NATO, EU reaffirm long-term commitment to Afghanistan
On 27 March 2012, less than two months from the NATO Summit in Chicago, a conference on "NATO and EU long-term commitment to Afghanistan" was held at the European Parliament. The conference was organised by the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights without Frontiers International. The Afghan Ambassador to Belgium, as well representatives from NATO, the European Union and the NGO community spoke at the event. The initiative attracted a large number of representatives from the think-tank community, civil society, the diplomatic corps, and the media.
Reported achievements in Afghanistan
"In the last ten years, the EU, European donors and NGOs, as well as NATO have significantly contributed to the improvement and safeguard of human rights, women's rights, and gender equality in Afghanistan," Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers International, said. Schools' enrollment went from "approximately 900,000 in 2000 to 6.7 million in 2009. For girls, the increase was even more dramatic: from only a few thousand to 2.7 million in 2011", Fautré added. Signs of progress are noticeable in other domains, including, for instance, with respect to the quantitative and qualitative growth of Afghan National Security Forces and the fact that 28% of Afghan Parliamentarians are women. The evolving Afghan-international partnership has created the conditions to allow Afghan citizens to become "citizens of the world", as pointed out by Ambassador Humayon Tandar, Afghan Ambassador to Belgium.
Staying the course
These important achievements are not self-sustainable yet. They must be consolidated through a continued partnership between Afghanistan and the whole of International Community. As already underscored at the International Conference on Afghanistan held in Bonn in December 2011, NATO and the EU are determined to play their part in this regard. NATO and the EU will remain engaged in Afghanistan up to 2014 - when the ongoing process of transition to full Afghan security responsibility will be completed - and well beyond that date. This message will resonate loud and clear at the NATO Summit in Chicago on 20-21 May 2012.
The further advancement of human rights, including women's rights in Afghanistan, will be a pivotal linchpin to lasting security in Afghanistan. As Willy Fautré remarked, "primarily and ultimately, the responsibility to safeguard human rights rests with the Afghan government, but the long-term support of the Euro-Atlantic community until and after 2014 remains crucial." And in this respect, we must ensure that "women's rights are not sacrificed on the altar of peace," Willy Fautré and Shada Islam (Head of Policy from Friends of Europe) underscored.