Feb 17, 2011

Sima Samar's remarks at the launch of strategic dialogue with civil society

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Raj. And let me turn, now, to Dr. Sima Samar, director of the Afghan Independent Commission on Human Rights, for her opening remarks.

MS. SAMAR: Thank you very much. I’m happy to be a part of this event, and I hope that this strategic dialogue on civil society will continue, and it should not be one event.

I’m coming from a country where we are in wars since 30 years. Although, the civil society is very young and still there’s civil society and NGO was able to play a vital role to the people of Afghanistan who were able to survive the 30 years of violent war in the country. I think it’s very, very clear that we cannot have a – cannot push for good governance and accountability and transparency for the governments and fight against corruption without having a strong civil society in the country. In this century, I think Afghanistan is the most difficult and problematic country for all of us, and especially for the people in Afghanistan who are suffering everyday from the violence of the terrorist group.

So my recommendation would be in order to continue and support civil society for good governance in Afghanistan would be: One, more stronger support for human rights defenders and civil society in the country not only politically, but also financial support to the civil society.

Two, more support on capacity building of the civil society group, men and women, in Afghanistan in order to be able to keep the government in Afghanistan responsive and accountable and try to bring to justice the perpetrator of human rights and stop the culture of impunity in Afghanistan.

Three, I think more focus should be put on the education in order to build the capacity of civil society. If you don’t have a proper and good quality of education for young men and women in Afghanistan, we cannot really have a strong civil society. So that would be one of the issues that I recommend to do within Afghanistan.

Four, I think please do not use the excuse of respecting culture and religion in Afghanistan not to touch on human rights, and specifically on women’s rights. I mean, we should not use that excuse not to touch the issues or the values of human rights in Afghanistan. It is of universal value, and it’s the value of human being not (inaudible) value.

And finally, I would like to say that acknowledging women’s role and women’s participation and women’s existence in a society like Afghanistan, I don’t think a – civil society without full participation of women will be effective on keeping the governments accountable. And I say that acknowledging the existence of women and then, of course, include the women on the decision-making policies and then support them. It’s not only – I mean, unfortunately in our country mostly women are not acknowledged; their existence is very, very symbolic, although we all put a lot of pressure in the government.

And finally, I would say that please do not have only contact with the governments. As Sharif said – I completely agree – unfortunately the U.S. has been supporting very, let’s say, undemocratic leaders in the Muslim countries, so that will affect Afghanistan. If we like it or not, that is the reality. And please do continue to be supportive and have contact with the civil society, men and women in the country, and thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Sima. The press is going to leave at this point so that we can begin our discussion.

Source U.S State Department of State