This bill — the Afghan Women's Inclusion in Negotiations (Afghan WIN) Act — would seek to ensure that Afghan women have a chance to participate in ongoing peace negotiations. Specifically, it would acknowledge the critical role women have played in advancing peace, stability, and democracy in Afghanistan and reaffirm that it’s U.S. policy to ensure Afghan women have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the ongoing peace negotiations. It would also require the State Dept. to report to Congress on efforts to include women in the negotiations and prepare a strategy for U.S. engagement in Afghanistan after a peace deal is reached to ensure any commitments made with respect to the rights of women and girls are fully implemented.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on Foreign AffairsAsia, the Pacific, and NonproliferationIntroducedJuly 30th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 4097?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 4097
In-Depth: Rep. William Keating (D-MA) introduced this bill to ensure Afghan women have a chance to participate in ongoing peace negotiations:
“Women’s participation in peace negotiations has time and time again proven to lead to more lasting peace agreements. That is why we introduced the Afghan WIN Act: so that everything that Americans, Afghans, and allies alike have fought for and sacrificed to secure a peaceful and stable future for Afghanistan has not been in vain. Afghan women continue to risk their lives to root out terrorism in their communities, build a better future for Afghan children, and fight for democratic reforms that will bring greater safety and security for all Afghan people. It is easy to forget that the atrocities and human rights abuses committed against women and girls were a major reason for continuing our fight in Afghanistan, and in recent decades, women have made incredible gains. Today, women are active participants in their communities and in the economy, they vote in elections, they work in universities and in medical professions, they are entrepreneurs, and they represent Afghan citizens in the National Assembly, ministries, local government, and in Afghanistan’s diplomatic corps. In this pivotal moment - as negotiations are ongoing to hopefully bring this conflict to a peaceful resolution - we cannot let up on our commitment to women and their meaningful participation during and after the peace process. Afghanistan’s future and our own national security depends on it.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) adds that women bring critical insight to the negotiating table:
“Women bring invaluable insight to the negotiating table and are critical participants in any processes aimed at solving complex crises and achieving peace. Afghan women have continued to fight for greater rights and opportunities since the fall of the Taliban government, and their unique and diverse experiences as advocates for peace and equality will help move the peace process forward and bring an end to ongoing violence in the country.”
Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and a former U.S. ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, says lasting peace in Afghanistan is impossible without women at the negotiating table:
“[W]hy does the fate of Afghan women really matter? The United States surely wants an Afghan peace agreement and the cessation of hostilities to endure. That will not be possible, however, if the rights of half the population — whose talents and contributions are vital to Afghanistan’s future — are abrogated. Women are a moderating force critical to preventing the conditions that could give rise to another 9/11 emanating from Afghanistan again. They are essential to fighting corruption, growing the economy, and sustaining peace and stability… [W]omen must be ensured a serious role in the peace negotiations. There is a growing body of empirical evidence, including research we have produced at Georgetown University, that shows women play a dispositive role in reducing conflict, advancing reconciliation, and ensuring that critical issues get addressed in negotiations. Research demonstrates that peace agreements are two-thirds less likely to fail if civil society, particularly women, are included in the process. In fact, the United States, in the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 signed by President Donald Trump, codifies the role of women in peace processes to mediate, resolve and recover from deadly conflict.”
Jamille Bigio, a senior fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations and former director for human rights and gender on the White House National Security Council staff in the Obama administration, argues that including women in peace and security efforts is a “strategic imperative”:
“With all of the defense priorities facing the United States today, how can Congress afford to prioritize investments in women’s security roles? The real question is: how can it not? Including women in peace and security efforts goes beyond fairness. It represents a strategic imperative that advances the Defense Department’s mission and makes us all safer.”
This legislation has three bipartisan cosponsors, including two Republicans and one Democrat.
Of Note: Women have made significant contributions to the peace process in Afghanistan. These include negotiating directly with insurgent leaders to support demobilized Taliban fighters’ reintegration into local communities, encouraging local insurgents to participate in talks, and working in schools to counter extremist narratives.
However, despite their informal contributions, Afghan women have been sidelined from formal peace negotiations. The Center for Foreign Relations (CFR) notes that in 23 rounds of talks from 2005-2014, women were only at the table on two occasions: the 2010 talks in the Maldives (9% women) and the 2011-2012 talks in France (10% women).
When officials from over 25 countries gathered in February 2018 for the Kabul Process, an Afghan-led peace conference, women remained underrepresented.
In the absence of opportunities to formally participate in the peace process, female civil society leaders have sought other ways to influence the peace process, including through consultations with the Afghan government and the Taliban; participating in government-appointed bodies (such as the Afghan High Peace Council, which is 26% women) to lead local peace-building efforts, raising public support for the process, and informing negotiating positions and security operations.
Formal institutions have also made some efforts to include women in the peace process. In February 2019, Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani hosted consultations with 3,000 women to engage women and women’s perspectives in the peace process. Additionally, prominent women who met with the Taliban on the outskirts of the failed Intra-Afghan dialogue in April 2019 noted the Taliban’s genuine desire to engage.
Studies have shown that an inclusive process is integral to sustainable peace. Specifically, UN Women reports that women’s participation in peace talks improves the chances of a successful agreement by 64% and also increases a resultant peace agreement’s durability and quality. When women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreement is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years.
When women are at the negotiating table, they raise issues that increase an agreement’s durability, but which men often leave out. Additionally, because women have access to spaces in society that men don’t, they offer unique insights to negotiating teams.
In recognition of this, the U.S. negotiating team has made increasingly explicit statements on the need for women’s representation. The White House’s June 2019 strategy on Women, Peace and Security also reaffirmed the need for women’s representation in peace negotiations. Finally, the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 codifies the role of women in peace processes to mediate, resolve and recover from deadly conflict.
- Original Cosponsor Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) Press Release
- USA TODAY Op-Ed (In Favor in Principle)
- Central Asia Institute
- Defense One (Context)
- Center for Foreign Relations (CFR) (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / christophe_cerisier)