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Category: Civil Society

Civil Society

The UN’s Beginning of Political Settlement Process in Afghanistan and Role of Civil Society

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, held a two-day UN-sponsored summit in Doha between 18-19 of February. Present in this summit were more than two dozen nations’ special envoys on Afghanistan and a number of international organisations. This is the second of such meetings, the first of which was held in May 2023. Both events were held after the UN Security Council (UNSC) issued resolution 2679 (2023) to request the Secretary-General to conduct and provide, no later than 17 November 2023, an integrated and independent assessment to streamline the international community’s involvement in Afghanistan. In writing the independent assessment, consultations took place with all relevant political actors and stakeholders of Afghanistan, including relevant authorities, women, and members of the civil society, as well as those from the region and the wider international community. The Secretary-General appointed a Turkish diplomat, Mr Feridun Sinirlioğlu, as the Special Coordinator to coordinate the conducting of the independent assessment mandated by the Security Council.

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After Sinirlioğlu completed and submitted the independent assessment in November 2023, the UNSC passed a resolution on 29 December, agreeing to approve the independent assessment to appoint a UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan to streamline the international community’s involvement in the country. Since their usurpation of power, the Taliban have committed widespread human rights violations, including creating a system of gender apartheid, establishing a Taliban-only administration, and failing to counter terrorism in the country. These three points are evidenced by authoritative international bodies, including a report by the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team published in June 2023, which stated that the Taliban have not only maintained, but expanded, close ties with global and regional terrorist groups. Additionally, the Taliban have misappropriated international humanitarian aid to consolidate their totalitarian system. The Taliban have also resorted to the mass radicalisation of the country’s youth by turning the school curriculum into a madrassa-based system.

The role of a Special Envoy can not only address these challenges but also enable starting a political process to address Afghanistan’s current conflict which can be achieved through a political settlement. The beginning of a process by the UN means an acknowledgement that the Taliban is not the only side of the impasse in the debacle of Afghanistan. It is essential for this process to be fair for an optimal outcome, given attempts of international mediation efforts in Afghanistan’s recent history. Otherwise, conflict will continue, and exacerbate, in the country. For this purpose, there is an urgent need to engage with an inclusive, diverse, and democratic civil society, alongside the newly formed political opposition groups, as well as members of the ulema (religious leaders) who oppose the instrumentalisation of religion by the Taliban for political purposes.

Against this backdrop, and in the absence of a legitimate government, the civil society, and democratic forces within Afghanistan, and in exile, are the primary partners of the international community and the newly appointed UN Special Envoy. Thus far, various Western country’s engagement with Afghanistan’s civil society has been fragmented and ad hoc, lacking a comprehensive approach. Meanwhile regional countries to Afghanistan have continued to not engage with them. To address this gap, Mosaic, alongside its key partners, is creating the New Afghanistan Democratic Forum (NADF) to serve as an inclusive, diverse, and democratic platform to engage with the international community in a more unified and comprehensive manner. To introduce this initiative to the international community, the forum held an event at the British Parliament in December 2023 which was well supported by the MPs of the United Kingdom as well as the representatives of various political parties.

This inclusive, diverse, and democratic civil society will create several working groups to provide thought leadership to create new avenues for ways forward in Afghanistan. This can prove essential in ensuring the beginning of a fair process. It can play a vital role in facilitating a dialogue for the civil society on a political settlement for diverse communities of Afghanistan. If empowered they can facilitate a dialogue among the political officials of Afghanistan who oppose the Taliban and convene a dialogue between the ulema opposing the instrumentalisation of religion. This forum can provide timely counsel regarding key policy issues mentioned, including; 


1- Counterterrorism and counternarcotics

2- Human rights and women’s rights issues

3- Pluralism and diversity of society

4- Humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan (while avoiding Taliban misuse)

5- Education and the Taliban’s ambition of mass radicalisation of the youth

6- Facilitation of dialogues: civil, political, and religious (coupled with national and regional)


We firmly believe that ensuring the meaningful participation of civic and democratic forces of Afghanistan in all levels of policymaking not only brings authentic perspectives, but also empowers the country’s marginalised and diverse communities. Involving the diverse, and democratic civil society forum, ensures fairness of a political process. Collaboration with the UN Special Envoy can contribute to the international community’s effort to establish a stable and enduring political resolution for Afghanistan.

