Participants in World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland including Adela Raz

‘This Injustice Must End’: APL Director Raz Presses Davos Attendees on Girls and Women in Afghanistan

Mar 11 2024
By Tom Durso
Source Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

Each year, the World Economic Forum convenes in Davos, Switzerland, for hundreds of discussions among thousands of participants from around the world, including investors, business leaders, political leaders, economists, and journalists, on a wide range of global issues.

At the 2024 meeting, held last month, the participants included the head of SPIA’s Afghanistan Policy Lab.

Raz (center) at the "Democracy 2024" disucssion.

APL Director Adela Raz, a former ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Nations and, later, the United States, was a discussant on two panels and attended several meetings with female leaders on the status of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Raz’s participation included the panel discussion “Education in Emergencies,” on the importance of investing in education, and the role technology and innovation can play in helping children return to learning following a crisis. Joining Raz were Inderpreet Sawhney, the group general counsel and chief compliance officer for Infosys, which organized the session; Tom Dannatt, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Street Child; and Enrique Rodriguez, the executive vice president and chief technology officer at Liberty Global. Andrew Jack, Financial Times’s global education editor, moderated.

Raz (second from left) at the "Education in Emergencies" discussion.

In her remarks, the ambassador addressed the formidable challenges confronting Afghan girls in the aftermath of the Taliban's decision to ban their education beyond the 6th grade, and emphasized the need for change. She illustrated her point by describing a girl who, approaching her 6th-grade finals, intentionally failed so that she could receive another year of schooling.

"It's unconscionable that Afghanistan remains the only country where women are formally barred from higher education,” she said. “This injustice must end."

Raz noted that although Afghanistan may not currently be in the global media spotlight, the obstacles faced by girls there demand the utmost attention. She called upon the international community and organizations such as Infosys and Street Child to explore integrating technology to facilitate girls' education, and she urged concerted pressure on the Taliban to open schools for all grades.

“Democracy 2024 – From Where I Stand,” organized by Financial Times, explored the complex terrain of democracy in 2024 and how outcomes of the upcoming elections globally could influence global order and the future of democracy. In addition to Raz, the panelists were Mark Malloch Brown, president of the Open Society Foundation; Trisha Shetty, an activist and the founder of SheSays; and George Osborne, a former Chancellor of Exchequer in the United Kingdom. Financial Times Editor Roula Khalaf moderated.

Raz played an active role in discussing the safeguarding of democracy and restoring trust. She and the other participants delved into the escalating distrust in institutions and democratic systems, emphasizing the need to combat corruption, cyber threats, and disinformation. They also addressed the looming potential for political violence and increasing polarization. Raz emphasized the Afghan people's yearning for democratic institutions and highlighted the exceptional bravery displayed by the country’s women as they advocate for their rights in the dangerous landscape of the Taliban's oppressive regime.

"In a world where democracy faces increasing scrutiny, now more than ever, we must actively support its foundations and work to strengthen its principles and presence," she said.

(l-r) Former U.K. Prime Minister May, Raz

In addition to the panel discussions, Raz met with former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and attended a dinner hosted by Moira Forbes, the executive vice president of Forbes, and including Janet Truncale, EY’s CEO-elect and the vice chair and regional managing partner of the company’s Americas Financial Services Organization; Julie Boland, EY’s Americas area managing partner and U.S. chair and managing partner,; and Julie Teigland, EY’s EMEIA area managing partner.

"It was remarkable to witness the convergence of politics and business in one space, fostering vital conversations among key stakeholders,” Raz said of her time at Davos. “My participation in discussions concerning the work of APL and SPIA highlighted the necessity of academia's involvement. Policies will always fall short without a solid foundation of knowledge."