International Human Rights Day

Monday was International Human Rights Day!

In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed December 10 as International Human Rights Day.

Every year, organizations and people around the world host events to commemorate human rights and call attention to unaddressed global human rights issues. This year’s International Human Rights Day passed without much fanfare in Afghanistan – “[N]o ceremonies or meetings were reported to have been held in the capital. But activists and observers called for the government to step up its action on the matter.” (x)

Set against the backdrop of transition, Afghans have grown increasingly weary of the state of human rights after over a decade of lobbying their government to support initiatives that work to eliminate violence against women and vulnerable groups.

In previous years, civilians and families of war victims lead protests across the country to put pressure on the government and international community to honor its human rights commitments, and indict war criminals and bring them to justice. They believe that these actions will serve as the foundation of a movement towards peace as well as reducing violations and securing human rights.

We interviewed participants from our training programme to gain first-hand insight into how civil society actors see the current state of human rights in the country.

One participant, a former member of parliament turned civil society activist, said that “[The] lack of a systematic program [for] rooting out violence against women, children, and vulnerable groups in Afghanistan disturbs the human rights landscape of the country as a whole. Only when the government and international community change their approach from political grandstanding and profit-driven programmes that don’t address the needs of vulnerable groups, to a sustained, inclusive, and committed approach, will the situation of human rights in Afghanistan see an improvement.”

Another participant said that they were “hopeful that the government will do more in the future to be responsive to pressure from civil society actors in enforcing human rights in Afghanistan.”

We share the concerns and goals of civil society organizations working to improve human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan, and hope that this International Human Rights Day sets the stage for more productive conversations and actions to help protect the human rights of Afghans in the years to come.


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