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Afghanistan

Protection Policy for Women Under Conflict and Emergency Situations (AF0008)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Afghanistan Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA)

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Interior, State Ministry for Disaster Management, Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, Ministry of Public Health, IDLG, Ministry of Rural Development and Rehabilitation, and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, AIHRC, Afghan Women Network, international partner organizations, especially UNDP, UN-Women, USAID and other relevant CSOs

Policy Areas

Fiscal Openness, Gender, Human Rights, Legislation & Regulation, Marginalized Communities, Public Participation, Public Participation in Budget/Fiscal Policy, Social Accountability

IRM Review

IRM Report: Afghanistan Implementation Report 2017-2019, Afghanistan Design Report 2017-2019

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?: Conflict and emergency situations disproportionately affect women and there is lack of a specific mechanism the related agencies can use to address the issues women face in these situations such, but not limited to, sexual violence, internal displacement, poverty and loss of access to education and health care services, and psychological trauma. Lack of such a mechanism has adversely affected different aspects of women’s well-being. This situation may harm women more than any other social strata by restricting their access to adequate food, safety, health and mental health provisions and services.; What is the commitment?: In order to reduce vulnerability of women under conflict and emergency situations, MoWA, in collaboration with related ministries, agencies and local governance entities, CSOs, women’s rights organizations, international partner organizations and other relevant actors will develop a protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations. After finalization of the policy, it will be submitted for approval to Cabinet.; How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?: This commitment will enable the related agencies mentioned above to present their ideas and proposals to be incorporated into the protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations.
In order to implement this commitment, MoWA will first establish a committee composed of the related government agencies, women rights organizations, CSOs and international organizations. This committee will be responsible for drafting the protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations.
The established committee will develop the policy and share it with the related governmental and non-governmental agencies for their comments. After collecting all comments, the committee will incorporate them and develop the final draft and will then send it for approval to the Cabinet.
With the approval of this policy, a specific mechanism will be established to protect women under conflict and emergency situations.
The committee will prepare and finalize an action plan to facilitate the implementation of the policy. Consequently, the implementation of the policy and its action plan is expected to reduce vulnerability of women in conflict and emergency situations, and address their needs and issues on a timely basis.; Why is the commitment relevant to OGP values?: This commitment is relevant to OGP values as it is inclusive of public participation, as it leads to the development of a protection policy in consultation with related CSOs, women’s human rights organizations, and women focused international organizations.; Additional information: This commitment will be funded by MoWA and will underscore the Afghanistan’s SDG commitment Goal 5 which stipulates ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.’ This goal includes 5 specific targets which highlight’s Afghanistan’s commitment to Resolution 1325 thereby touching upon the issues mentioned above that affect women in conflict and emergency situations.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

8. Developing and Approving a Protection Policy for Women under Conflict and Emergency Situations

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“Conflict and emergency situations disproportionately affect women and there is lack of a specific mechanism the related agencies can use to address the issues women face in these situations such, but not limited to, sexual violence, internal displacement, poverty and loss of access to education and health care services, and psychological trauma. Lack of such a mechanism has adversely affected different aspects of women’s well-being. This situation may harm women more than any other social strata by restricting their access to adequate food, safety, health and mental health provisions and services.

In order to reduce vulnerability of women under conflict and emergency situations, MoWA, in collaboration with related ministries, agencies and local governance entities, CSO’s, women’s rights organizations, international partner organizations and other relevant actors will develop a protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations. After finalization of the policy, it will be submitted for approval to Cabinet.

Milestone activities and verifiable deliverables
  • MoWA will establish a committee comprised of related government agencies, women rights organizations, CSO’s and international organizations who will be responsible for drafting the protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations.
  • The committee will draft the protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations.
  • The committee will hold one consultation session in Kabul attended by related government agencies, women rights organizations, and CSO’s from the provinces. Their feedback will be incorporated into a final draft of the protection policy by the committee.
  • Approval of the Protection Policy by the Cabinet.
  • The committee will prepare and finalize an action plan to facilitate the implementation of the policy.”

