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Women's Rights, Human Rights, and Afghan Groups Urge Increased Funding for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction and Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Highlighting the disparities between Bush Administration supplemental requests for Iraq and for Afghanistan, leading women's rights, human rights and Afghan organizations in a joint letter this week urged Congress and the Administration to devote more resources for Afghanistan's reconstruction and security. The groups warned that without more funding for reconstruction and security the rights of Afghan women and the future of a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan are in jeopardy.

"Security is deteriorating, with three more girls' schools burned to the ground by extremists in late September which brings the total to more than 30 in the past year. The warlords – many fundamentalists hostile to women's rights and the West – are gaining more power. The Taliban is also regaining a foothold. More money for reconstruction and security in Afghanistan is needed immediately," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, which organized the joint letter.

While the United Nations Security Council and NATO have in the last few days authorized expansion of international security forces beyond Kabul, many fear that still not enough will be done to improve security in Afghanistan. “In order to fulfill our pledge to Afghan women, the international community must make a commitment to increase the international peace keeping force by at least 25,000 and also increase its mandate to include disarmament, "added Smeal. The organizations expressed support for efforts to include $1 billion for ISAF expansion, as authorized by the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002, in the supplemental appropriations package.

Criticizing the Administration for not including funds for electrical systems, water and sanitation, or transportation and communications in the Afghanistan request, the groups questioned whether President Bush's promise of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan would ever be fulfilled. Said the letter, "Afghanistan has approximately the same population size as Iraq, but is poorer and has suffered more destruction over 23 years of war. These realities argue for more – not fewer – reconstruction resources. The Iraq proposal contains the outlines of a Marshall Plan. The Afghanistan proposal does not even come close."

The groups also expressed concern about the small amounts of funding for health care, the judicial system, and education and the absence of funding for human rights and women's rights programs in the Afghanistan request. They urged that more funds be shifted to Afghanistan overall and that the bill be amended to include targeted spending to improve the lives of women and girls, including $300 million for women's programs and funding earmarks for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and the Judicial Reform Commission.

Organizations signing the letter include Feminist Majority, Amnesty International USA, US-Afghanistan Reconstruction Council, National Council of Women's Organizations, Human Rights Watch, International Human Rights Law Group, Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan, General Federation of Women's Clubs, Women For Afghan Women, National Association of Commissions for Women, National Political Congress of Black Women, Women's Environment and Development Organization, Ms. Foundation for Women, Clearinghouse on Women's Issues, National Women's Conference Committee, Center for Women Policy Studies, National Organization for Women, Afghans for Civil Society, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, National Peace Foundation, Women's Business Development Center, Peace X Peace, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and Center for Women's Global Leadership.

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