Not even two years after signing the Women, Peace and Security Act (WPSA), Donald Trump is already failing to uphold his commitment to ensuring women’s participation in peace negotiations.
Data shows that women are key to the success of peace agreements. According to the International Peace Institute, peace agreements that are at least in part negotiated by women are more likely to remain in place for over 15 years, whereas about half of the deals exclusively brokered by men fall apart after 10.
The Trump administration’s peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan are centered on a broad agenda—spanning topics such as terrorist groups and legal measures—but completely leaves out women’s rights. There are also no women at the table, directly violating the WPSA and putting Afghan women at risk.
Afghan women have spoken out to demand their inclusion in this process—and so have women across the globe who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Actor, activist and UN special envoy to Afghanistan Angelina Jolie joined that chorus of voices last week in a powerful editorial piece for TIME.
“Women, who have the most to lose if the Taliban returns to power,” she wrote, “currently have the least say in the process by which it may do so.” Jolie goes on to outline three critical steps for the process to move forward without leaving Afghan women behind.
First, Afghan women must be able to speak for themselves. This means including female negotiators in significant numbers as part of any Afghan government delegation and ensuring formal participation for women’s groups representing civil society. Qatar, as host of the intra-Afghan dialogue, should invite such groups to take part as full delegates. Everyone knows the difference between tokenism and inclusion.
Second, women’s rights and concerns must be on the formal agenda, not relegated to side events or made the lone responsibility of female delegates. Women should have leadership roles during the development and implementation of any agreement and be consulted on all aspects of the future of the country—not just “women’s issues.”
Third, as the U.S. possesses a position of power in the peace process, Afghan women look to us to bring our diplomatic leverage to bear to uphold their rights, alongside their own government. If we don’t, it is almost a foregone conclusion that they will be marginalized. The U.S.—and the other nations that fought beside it in Afghanistan—should be adamant that they will not back any peace deal that erodes rights for women, and will hold all parties to the commitments they make. Afghan women should not be left alone to defend their rights before an organization that has traditionally treated them as inferior beings.