Start Date: January 2018

End Date: August 2019

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Afghanistan National Action Plan see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/commitment/08-protection-policy-women-under-conflict-and-emergency-situations

Context and Objectives

The main objective of this commitment is to develop and approve a Protection Policy for Women under Conflict and Emergency Situations, with a focus to support to the most vulnerable such as widows, divorced women, and disabled women. This is one of the commitments that was introduced by a non OGP civil society organization called Afghan Women Press Office. [74] The director of the mentioned organization, whom the IRM researcher interviewed, had participated one of the OGP’s seven working group sessions where she discussed the need to formulate a policy for women in emergency and conflict situation, linking it to the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (2000). [75]

The situation of women in Afghanistan is considered one of the worst in the world, both in comparison to Afghan men and with women in other countries. [76] Existing inequality and institutionalized discrimination is further augmented among women who experience war and/or emergency situations. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) notes:

Women in situations of conflict and emergency are disproportionally prone to rape, migration, poverty and unemployment. They become IDPs [internally displaced persons] and lose opportunities to access education and health services. Lack of mechanisms to offer services to women under such circumstances affects various aspects of their lives – access to food, security, and health care services -- distinguishing them more than other groups in the society as a vulnerable population. [77]

Although the Afghan government adopted the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA, 2008-2018) and developed its national Action Plan (NAP 1325) as a separate, additional measure in relation to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in June 2015, [78] it has thus far not specifically addressed the problem of women in situations of war and other emergencies, such as earthquake and floods.

To address this lacuna, MoWA in collaboration with other related governmental bodies, CSO’s and the international community, aims to adopt a protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations (the policy), followed by an action plan for its implementation. Although NAP 1325 has laid the foundation for this policy, the policy will devise specific mechanisms based on realities on the ground.

The specific areas the policy wishes to address are provision of: a) physical safety; b) safe shelters; c) psycho-social counseling; and d) legal support. The policy contains coordination among 12 institutions that include ministries, public institutions such as AIHRC and the Afghan Red Cross, international community and CSO’s. The policy stipulates each institution’s role and responsibility. For example, it states that the Ministry of Interior should allocate and train women staff for this purpose, or assign the Ministry of Justice the responsibility to raise awareness of citizens’ rights during situations of conflict and emergencies. The policy calls upon CSO’s to monitor the implementation of the policy and collaborate in accessing vulnerable women in various parts of Afghanistan. [79] This aspect makes the commitment relevant to the OGP value of civic participation.

MoWA has already shared the policy draft, which contains four chapters, with CSO’s and other related institutions. The government representatives interviewed for this report stated that the feedback they received from CSO’s contributed towards enriching the content of the policy. One such suggestion, as an example, related to protective measures not only during conflict and emergency situations but also those immediately after conflicts or emergencies. [80] CSO representatives consider this policy as enforcement towards women’s protection [81] and specific mechanisms by which women’s protection under conflict and emergency situation can be addressed. [82]

The commitment’s activities and milestones are specific enough to verify its completion. To address the vulnerability of women in conflict and emergency situations, the commitment intends to create coordination among various public institutions and CSOs. The commitment also raises awareness among officials in various ministries on women’s specific needs in such situations, a topic, which before was not on the government agenda. As written, this commitment has the potential to inform and change mindsets surrounding these issues, particularly among Afghan male public officials. In this regard, the role of CSOs, especially women’s groups, is critical as regards to the potential impact of the commitment, particularly considering that high government officials in Afghanistan are not well familiar with the international women’s rights instruments. [83] However, because the commitment as written does not directly aim to implement the policy under the current action plan, it falls short of transformative potential impact. The IRM researcher thus considers the potential impact of this commitment to be moderate.

Next steps

The IRM Researcher suggests that this commitment should be prioritized and carried over to the next action plan, however, with a focus on policy implementation. To make the commitment more ambitious and transformative, the IRM Researcher suggests the following specific actions:

  • MoWA in consultation with other partners and importantly CSO’s could select certain provinces and zones as its pilot project for the policy’s implementation. The IRM Researcher suggests not to exceed 10 provinces. Relatedly, CSO’s could develop a mechanism based on which they could carry their monitoring activity as well as awareness-raising campaigns.
  • The next action plan should expand the role of CSO’s beyond monitoring the policy and facilitating to access vulnerable women. Awareness-raising is an important contribution that CSO’s can offer, which should be included in the action plan.
  • Both government and CSO’s could develop a feedback mechanism where the affected population could express their views, including their specific needs, suggestions and complaints. The government and CSOs could appoint a joint team to assess the feedback they receive from the people and try to incorporate them in developing their future actions and activities.
[74] Personal interview, Director, Afghan Women Press Office, 30 October 2018, Kabul.
[75] Ibid.
[76] IRoA, Ministry of Women's Affairs. (2007). National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) 2007-2017. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from: https://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/documents/National_Action_Plan_for_the_Women_of_Afghanistan_2007_to_2017.pdf. 
[77] IRoA, Minitrys of Women’s Affairs (2018). Draft Policy on Women’s Protection in Situations of War and Emergency. (handed to the IRM Researcher).
[78] Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. (2015). Afghanistan's National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 Women, Peace and Security. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from: http://mfa.gov.af/Content/files/English%20NAP%206(1).pdf
[79] IRoA, Minitrys of Women’s Affairs.(2018). Draft Policy on Women’s Protection in Situations of War and Emergency. (handed to the IRM Researcher).
[80] Personal interview, Technical Deputy and Policy and Planning expert, Ministry of Women Affairs, 22 October 2018, Kabul.
[81] Personal interview, Head of Advocacy, Afghan Women Network, 28 October 2018, Kabul.
[82] Personal Interview, Director, Training Human Rights Association for Women, 29 October 2018, Kabul.
[83] Ibid.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

