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Three Stubborn Things: China’s Great Firewall, Women and Girls Progress in Afghanistan, the UN’s Human Rights Council

Ambassador Mark Green

As Founding Father John Adams said two and a half centuries ago, “facts are stubborn things.” Our task is to identify and elevate those stubborn things.

Here are three…

  • China’s Communist Party (CCP) uses its “Great Firewall” to block citizens from using Facebook and Twitter, while the CCP itself uses these same banned platforms to project official messages around the world and attack the very nation—the United States—whose innovations make so much of China’s propaganda possible.

Hypocrisy? Not from China’s perspective. After all, extending Party control is their ultimate objective, not freedom of speech or conscience. It’s in the CCP’s interests to keep the Chinese people from tasting Western freedoms or participating in global discussions. It’s in the CCP’s interests for Chinese businesses and government institutions to purchase over $5 billion in Facebook ad space to access overseas audiences with a CCP-approved message.

In addition to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media services, China prevents its citizens from accessing news sites like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

  • In the two decades that U.S. and NATO forces have been actively engaged in Afghanistan, conditions and opportunities for women and girls have dramatically improved on every front and by any measure.

As the independent Afghanistan Study Group noted in its February 2021 report to Congress, in 2001, there were essentially no girls enrolled in Afghanistan public schools. By 2010, there were more than 3 million female students. By 2019, Afghanistan schools and universities were employing roughly 80,000 women instructors, including 2,000 university professors.

In 2001, there were no female judges or prosecutors. By 2019, over 6,000 women were employed in the justice and security system as judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police, and soldiers. By 2019, 89 members of Parliament were women, and women were holding office as ministers and deputy ministers, and in district and local government.

According to Afghanistan’s National Statistics and Information Authority, by 2019, life expectancy for women had risen to 54.4 years from 45.5 years in 2001.

In short, Afghanistan has changed significantly since the days when the Taliban was in power. As September approaches, and with it, the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces, the question weighing on the minds of many is whether the Taliban has changed.

  • Venezuela, Cuba, Eritrea, the Russian Federation, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and China are all elected members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, yet none of them is currently ranked as “Free” or “Partly Free” by the non-partisan Freedom House.

The Human Rights Council (HRC) was created by the UN General Assembly in 2006 as an “inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe…”

Freedom House rates “people’s access to political rights and civil liberties,” and is best known for its annual “Freedom in the World” report.

Freedom House is hardly alone in its harsh conclusions regarding these HRC members. For example, the Cato Institute and Canada’s Fraser Institute, in their jointly produced “Human Freedom Index 2020: A Global Measurement of Personal, Civil, and Economic Freedom,” has ranked Venezuela 160 of the 162 countries it examined. Of course, the HRC also has members like Denmark, Japan, the UK, and the U.S., which all rank highly in both FH’s and Cato’s indexes.

About the Author

Ambassador Mark Green

Ambassador Mark A. Green

President & CEO, Wilson Center
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