Promoting human rights values the focus of UN-backed events across Afghanistan
KABUL - To support efforts by Afghanistan’s communities and institutions to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, civil society members, government officials, religious scholars, media professionals, women’s rights activists and other community leaders came together and made their voices heard in a series of events organized by UNAMA’s regional offices.
In provinces across the country, participants discussed key issues related to human rights developments, including the work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the creation of new laws empowering the media through access to information, the development of the new Penal Code reflecting the country’s commitment to promote fundamental freedoms, and the presence of women in civil service positions and in the private sector.
“One of the fundamental violations is intimidating and threatening media workers who are on the front lines of the fight to protect human rights,” said Hamayon Nazari, the head of Herat’s branch of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, at the UN-backed event in the western province. “We need to put an end to the violence directed at journalists in Afghanistan.”
Elsewhere, in the northern region’s five provinces, UNAMA organized radio debates with human rights activists and academic professionals. “Afghanistan has had remarkable achievements with regard to its laws, and to some extent in implementing them,” said Jamshid Fardi, a professor of law in Balkh, during one of the radio programmes broadcast there. “There are challenges as well, but this is normal in a country still at war.”
In the northeast, a Baghlan symposium drew more than 70 participants. Shah Zaman Zamani, a professor working in the province, underlined the importance of changing attitudes toward human rights values. “Institutionalizing human rights requires bright and active citizens who, with proper capacity, will fight for their rights,” he said.
In the central province of Kabul, dozens of participants gathered to discuss human rights in the protection of civilians. “A fundamental principle of Islam is due devotion to human life,” said Hafizullah Salam, head of Kabul’s Department of Hajj and Religious Affairs. “All of us are responsible to raise public awareness about this issue.”
In Parwan, radio panellists called for all citizens to assist government institutions in the protection and promotion of human rights, and in supporting initiatives that contribute to the country’s stability and development. Sameera Ahmadi, a women’s rights activist and one of the panellists, noted that insecurity and harmful traditions are continuing to deprive women of their fundamental rights.
“Since the formation of the new government, considerable change has occurred in women’s lives,” said Ahmadi. “But we all must work to increase awareness and engage fathers, brothers, husbands and others community members in protecting and promoting women’s rights.”
Participants at many of the events, including elsewhere in the country’s southern, southeast and eastern regions, noted that while Afghanistan has achieved much in human rights, the challenges remain daunting, especially as a result of the ongoing armed conflict and fragile security environment that continue to cause persistent high numbers of civilian casualties.
Those attending the events discussed increased collaboration in the interest of all Afghan institutions overcoming the remaining challenges in human rights in the country, including a justice system that is able to fully implement the progress Afghanistan has made in legislative reform and in constitutional provisions guaranteeing women’s rights and the elimination of violence against women.
In a statement on 10 December, the United Nations in Afghanistan noted that peace, reconciliation, truth-seeking, accountability and justice are key to Afghanistan’s future, and encouraged the fulfilment of Afghanistan’s broad-ranging commitments and pledges to continue to promote human rights and reinforce its national protection system.
“Human rights is at the heart of the work of the United Nations and is core to its activities in Afghanistan where we are privileged to work in support of the Afghan people,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, on Human Rights Day.
On 10 December each year, at the conclusion of 16 days of activities aimed at raising awareness about ending violence against women, the United Nations observes Human Rights Day by recognizing achievements made since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was conceived as a framework to foster peace, promote understanding of the inherent dignity and equal worth of all members of the human family and protect individuals from state tyranny and abuse.
As a result of the Declaration, the dignity of millions has been uplifted and untold human suffering prevented. It has permeated every corner of international law. The national constitutions of more than 90 countries, including Afghanistan, have enshrined its principles. While the Declaration’s promise is yet to be fulfilled everywhere, the fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the universality of its perennial values of equality, justice and human dignity.
To highlight what the Declaration means for people in their everyday lives, the United Nations has run a year-long campaign leading up to 10 December, the occasion of the Declaration’s 70th anniversary. To sign the global pledge and take action, visit http://www.standup4humanrights.org/.
UNAMA continues to work with advocacy groups and institutions, including provincial councils, religious leaders, youth groups, women’s groups and local media stations, to create platforms, using radio, social media and television, to enable Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.
At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussions and debates for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.
UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.