conflict of their obligations under Afghan and international humanitarian law to minimize the impact of the conflict on civilians.
Peace, of course, cannot be imposed but must emerge through the efforts and will of the Afghan people, their government, and their international partners.
UNAMA/OHCHR, through a variety of programmes and initiatives, continues to support the Afghan people and its institutions to climb out of the shadow of the past so that all Afghans can live in dignity and peace.
By Norah Niland, UNAMA Human Rights Unit