Afghanistan: outgoing rights official at UN mission pledges commitment to advancing women’s rights

2 June 2015

While the outgoing senior United Nations rights official in Afghanistan said she expected the human rights advances made “will be sustained, will not be rolled back, and will not be sacrificed,” she lamented the high level of violence against women and the need for the Government to do “much more” for women’s rights.

Georgette Gagnon, Human Rights Director of the UN Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), also said in an interview released today, that while UNAMA’s work did result in government and international forces adopting procedures to limit their actions’ impact on civilians, the figures of civilians killed or injured is higher in 2015 than at any previous recorded stage in the conflict.

Speaking after completing more than five years as senior UN human rights official in Afghanistan, she said “civil society in Afghanistan is vibrant; it is very human-rights based and human-rights friendly, and it is taking forward the human rights struggle here.”

“That, of course, is very encouraging,” Ms. Gannon said.

But Ms. Gagnon referred to the case of Farkhunda, the Afghan woman who was brutally murdered by a Kabul mob on 19 March and whose death prompted calls within and outside Afghanistan for authorities to protect women’s rights.

“Many women’s groups and others went on the street to demonstrate for proper, prompt justice,” she said. “Unfortunately, there has not been proper, prompt justice.”

“There still are many serious issues with women’s rights,” she said. “The level of violence against women is still high; the government does need to do much more to address it.”

In the interview, Ms. Gagnon said highlighted positive and encouraging indicators against a backdrop of enormous challenges posed by conflict, as well as by the complex political and economic situation.

“We’re expecting that the gains made will be sustained, will not be rolled back, and will not be sacrificed,” she said.

She noted that civil society groups, in particular, are advancing the human rights struggle in Afghanistan.

Ms. Gagnon also spoke about critical issues for Afghanistan, such as civilian protection during armed conflict, children in conflict, women’s issues, detention practices and peace and reconciliation initiatives.

On protection of civilians, she said that, during the last five years, UNAMA had dedicated resources to meticulously documenting the impact of the conflict on civilians across the country to get the parties to the conflict to take concrete steps to mitigate the effects on civilians – to protect lives.

Ms. Gagnon described how the United Nations continues working with all parties to abide with their national and international obligations to protect civilians.

“We’re bringing forward our findings, our documentation, our reporting, and we’re urging and putting forward recommendations, practical ways and means to reduce civilian casualties,” she said. “We have regular dialogue in the field with the military actors, urging them to abide by their obligations to protect civilians – ensure they have directives in place, rules of procedure, rules of engagement that put the protection of civilians at the centre.”


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