Human Rights and Democracy Report - Case Study: Working in support of HRDs in Afghanistan

The UK attaches great importance to the role of HRDs across the world. The situation in Afghanistan presents an especially challenging working environment for HRDs, in particular for women. Our wider work on women's rights and the Department for International Development's (DFID) funding on Violence Against Women works to support additional challenges faced by female HRDs in Afghan domestic society.

Our overall goal is to promote human rights and the legitimate role of civil society, which we believe is crucial for sustainable development, democracy and the rule of law. Building a resilient civil society that can operate effectively in a safe political space is the long-term aim. However, there are immediate protective measures necessary to achieve that and to enhance security for individuals.

UK support to the EU+ Member States Strategy on HRDs in Afghanistan

Our approach to HRDs in Afghanistan is to work with and through international partners, in particular the EU and the UN, and through UK bilateral action and targeted funding. Experience shows that we maximise our chances of success when we pull together with international partners, rather than acting in isolation. The EU+ Local Strategy, which we encouraged, offers an opportunity for greater coherence and strengthened coordination of international action. We will continue to work with the EU and member states to coordinate efforts, and will consult civil society, in the UK and Afghanistan, for feedback and updates on progress.

We will continue to make a significant contribution to the protection of HRDs in Afghanistan, playing an active part through this strategy and through our bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. We will focus our actions where we believe we can have the most practical impact on the ground.

We must do this with an acute awareness of the challenging security environment. Our actions will be ambitious but realistic. In our actions, the safety of HRDs and other human rights actors is of utmost concern.

UK support to HRDs in Afghanistan will be sustained long after international combat forces leave Afghanistan. We remain committed to supporting and encouraging the Afghan government to fulfil its international human rights obligations. We take a gender-sensitive approach, recognising the need for particular awareness when working with Afghan society.

How the UK supports HRDs in Afghanistan

Protection mechanisms:

  • using public communications, including events and social media, to raise awareness of the value of HRDs, and highlight safety issues. Support joint lobbying and démarches on cases;

  • lobbying for relevant laws or guidelines and other practices that increase protection of HRDs. For example, the UK provides strategic support to the Ministry of the Interior, including its gender unit. We support the EU Police Mission (EUPOL) and the UN Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), who are working to implement the "Strategy for the Management of the Affairs of Afghan National Police Female Personnel". This will help Afghan women to access female police staff;

  • maintaining regular contact with HRDs, particularly women: inviting HRDs to events and meetings to discuss concerns; visiting HRDs in provinces, where security conditions permit; and including activities and meetings with Afghan civil society in relevant ministerial visit programmes;

  • reporting on prominent trials and visiting HRDs in detention, where we have access, and it is appropriate to do so;

  • emergency funding through the multi-donor Lifeline: the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund, via the US Embassy in Kabul; and

  • supporting EU coordination on mapping existing safe houses, and exploring the possibilities of a 24/7 hotline and identification of individuals for the proposed HRD database.

Communication and networking:

  • continuing to mainstream human rights, including HRDs, into the work of the British Embassy in Kabul; and ensuring that appropriate Embassy officials attend FCO training on human rights, which includes how to work with HRDs;

  • attending and actively participating in the bi-monthly EU+ Human Rights and Gender Working Group; supporting the continued commitment on HRDs in the EU Country Strategy and Action Plan for Afghanistan (2014-2016); and ensuring that HRDs are on the agenda of Heads of Mission meetings and EU+ representative meetings with the Afghan leadership; and

  • supporting EU coordination on identifying HRD focal points in all provinces, and mapping European organisations to link with HRDs.

Working through the UN:

  • maintaining support for UNAMA's work to monitor and take protective action on the situation of HRDs. We will do this through support to UN resolutions, political support in-country, and our funding to the UN;

  • supporting continued language from the UN Declaration on HRDs in the UN General Assembly resolution on Afghanistan;

  • supporting EU lobbying for a standing invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs; and

  • encouraging the Afghan government to implement the recommendations concerning HRDs accepted during Afghanistan's UPR.

Building capability:

We will continue to use UK funding for projects with HRDs, the Afghan government, and other Afghan institutions to support an improved operating environment for HRDs. For example:

  • support to increase the capacity of the Afghan Journalists' Safety Committee to monitor and campaign for a safer working environment for journalists and media workers;

  • DFID support for the Tawanmandi Programme to Strengthen Afghan Civil Society, which includes support to human rights organisations; and

  • support to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission for its efforts to promote and protect human rights, including supporting HRDs.


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