The third meeting of the EU-Afghanistan Special Working Group on Human Rights, Good Governance and Migration was held on 24 February 2021, in a virtual format. It was co-chaired by Ms Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific of the European External Action Service and by Mr Meerwais Nab, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan.
The EU and Afghanistan reaffirmed their commitment undertaken with the signature of their bilateral Cooperation Agreement for Partnership and Development (CAPD) to respect democratic principles and human rights, as well as the principle of the rule of law as essential elements of the CAPD, and underpinning the internal and international policies of both parties.
The parties discussed human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of the ongoing Afghan peace process, and expressed grave concern about the continuing high level of violence, and condemned the increasing number of targeted killings of media workers, civil society activists and law enforcement officials, who are essential bastions of a democratic and open society. The EU called on the Government of Afghanistan to provide for the security of these important actors in society, as well as conduct thorough investigations, bring the culprits to justice and keep the Afghan public fully informed about the measures taken. The EU referred to its work under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, supporting human rights defenders, and the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform, as well as projects addressing specifically the needs of vulnerable children and women, and the rights of persons with disabilities.
The EU also recalled the imperative of respecting and promoting International Humanitarian Law to protect civilians in conflict by all parties to the conflict. The protection of civilians, medical and education facilities as well as humanitarian workers, cannot wait for peace. The parties stressed that only an immediate cessation of violence would restore confidence in the sincerity of the Taliban for a political settlement to end the war.
The EU and Afghanistan agreed on the importance of an enhanced promotion of inclusivity in the peace talks, notably the involvement of women, youth, minorities, internally displaced persons, refugees and victims of war, to ensure an ownership of the process by all Afghans. They also underlined that the preservation and further strengthening of the democratic and human rights gains of the last 20 years is indispensable during and after the peace process, and referred to the broad-based consensus on this, as expressed at the Geneva Conference for Afghanistan in November 2020.
In the areas of women and children’s rights, the necessity to enforce legislation against widespread violence and harmful practices was highlighted, as well as the need to address discrimination against religious minorities.
In the field of governance, the EU and Afghanistan emphasised the importance of free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive electoral processes that would facilitate legitimate transfer of power, and discussed the experiences of their electoral cooperation and the prospects of continuing electoral reform. Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) issues were also addressed, in view of the EU’s ongoing assessment of Afghanistan’s AML/CFT regime. The parties discussed the measures taken by the Afghan Government and commended their joint coordination in the area of anti-corruption policy and institutional reforms, and committed to keep the matter high on their bilateral agenda.
Concerning the regional dimension of migration, the need to address in an integrated manner its humanitarian, development and security aspects was emphasised. The Afghan side welcomed the EU’s Chairmanship in 2021 of the Core Group of the Support Platform of Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR). Both the EU and Afghanistan look forward to working closely with the other members of the Core Group, the members of the Quadripartite Steering Committee (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and the UNHCR), as well as all stakeholders, to seek durable solutions to the protracted refugee situation in the region, supporting the protection, inclusion and self-reliance of Afghans, both in Afghanistan and host countries.
The next meeting of the EU-Afghanistan Special Working Group on Human Rights, Good Governance and Migration will take place in 2022 in Kabul.