The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Afghanistan's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at www.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
U.S. policy in the country is guided by the principle that a functioning, responsive, and sustainable democratic system in a secure environment, that provides basic services, applies justice fairly, and respects the human rights of its citizens is essential for the government to maintain the support of the people and to offer a clear alternative to extremist ideology and practice. U.S. priorities include good governance; capacity development at all levels of government; free and fair elections; strengthened rule of law (including increased accountability and anticorruption measures); religious freedom; media freedom; and the protection of the rights of all persons, including women and children. The United States maintains a continuing dialogue with local civil society and tribal and religious groups to help ensure that initiatives will resonate with citizens.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States sponsors training programs with government institutions to improve their administrative capacity, transparency, and accountability; this is particularly important with newly formed institutions such as the Civil Service Commission, Independent Election Commission, National Assembly, and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG). Training includes mentoring and imparting skills and knowledge of best and international practices. Parliamentary programs include support for elected Members of Parliament (MPs) who represent minority and under-privileged members of the population, including women; training and technical support for parliamentary administration, committees, budget analysis; and development courses at the parliamentary training institute. The assistance for Parliament pays special attention to female and Kuchi MPs, making sure they are included in all development events. The female MPs consistently demonstrate greater participation in parliament and involvement in development events. Recently 11 women started their fellowships with parliament. The parliament assistance efforts include awareness lessons targeted against gender bias of male MPs, parliament officers, and staff. One recent U.S. program supported the political development of women by providing training to 35 female parliamentarians and 165 of their staff. A training program for Afghan female diplomats focused on enhancing their professional abilities, thus furthering gender equality in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The training included sessions on human rights policy and human rights law. Another U.S. program supports the participation of local female judges in the International Association of Women Judges, funding training conferences in Washington and attendance of Afghan women judges at the last two bi-annual IAWJ conferences, in Panama and Seoul respectively.The United States works closely with the IDLG to improve quality of representation, delivery of services, and accountability at provincial, district, and municipal levels. Provincial Reconstruction Teams play a critical role in the local governance effort as the direct interlocutors in support of sub-national officials. The Public Diplomacy Small Grants program funds provincial and district-level projects with a focus on cultural programming, promotion of civil society, government and NGO capacity development and freedom of the press. Embassy Kabul uses the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Voluntary Visitors (VolVis) program, and other exchanges to bring hundreds of Afghans from the capital and the provinces to the United States for cultural exchanges. Single-country IVLP projects focus on issues as diverse as conflict resolution and community problem solving, women's issues, local governance, combating corruption, democracy and human rights awareness, higher education alternatives, and the role of religion in America.
The U.S. sponsors human rights programming in the country's eight Lincoln Learning Centers (LLC), using educational events to commemorate Human Rights Day and International Women's Day and utilizing open forums to discuss democracy and human rights in Afghanistan. Most of these events are organized and run by the Afghan LLC Coordinators for their local audiences. As a result, the context and discussion is truly Afghan, enabled by the United States. Embassy Kabul also promoted the Department of State's Democracy Video Challenge and has three Afghan entries in the 2010 regional semi-finals.The U.S. Government is a primary supporter of several national rule of law programs designed to strengthen the legal and corrections systems and help it meet international human rights standards. Assistance involves training and equipping judges, attorneys, administrators, and corrections personnel to build the sector's limited capacity and enhance performance. The embassy continues to contribute materials to the country's first law library, established by the U.S. Government in 2008, and helps educate the public about the legal system by widely distributing pocket constitutions as well as multi-lingual picture-books and other publications on basic legal rights. In 2010 the U.S. Government began working more closely with Afghanistan's informal justice sector, which in the absence of formal district courts has been the primary vehicle for rule of law in most provinces.
The United States trains police in community-based policing and protecting human rights, especially women's and children's rights. The U.S. Government is continuing to support the recently established Major Crimes Task Force to gather evidence and act against corruption, kidnapping, and organized crime. The Attorney General and Supreme Court have established the Anticorruption unit of prosecutors and the Anticorruption Tribunal that has started processing cases. The United States is supporting efforts of the Afghanistan government to strengthen the High Office of Oversight and to develop anticorruption plans in each ministry.
The U.S. Government funds the activities of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), charged with investigating claims of human rights violations and judicial corruption and monitoring prisons and detention facilities. The U.S. Government is working with AIHRC to identify and release prisoners who have been detained past the expiration of their sentences. AIHRC's public outreach department also receives support from the U.S. Government.The United States promotes an independent press and electronic media by investing in personnel training and business plan development for media companies and by facilitating the development of community-based radio stations. The U.S. Government supports the production of an original radio series that promotes principles of respect, human rights, and democracy as they relate to rights under Islamic law. The U.S. Government also supports a popular national television series that promotes respect for the rights of women and girls, ethnic and religious tolerance, democratic behavior, and national cohesion. The U.S. Ambassador and other officials engage with lawmakers publicly and privately to underscore the importance of media freedom in a democratic society and raise specific cases of concern with their government counterparts. In addition, U.S. officials work with media to identify journalists who might benefit from professional training or exchange programs.
The United States continues to integrate the advancement of Afghan women and girls into all programmatic areas of effort as a key objective of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, with particular focus on expanding economic opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector; improving access to justice, improving basic service delivery in education and health, and increasing women's participation in the political process. One of the mullahs who participated in the training now has a regular one-hour program on Sharq Television, in which he has spoken about the rights of women, children and families. Additionally, the Ambassador's Small Grants Program was created to strengthen Afghan women's role in civil society. These small grants are already supporting the work of Afghan-led women NGOs at the grassroots level to engage in advocacy efforts for the enforcement of women's rights laws, including the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, as well as to support women's equal participation in the peace-building process. The Afghan Women's Empowerment (AWE) Grants Program supports initiatives to increase women's participation in political life, to include activities such as civic/voter education, candidate training, and leadership/advocacy training, among others. An AWE grant supported a pre-Peace Jirga preparatory conference to mobilize female participants for active participation in the Peace Jirga.
U.S. grants for protection of women and girls will focus on programs promoting gender justice, building the capacity of local defense lawyers, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers to prevent and respond to crimes of violence against women and girls by providing specialized training to these officials. In addition, funds will also enable advisor support for mentoring programs across the country to build linkages between police, prosecutors, and courts to prosecute cases successfully involving violence against women. Funds will support capacity building assistance to the Ministry of Women's Affairs Legal Department as well as the ministry as a whole. The legal department is responsible for case management and referrals for female victims of violence nationwide. Assistance to that office is to improve its capacity to process cases and ensure security and privacy for employees and victims. Funding will also continue and expand preventative mediation, legal assistance and awareness, shelter, and social work services for Afghans at risk for or victimized by gender-based violence. Another part of the U.S. grant program will focus on women and children in prisons, helping to implement a comprehensive support plan for women (and their children) in Afghan prisons, including, training and support for female corrections officers and those officers dealing with women in Afghan prisons. Funds also will support NGOs, Afghan government agencies, and/or international organizations that provide humanitarian, education and rehabilitation programs in women's corrections facilities.
The United States assisted the government in developing an antitrafficking law, enacted in July 2008, and continues to work to assist its implementation. The U.S. Government provides grants to NGOs to facilitate the provision of shelter, services, education, health care, and livelihood opportunities to refugees who continue to return to the country from Pakistan, Iran, and other neighboring countries. The U.S. is currently funding women's shelters in Kabul, Faryab and Badghis provinces.