Civil Society

A Glance on ‘Gender Apartheid’ and the Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan

In an unprecedented move, the British Parliament has started looking into the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan by holding a Parliamentary Inquiry on Gender Apartheid. This Inquiry is led by the prominent lawyer and Peer at the UK House of Lords, Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, and a group of distinguished British Parliamentarians. The British Parliament’s report will make a significant achievement  in understanding the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan as ‘gender apartheid’. It will also allow for evidence gathering towards the criminalisation of gender apartheid in international law.

The objective of this meeting was to facilitate discussions and exchange of views on the importance of creating an inclusive, diverse, and democratic civil society forum in Afghanistan to engage with western governments, parliaments, as well as international organisations on policy and strategy on Afghanistan.

The meeting brought together a distinguished panel of speakers who offered their insights and expertise.

This report highlights Baroness Kennedy’s views on the concept of ‘gender apartheid’ in Afghanistan. It is based on her opening remarks in an event held at the British Parliament on 13 December 2023 on the need for the establishment of a civil society forum forAfghanistan. The event was chaired by Baroness Kennedy and co-hosted by Mosaic and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. This report also emphasizes Baroness Kennedy and her team’s commitment to supporting the establishment of an inclusive, diverse, and democratic civil society forum in Afghanistan to address urgent policy matters, including human rights, particularly women’s rights, in Afghanistan.

Initially, Baroness Kennedy acknowledged panelist Catherine West MP for Hornsey, Wood Green, and Shadow Minister for Asia Pacific in Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), saying that Catherine’s commitment to a democratic Afghanistan is recognized as she has raised issues related to the country on the floor of the House of Common on many occasions Therefore, having her as a panelist on the formation of an inclusive, diverse and democratic civil society forum is important. Kennedy commended panelist Catherine West for her exceptional commitment to Afghanistan and her efforts in raising awareness on the challenges the country faces. Catherine West has been a strong advocate for a genuinely equal and inclusive society, recognizing the vital role of women in achieving this vision.

Subsequently, Baroness Kennedy emphasized the importance of respecting human rights, both at the individual and collective levels. On the articulation of the concept of ‘gender apartheid’, quoting her words verbatim is necessary. She argued that “what is happening to women currently in Afghanistan is shocking to the world. The idea of what is happening, I’m only ready to describe as gender apartheid. It is shocking. I want to remind you what apartheid means. I, as a young woman, was very active in anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Because it was very clear to the world that there was a system which was excluding a certain category of people, people on the ground of their race, from full participation in society. If you look at the Apartheid Convention, which now makes it a crime to create an apartheid inside society, you will see the law, and see this as a lawyer, and you read the law, and if you were to transfer the idea that it is about race to the idea it is about gender and women, it is precisely the same.”

After connecting the issue of race with gender in her speech, Baroness Kennedy went on to explain the situation of women in Afghanistan by arguing “the women in Afghanistan are currently being denied of participation in their society; denied freedom of association, freedom to have an education, freedom to be involved in the legal system as judges as lawyers, freedom to be involved in the media to help enable discussions as to what is happening in society and news of what is done in the name of society. Women are deprived of the opportunity of freedom of association. Because in places women in communities associate they often go to hairdressers or beauticians not because they are particularly preoccupied with looking good but because of exchange of information” and these exchanges are vital for sustaining society.

Finally Baroness Kennedy maintained that “the opportunities for women to have dignity and respect to be able to live lives to be able to commune with other people and [to block this] is a deprivation, and a serious deprivation. We should be mindful of the importance of building an inclusive civil society forum, including everybody” including different ethnic communities and religious sects of #Afghanistan.

Under the leadership of Peers such as Baroness Kennedy and MPs like Catherine West, the UK Parliament has shown unmatched commitment to supporting an inclusive, diverse, and democratic Afghanistan. On behalf of the Labour Party, Catherine stressed the importance of building an inclusive civil society forum that encompasses all segments of Afghanistan’s society, including different ethnic communities and religious sects. Besides this, the British Parliament, through theParliamentary Inquiry promises a clear definition of the concept of gender apartheid and equally important charting of the path on the criminalisation of gender apartheid in international law.

It is worth mentioning that Mosaic – as part of its mission of working towards a free, equal and democratic Afghanistan, where people have the right to self-determination and where human rights and pluralism is respected and institutionalized – is involved in establishing an inclusive, diverse, and democratic civil society of Afghanistan and is also at the forefront of the campaign for the criminalisation of gender apartheid in international law.