Following a stalemate in December 2018, the United States recently resumed direct peace talks with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, in the hope of bringing an end to the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan. When Operation Enduring Freedom began on October 7, 2001, no one anticipated that the war would last this long—or be this costly. Yet, recent peace talks mark the first time in nine years of intermittent peace efforts that all sides appear to be serious about reaching a deal.
There’s just one thing missing from the negotiating table: women. A 2014 study by Oxfam International found that in 23 rounds of informal Afghan-Taliban peace talks between 2005 and 2014, women were present on only two occasions.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan is no exception to the disparities that exist globally. Between 1990 and 2017, women constituted only two percent of mediators, eight percent of negotiators, and five percent of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes around the world. To date, only two women, namely Miriam Coronel-Ferrer of the Philippines and Tzipi Livni of Israel, have ever served as chief negotiators. Moreover, only one woman, Coronel-Ferrer, has ever signed a final peace accord as chief negotiator.
Excluded from the peace talks, Afghan women now fear—and rightfully so—that in the legitimate search for peace, their newly won rights will be sacrificed during the negotiations. Under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, Afghan women and girls were subjected to the Taliban’s fundamentalist, ultra-conservative interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law. They were banned from public life: they were not allowed to work, go to school, leave home without a male chaperone, access healthcare delivered by men—even if they were dying—engage in politics, or even speak publicly. They were also subjected to public beatings and executions.
In November 2001, a U.S.-led military campaign overthrew the Taliban regime. Since that time, Afghan women and girls have made significant progress. Notably, they have been afforded more opportunities to attend school and participate in economic and political life. However, the Taliban has since waged an insurgency against the Afghan government, which has resulted in widespread displacement and destruction, including significant physical threats and restrictions for women.
The exclusion of women in the Afghan peace talks matters—not just for individual women and their families, but for the prospects for peace. Research examining every peace agreement since the Cold War suggests that women’s participation in peace negotiations makes the resulting agreement 64 percent less likely to fail and 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years.
Women in conflict-affected regions have also achieved success in moderating violent extremism, countering terrorism, resolving disputes through nonviolent mediation and negotiation, and stabilizing societies by enhancing the effectiveness of security services, peacekeeping efforts, institutions, and decision-making processes. Yet, globally, women remain under-represented in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict peace building efforts.
In 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted the first-ever resolution on Women, Peace and Security, Security Council Resolution 1325. The adoption of Resolution 1325 marked the first time the UNSC addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women. Resolution 1325 also made the participation of women in negotiations and peace processes an international security priority.
Acknowledging the importance of women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution, the Barack H. Obama Administration unveiled the United States’ first-ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, accompanied by Executive Order 13595. To further aforementioned efforts, the United States government enacted the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, which was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.
The purpose of the bipartisan Act is to ensure that the United States promotes the “meaningful participation of women in mediation and negotiation processes seeking to prevent, mitigate, or resolve violent conflict.” This strategy has the potential to promote more inclusive and democratic societies, and is critical to the long-term stability of conflict-prone countries and regions. Particularly, Afghanistan.
The express language of the Women, Peace, and Security Act states that “the United States should be a global leader in promoting the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and post-conflict relief and recovery efforts.” Yet, when put to the test, the United States has failed to meet its own standards. In part, this is because President Trump has failed to submit a government-wide “Women, Peace, and Security Strategy,” which, per the Act, should have been submitted to Congress by October 2018.
As a strategic imperative, the United States should appoint more female officials to its State Department-led Afghanistan Reconciliation delegation, and it should urge Taliban officials to include Afghan women in future peace negotiations. Moreover, the United States should also implement safeguards to protect the rights and freedoms that Afghan women have gained over the past 17 years. Finally, if the United States is to advocate for more Afghan women at the table, they should lead by example by sending more women on the U.S. delegation.
The rights of women—which are human rights—will not be fully realized until the so-called laws and policies put in place to protect their interests and empower them, are actually implemented. The United States cannot afford to support a peace agreement that sacrifices the rights of Afghan women. If it does, the agreement should be left on the negotiating table next to the empty chair(s) where a woman should have been sitting.
About the author: LaTreshia A. Hamilton, JD is a Master of Global Affairs candidate at Rice University’s James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy and the School of Social Sciences in Houston, Texas.
But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?
Let’s start with gold.
Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.
In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.
It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.
And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.
It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.
We’ve already agreed.
Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.
Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.
In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.
Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.
This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.
But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently. Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.
Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?
We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.
What if education was a new gold standard?
And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?
Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.
By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?
Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.
Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.
These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.
“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.” —George Washington