8. Developing and Approving a Protection Policy for Women under Conflict and Emergency Situations

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“Conflict and emergency situations disproportionately affect women and there is lack of a specific mechanism the related agencies can use to address the issues women face in these situations such, but not limited to, sexual violence, internal displacement, poverty and loss of access to education and health care services, and psychological trauma. Lack of such a mechanism has adversely affected different aspects of women’s well-being. This situation may harm women more than any other social strata by restricting their access to adequate food, safety, health and mental health provisions and services.

“In order to reduce vulnerability of women under conflict and emergency situations, MoWA, in collaboration with related ministries, agencies and local governance entities, CSO’s, women’s rights organizations, international partner organizations and other relevant actors will develop a protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations. After finalization of the policy, it will be submitted for approval to Cabinet.”

Milestones:

  1. MoWA will establish a committee comprised of related government agencies, women rights organizations, CSO’s and international organizations who will be responsible for drafting the protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations.
  2. The committee will draft the protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations.
  3. The committee will hold one consultation session in Kabul attended by related government agencies, women rights organizations, and CSO’s from the provinces. Their feedback will be incorporated into a final draft of the protection policy by the committee.
  4. Approval of the Protection Policy by the Cabinet.
  5. The committee will prepare and finalize an action plan to facilitate the implementation of the policy.

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Afghanistan national action plan see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/afghanistan-design-report-2017-2019/

IRM Design Report Assessment

IRM Implementation Report Assessment

●       Verifiable: Yes

●       Relevant: Yes

Civic Participation

●       Potential impact: Moderate

●        Completion: Complete

●        Did it Open Government? Marginal

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), in collaboration with civil society organizations (CSOs), committed to develop a Protection Policy for Women under Conflict and Emergency Situations in order to provide support. The parties were particularly concerned for vulnerable women, that is, widows, divorced, and disabled women. Despite decades of ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, where the situation for women is often argued to be one of the worst in the world, [93] such policy had not existed. The Afghan Women Press Office initially proposed and advocated the inclusion of this commitment in the action plan. [94]

This commitment was complete by the end of the term. MoWA established a 10-member committee that comprised representatives from four CSOs, three United Nations (UN) organizations (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Development Fund for Women and UN Development Programme), and three government ministries (MoWA, Ministry of Refugees’ Affairs, and Ministry of Natural Disaster Management). [95] The committee met on several occasions to discuss iterative drafts of the policy, as well as the associated action plan, and shared it with national experts and the Cabinet’s Gender Committee. [96] The drafting committee met five times, along with OGP Afghanistan, to discuss the policy content and incorporate feedback in the drafts. The committee did not, however, share the draft for public consultation, beyond the CSOs who were members of the committee. MoWA also shared the policy and the action plan with its directorates in all 34 provinces, although they received limited feedback at this level. The Cabinet’s Gender Committee ratified the policy, along with the five-year action plan on 18 December 2018, [97] and has subsequently shared this with all the relevant ministries. Deputies will sign a memorandum of understanding. [98]

Although MoWA had not yet published it, the IRM researcher found that the ratified, 20-page policy was comprehensive and relevant to the local context. It diagnoses the unique challenges faced by vulnerable women in Afghanistan and proposes concrete solutions. The policy also identifies various public bodies as stakeholders and outlines specific roles and responsibilities. The stakeholders include different ministries, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, the Red Cross, CSOs, and the international donor community. [99] The action plan is similarly comprehensive. [100]

CSO representatives expressed satisfaction with how this commitment had evolved. In particular, one representative noted the smooth co-creation process of the policy and action plan between them and the government. [101] The government incorporated CSOs’ input in the development and improvement of the draft policy and action plan. For example, the draft policy initially had addressed only situations of violent conflict. However, with the suggestion and input of CSOs, the policy later incorporated emergency situations as well. [102]

A CSO representative noted that the development and implementation of this commitment faced many challenges, with the process largely dictated by men in government. However, discussions led by women’s rights–oriented CSOs resulted in changes in mindset and the eventual incorporation of the commitment in the OGP action plan. In the representative’s view, both the policy and the action plan ensuing from this commitment were very robust. The representative had participated in all the meetings related to this commitment and thought the procedure itself “exhibited an outstanding performance of democracy in terms of exchange of diverse opinions and collectively reaching a consensus and decision.” [103]

This commitment contributed to marginal improvement for women in conflict and emergency situations. Implementation of this commitment improved civil society participation in gender-focused policy making. Civil society initiated and insisted on the inclusion of the commitment in the OGP action plan and played a meaningful role throughout the process of developing the protection policy and action plan. As a result of this commitment, the government opened up new space and a channel of communication with the CSOs, leading to fruitful interaction and the development of a comprehensive policy and action plan.

