JWF Statement Urges Greater Civil Society Involvement in Afghanistan

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JWF’s recent statement on Afghan girls’ access to education is now available on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) website. The statement was submitted as part of the 26th session of the Human Rights Council, which took place in Geneva on June 10-27, 2014.

When the official structures of the state and the international community are unable to provide basic human rights to everybody, civil society organizations should step in.

Excerpt from JWF’s June 2014 statement

The five-page statement emphasized the importance of education for all citizens, reaffirming education’s status as a fundamental human right. To help the state uphold the principle of universal education, the statement called on the United Nations to support civil society initiatives, particularly those involving public-private partnerships.

The statement began by outlining the state’s role in supporting education. “Improving girls’ opportunities to gain an appropriate education is an obligation of every State, which is committed to the noble principle of protecting the human rights of its own citizens,” the statement noted.

The statement also referred to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty that emphasizes the state’s obligation to uphold human rights in a nondiscriminatory way, as well as the UN Millennium Development Goals’ emphasis on universal education and gender equality.

In the case of Afghanistan, however, the state is failing in terms of universal education. The statement described the grim reality of school attendance in the country: 38 percent of school-age children (or about 4.2 million children, most of whom are girls) do not have access to schools. Although there are technically no legal barriers that prevent girls from going to school, there are several other obstacles: violence and security issues, a lack of adequate facilities and teachers, and some parents’ belief that their daughters should stay only in the domestic sphere. The statement added that those who prevent girls from going to school often go unpunished by the state.

To resolve this issue, JWF’s statement pointed to the value of civil society organizations, saying, “When the official structures of the state and the international community are unable to provide basic human rights to everybody, civil society organizations should step in.”

The statement cited Turkish-Afghan schools as a model for how a public-private partnership can contribute to the promotion of human rights, even under difficult circumstances. The success of this model was attributed to three factors: the financial support of a wide network of businesspeople in Turkey, the public-private partnership that depends on administration by local governments and management by entrepreneurs, and the provision of scholarships for children who would not otherwise be able to afford such an education.

The statement concluded with a call to the United Nations to provide assistance to these kind of education-focused civil society initiatives. The statement said, “A big opportunity stands in front of the UN to notice the enthusiasm in civil initiatives such as the one explained here, and to combine their forces for the purpose of promoting human rights through education.”

Related side event at UNHRC’s 26th session

In addition to submitting a statement on Afghan girls’ education, JWF also organized a conference on the same topic in partnership with the Dialog-Institut and the Permanent Missions of Afghanistan, the UK, and Finland. The conference was a designated side event at the UNHRC’s 26th session, taking place on June 11, 2014, at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UNHRC is an inter-governmental body that is responsible for promoting human rights, addressing human rights violations, and making recommendations on them. The UNHRC holds no fewer than three regular sessions each year, during March (four weeks), June (three weeks), and September (three weeks).

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