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Promoting human rights the focus of UN-backed events across Afghanistan’s southeast

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Afghanistan
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UNAMA
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GARDEZ - To support efforts by Afghanistan to promote and protect human rights, civil society members, government officials, religious scholars, media professionals, women’s rights activists and other community leaders came together and made their voices heard in a series of events organized by UNAMA’s Gardez regional office.

In provinces across the country’s southeast, participants discussed the creation of new laws empowering the media through access to information, the development of the new penal code reflecting the country’s commitment to promote fundamental freedoms, and the presence of women in civil service positions and in the private sector.

Participants at many of the events noted that while Afghanistan has achieved much in human rights, the challenges remain daunting, especially as a result of the ongoing armed conflict and fragile security environment that continue to cause high numbers of civilian casualties.

Those attending the events discussed increased collaboration in the interest of all Afghan institutions addressing human rights challenges, including through a justice system that is able to fully implement the progress Afghanistan has made in legislative reform and in constitutional provisions guaranteeing women’s rights and the elimination of violence against women.

At almost all the events organized by UNAMA’s regional offices, local media partners not only record the discussions and debates for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency and rule of law.

In a recent interview, Abdul Haq Faqirzada, the head of a Paktika civil society organization, said one of the UN-backed radio programmes caught is attention. “To be honest, I haven’t listened all your radio programmes, but one day an episode on the protection of civilians drew my attention,” said Faqirzada. “The discussion was inspiring.”

Mulla Masoom, head of Paktika’s Tribe Solidarity Council, offered a similar perspective. “I followed your programmes on the protection of civilians and violence against women,” Masoom said in a recent interview. “The programmes were valuable and encouraged me to share my concerns with those fighting in our province, and I have done just that; the programmes encouraged us all to take practical steps to stand up for human rights and especially for the rights of civilians.”

In Paktya, shopkeeper Abdul Jabar told UNAMA that he listens to radio throughout the day. “Unfortunately, in this conflict it seems more civilians are killed than those fighting,” he said in a recent interview. “I listen to the radio and I learn a lot; I wish I could approach those fighting to ask them to avoid killing civilians, but my main message to them would be simply to stop the war.”

The events and radio broadcasts in Afghanistan’s southeast were among many other similar programmes, events and initiatives resulting from UNAMA reaching out to a range of groups across the country to create spaces, both physical and on social media, for them to come together and discuss issues that are of critical importance to them, and to strategize on the best way forward.

The events in Afghanistan’s southeast, all organized by UNAMA’s Gardez regional office, were recorded by local media outlets Jond, Pashtoon Ghag, Wolas Ghag and Ghaznavian, then later broadcast to audiences estimated at more than one million residents in and around Paktya, Khost, Paktika and Ghazni – the four provinces in Afghanistan’s southeast region.

On 10 December each year, at the conclusion of 16 days of activities aimed at raising awareness about ending violence against women, the United Nations observes Human Rights Day by recognizing achievements made since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was conceived as a framework to foster peace, promote understanding of the inherent dignity and equal worth of all members of the human family and protect individuals from state tyranny and abuse.

As a result of the Declaration, the dignity of millions has been uplifted and untold human suffering prevented. It has permeated every corner of international law. The national constitutions of more than 90 countries, including Afghanistan, have enshrined its principles. While the Declaration’s promise is yet to be fulfilled everywhere, the fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the universality of its perennial values of equality, justice and human dignity.

In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.