However, this commitment represented a one-time project, rather than a sustained open government practice. Additionally, consultations were limited to Kabul and did not include the wider public, particularly marginalized women and those not affiliated with CSOs. Finally, this commitment would have had a major effect if the government had begun to enact the policy and action plan during the implementation period, thereby demonstrating the efficacy of civic participation in policy making.

[93] Lauren Bohn, “‘We’re All Handcuffed in This Country.’ Why Afghanistan Is Still the Worst Place in the World to Be a Woman,” Time, 8 December 2018, https://time.com/5472411/afghanistan-women-justice-war/.
[94] “Afghanistan Design Report 2017–2019,” Open Government Partnership, Section IV, “Commitments,” 43, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/afghanistan-design-report-2017-2019/.
[95] Attendance sheet of one of the committee’s meetings, held on 23 May 2018, was made available to the IRM researcher.
[96] Personal interview, director of policy and planning, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 28 July 2019, Kabul.
[97] A copy of this document was made available to the IRM researcher by e-mail on 5 August 2020.
[98] Personal interview, director of policy and planning, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 28 July 2019, Kabul.
[99] MoWA, Protection Policy for Women under Conflict and Emergency Situations (n.d.). A copy was made available to the IRM researcher.
[100] MoWA, Action Plan for Protection Policy for Women under Conflict and Emergency Situations (n.d.). A copy was made available to the IRM researcher.
[101] Personal interview, director of monitoring and evaluation, Afghan Development Association, 6 August 2019, Kabul.
[102] Ibid.
[103] Personal interview, director, Association of Human Rights Training for Women, 7 August 2019, Kabul.

Commitments

  1. Revise Law on Recruitment and Authority of Attorneys General

    AF0014, 2019, Access to Justice

  2. Revise Law on Local Government

    AF0015, 2019, Legislation & Regulation

  3. Establish Anti-Corruption Commission

    AF0016, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  4. Draft Beneficial Ownership Legislation

    AF0017, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  5. Portal for Processing Legislative Documents

    AF0018, 2019, Capacity Building

  6. CSO Monitoring of Education

    AF0019, 2019, E-Government

  7. Develop Electronic Complaint System for Local Government

    AF0020, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Reform and Strengthen Education Data

    AF0021, 2019, Access to Information

  9. Participation in Local Budgeting

    AF0022, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  10. Electronic Revenue Collection System

    AF0023, 2019, Capacity Building

  11. Co-Create University Curriculum

    AF0024, 2019, Education

  12. Reform Promotion System for Police Officers

    AF0025, 2019, E-Government

  13. Monitoring Framework for Medicine Wholesalers

    AF0026, 2019, E-Government

  14. Monitoring of Private and Public Health Centers

    AF0027, 2019, E-Government

  15. Participation in National Budget

    AF0028, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  16. Open Justice for Anti-Corruption

    AF0029, 2019, Access to Justice

  17. Women's Empowerment Plan

    AF0030, 2019, Gender

  18. Establishment of Women Grand Council

    AF0031, 2019, Gender

  19. Law on Processing, Publishing and Enforcing Legislative Documents

    AF0002, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  20. Courts to Address Violence Against Women

    AF0003, 2017, Access to Justice

  21. Public-Police Partnership Councils

    AF0004, 2017, Capacity Building

  22. Registering Assets of Government Officials

    AF0005, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  23. Scheme for Establishing Health Service Accreditation Entity

    AF0006, 2017, Capacity Building

  24. Urban Improvement National Policy

    AF0007, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  25. Protection Policy for Women Under Conflict and Emergency Situations

    AF0008, 2017, Fiscal Openness

  26. Civil Society Monitoring Plan for Education and Higher Education

    AF0009, 2017, Education

  27. Plan for the Establishment of a Joint Committee Overseeing the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy

    AF0010, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  28. Strengthen the Information Mechanism in 60 Governmental Agencies

    AF0011, 2017, Access to Information

  29. Starred commitment Implementing Open Contracting

    AF0012, 2017, Access to Information

  30. Starred commitment Public Participation in Road Network Projects

    AF0013, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  31. Starred commitment Mechanism of Public Partnership in Inspection Process

    AF0001, 2017, Anti-Corruption

Open Government Partnership