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Hollow outcomes from a flawed process: Reflecting on the third Doha talks

Malala Fund and its partners reflect on the exclusion of Afghan women and civil society from the recent Doha talks between global envoys and Taliban representatives.

The outcome of the third U.N.-convened Doha meeting, held June 30-July 1 to explore international engagement with Afghanistan, was as hollow as the process itself, starkly contradicting the U.N.'s own charter which demands inclusive participation. Despite strong calls from Malala and Malala Fund, international organisations and advocates for U.N. leaders to include Afghan women and civil society in the talks, the meeting went ahead without them. 

While U.N. Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo highlighted the concerns of Afghan women during her remarks at the conclusion of the third Doha meeting, any process that begins with exclusion is inherently compromised, and claims of establishing a consultative process fall short. A genuine process would necessarily include all stakeholders, especially Afghan women, throughout the main meeting. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid made it clear that discussions on "internal issues" like women's rights would not be entertained at the Doha meeting, and shockingly meeting organisers never challenged this.

"It was deeply jarring to see the Taliban welcomed with red carpets and warm receptions while women and girls — denied the right to education past grade 6 and the right to work — face daily threats of flogging, detention and worse under a system of gender apartheid," says Sahar Halaimzai, Malala Fund’s Afghanistan Initiative Director. 

Engaging with authoritarian regimes is not new for the U.N. However, principled engagement that ensures all stakeholders are included is essential for maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of such processes. No negotiation can be considered legitimate without the meaningful participation of women. The international community must uphold this standard to maintain its credibility and integrity.

Malala Fund partners react to Doha meeting

Leaders of Malala Fund-supported organisations that are working to keep Afghan girls learning while they are banned from secondary schools and advocating for gender apartheid to be recognised in international law condemned the Doha talks and expressed their disappointment with the U.N. 

"The Taliban's suspension of teachers' salaries on the heels of Doha 3 demonstrates their brazen disregard for girls' education and women's rights,” says Rahela Sidiqi, Founder and Director of Rahela Trust. “What else do they need to do for the world to accept that this approach with the Taliban is not working and will not lead to any viable solutions for the people of Afghanistan?" 

Metra Mehran, human rights activist and expert, explains: “The primary concern in Afghanistan is the Taliban, a terrorist organisation that enforces gender apartheid and totalitarian rule. The current strategy, which seeks to appease the Taliban at the expense of human rights and women's rights, is not only misguided but also ineffective in resolving the crisis in Afghanistan.” 

"As a women's rights defender, I feel deeply betrayed by the U.N.'s exclusion of women and civil society from the Doha 3 meeting. Will the U.N. learn from its past mistakes of sidelining women and civil society in political processes?” asks Horia Mosadiq, Founder and Director of Safety and Risk Mitigation Organisation (SRMO). “We did not expect to be excluded from political processes simply because we are women.”

“Although international actors voice support for Afghan women, the narrow focus on economic issues and counternarcotics mainly serves strategic interests and bolsters the Taliban's rule, perpetuating gender apartheid,” says Marika Theros, Director of the Civic Engagement Project. “With over 20 percent of Afghan families led by women facing severe restrictions on accessing life-saving assistance, principled engagement with the Taliban to ensure humanitarian aid reaches all vulnerable citizens is crucial.”


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Malala Fund demands UN reverse its decision to exclude Afghan women at Doha talks

Afghan girls have not gone to school for 1,000 days

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