In October 2022, the OMCT organised a three-day strategy workshop for 12 Afghan HRDs in exile that aimed at addressing the challenges they face and to better equip them to overcome such challenges for them to be able to continue their human rights work from exile.
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the OMCT, as part of ProtectDefenders.eu, has provided individual emergency assistance and supported Afghan HRDs in their struggle to stand up to hold on the respect of human rights in Afghanistan.
As a direct outcome of this engagement, the need arose for a platform for human rights defenders in exile to come together in a neutral space to reflect on their current situation and possible further engagement. As a result, the OMCT organised a three-day workshop in close cooperation with its partner organisation the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN), with the aim to address challenges faced by Afghan HRDs in exile, and to better equip them to overcome such challenges for them to be able to continue their human rights work from exile, including by joining forces to carry out more coordinated advocacy at the UN level.
A diverse group of 12 Afghanistan HRDs in exile came to Geneva to start developing a strategy paper for the future work of Afghan HRDs in exile to be able to continue monitor and address the human rights situation in Afghanistan. The group of participants reflected as much as possible the diverse spectrum of Afghan civil society to ensure an inclusive approach and to include different opinions and views on future work for human rights in Afghanistan from exile.
The workshop was also the opportunity for the participants to exchange with OMCT network partners from Burundi and Ethiopia who have faced or are still facing similar challenges to learn from them and share ideas and best practices to be able to carry out human rights work in exile.
In addition, the main points of this workshop were shared with interested UN missions in Geneva to receive suggestions and thoughts from their side that could enrich the further development of the draft strategy.
Based on the joint developed SWOT analysis about the situation of Afghan HRDs in exile, a draft concept note for the future cooperation of the group was developed. To enable a peer-to peer group learning, the OMCT network partners from Burundi and Ethiopia did share their experiences on working from exile. This was very supportive for the Afghanistan HRDs to see, that they are not the only ones dealing with this kind of challenging situations.
The participants of the strategy meeting agreed to meet as soon as possible again to continuous the process on developing an innovative strategy and an action plan, to ensure a meaningful implementation of the idea collected during the workshop.
Thanks to this workshop, 12 HRDs in exile were better equipped with enhanced knowledge, tools and strategies to overcome the challenges they face to continue their human rights work while in exile. However, this workshop was seen as being only a preliminary step that would need to be followed-up as soon as possible to be able to ensure a meaningfully development of an innovative strategy for carrying their work in exile in view of deep challenges that remain. As a result, a follow-up meeting was convened in January 2023. A first draft of a strategy was subsequently developed, and the group agreed to continue working together to find a way to contribute to a positive change for the human rights situation in Afghanistan. Follow-up meetings are further planned with the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan to see how better coordination can be achieved.
This case highlights the importance of implementing a holistic approach of protection and support to HRDs at risk, which has enabled the defenders and civil society from Afghanistan in exile to continue their work despite unprecedented challenges they face.
This article is part of a series of articles published in conjunction with the report, providing complementary information. You can read the full report “HOLDING THE LINE – PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN THE FACE OF GLOBAL BACKLASH” here.