“NATO can do a lot to bring peace, rehabilitation and reconstruction if they ensure the people’s participation in their overall program,” as one women’s rights activist aptly remarked.
The people of Afghanistan know very little about NATO’s mandate in their country. Seldom do people differentiate between NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, which is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and the United States’ Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Whereas OEF’s primary mission is counter-terrorism, ISAF’s primary role is to support the Government of Afghanistan in providing and maintaining security in order to enable reconstruction and development.
In practice, this takes the form of conducting patrols, embedding advisors within Afghan National Army units, and overseeing the operation of 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) located throughout Afghanistan. Described as “the leading edge” of NATO efforts in Afghanistan, PRTs combine civilian and military personnel to coordinate security and reconstruction efforts for the surrounding area.
On 3 June 2007, NATO representatives and Afghan women parliamentarians and representatives from civil society met in mutual recognition of the important role that both Afghan women and NATO must play in building sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan.
At the meeting the Political Adviser to NATO’s Sr. Civilian Representative stated that ISAF – PRTs would come up with “some sort of Policy Note on Gender for PRTs” and left it at that. On the one hand, this seemed like a step in the right direction. On the other hand, there was no mention of collaboration by either side. AWN’s representatives accepted NATO doing something for Afghan women’s rights, without questioning how they would go about doing it. Were they settling? Are they empowered enough to voice their concerns to NATO but not enough to question what the means to the ends would be?
24 hours before a meeting I organized with AWN, NATO and other relevant actors to discuss how to design and implement gender policies for PRTs will take place, the Political Advisor to the NATO Senior Civilian Representative delicately informed me that NATO-ISAF does not really have any sort of gender policy. There is not even an institutional foundation to work off of! NATO has no gender policies, but 50% of the population is female.
Let’s see if we can plant a seed for change…
Posted By Audrey Roberts
Posted Jun 17th, 2007