Significant challenges to human rights situation in Afghanistan

3 Feb 2010

Significant challenges to human rights situation in Afghanistan

KABUL - Long-standing human rights problems associated with dysfunctional governance, widespread and deeply entrenched impunity, weak justice and law enforcement institutions, coupled with extreme poverty that is exacerbated by marginalization, pose significant challenges to the human rights situation in Afghanistan, both in the immediate and the longer-term.

OHCHR/UNAMA HR: Human rights priorities are defined by a number of considerations, including the priority concerns of Afghans, UN Security Council resolutions, Afghanistan Compact, ANDS (Afghanistan National Development Strategy), the role of different stakeholders, in particular, the AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission), and the added value associated with UN human rights interventions. OHCHR/UNAMA HR is focussed on efforts geared to systemic change and, in this context, works closely with a wide range of stakeholders.

OHCHR/UNAMA HR has 85 national and international human rights positions throughout the country both at the regional and provincial level. Human Rights staff monitor, analyze, and report on the human rights situation while simultaneously engaging in protection, capacity-building and advocacy activities.

Main Activities in the first quarter of 2010:

Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: OHCHR/UNAMA HR provides inputs to annual reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on the achievements of technical assistance in the field of human rights. The 2009 report is scheduled to be presented to, and considered by, the Human Rights Council in March 2010. The report will highlight concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan, particularly with regard to civilian casualties, due to the escalation and spread of armed conflict. The report will also address conservative and discriminatory practices against women, which are represented by threats against women in public life, the adoption of the Sh’ia Personal Status Law in 2009 and continuing crimes of sexual violence. Limited progress has been made in implementing the Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice, and journalists and media workers continue to be harassed for exercising their profession – two issues of critical concern.

Poverty and Human Rights: Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. However, the human rights dimension of poverty is rarely a subject of concern in policy circles and most actors see poverty solely in economic terms. Discrimination and exclusion, lack of accountability, non-transparent and unaccountable governance, inequitable resource allocation and abuse of power by State authorities are significant causes of poverty. Thus, it is unrealistic to anticipate that chronic and deep-rooted poverty can be addressed effectively in the absence of attention to the human rights dimension of extreme poverty. OHCHR/UNAMA HR is scheduled to release a report “Wilful Neglect: The Human Rights Dimension of Poverty” on 18 February 2010. Other initiatives include to mainstream human rights into development work, particularly in the UNDAF context, and capacity-building of the AIHRC in regard to their analysis on progress of the realization of economic and social rights.

Violence against Women: As a follow-up to last year’s report “Silence is Violence: Stop the Abuse of Afghan Women and Girls”, OHCHR/UNAMA HR is set to conduct research on harmful traditional practices such as baad and forced marriage – an analysis of legislation that outlaws or indirectly supports such practices will also be carried out; field-based officers will start undertaking research to identify the extent of the problem and its drivers around the International Women’s Day (8 March) – this research will inform advocacy strategies and findings will be published in the form of a short report.

Protection of Civilians: The intensification and spread of the armed conflict continue to take a heavy toll on civilians. OHCHR/UNAMA HR undertakes a range of activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the conflict on civilians; including independent and impartial monitoring and investigation of incidents and analysis of trend in which loss of life occurs.

Conflict-Related Detention: The status of persons detained by international military forces is a major concern. OHCHR/UNAMA HR continues to investigate and monitor the situation, in particular the development of a possible transfer of persons detained in U.S. Bagram Theater Internment Facility and implement its advocacy strategy on due process and other procedural guarantees for detainees.

By Norah Niland, UNAMA Human Rights Chief

Website: UNAMA Human Rights Unit

Website: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights