We must bring what is happening in Belarus to the world’s attention and hear from those on the ground. Briefers on #BYHumanRights: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovic; Legal Expert for the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich. The meeting is chaired by Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The meeting was initiated by Estonia and co-sponsored by UN Security Council members the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

Estonia´s Statement at the Arria meeting on “Women and the Afghan Peace Process: Ensuring Women’s Participation and Promoting their Rights“

Delivered by Deputy Permanent Representative, Mr. Gert Auväärt 

First off, I wish to welcome the presence of the First Lady of Afghanistan today and I want to thank Afghanistan, Germany, Indonesia, and the UK for organizing today’s meeting, as well as all the panelists for their comprehensive interventions.

Estonia expresses its firm support to Afghanistan on remaining committed to advancing women’s empowerment and safeguarding the rights of women and girls as enshrined in Afghanistan’s Constitution. We have seen considerable progress, however, a lot of challenges remain towards securing equality, empowerment and the full realization of women’s rights.

We emphasize the importance of preserving and building on the achievements of the past two decades with regard to the women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Estonia hopes that the intra-Afghan negotiations will start as soon as possible and bring along a long-term sustainable peace.

Estonia underlines the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of the Afghan women and girls in the peace process, which has to be inclusive and involve all layers of the society. Women need to be substantively involved at every level from pre-negotiation to the actual talks.

Women must be the essential participants of the greater infrastructure of the peace process. Empowerment is not simply having a diverse set of people in a system, but also letting them drive the narrative and establish the framework.

Estonia has and will continue to support the reforms that Afghanistan has taken in this regard.

Since 2011, we have provided health education and support to women and girls in Northern and Eastern Afghanistan through our development cooperation. This proved to be especially useful in the health crisis we are facing now. In addition, we contribute to the higher education of women in Afghanistan through development and entrepreneurship courses.

The role of women in all fields of life must be valued more, especially now, during the pandemic. Women continue to be disproportionately more impacted by COVID-19. Women and girls face distinct and increased risks because of the pandemic in many fields; from health to economy, from security to social protection, including increasing levels of violence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is impossible to encompass all the complexities associated with the issues at hand in a four-minute statement. However, the message should be clear:

What has been accomplished must be preserved and built upon. Women must be meaningfully included in every step of the peace process.

I thank you.