Urgent steps must be taken to address the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and stave off economic collapse, speakers in the Security Council said today, as delegates expressed concern about the recent uptick in terrorist attacks and reports of human rights violations.
“To abandon the Afghan people now would be a historic mistake — a mistake that has been made before with tragic consequences,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), who said that the Taliban takeover has left the Afghan people feeling abandoned, forgotten and punished by circumstances that are not their fault.
While engagement with the de-facto Taliban administration over the past three months in Kabul and the provinces have been “generally useful and constructive”, with the authorities seeking to have a United Nations presence and international recognition, as well as looking to overcome the trust deficit between them and the international community, gaps remain to be addressed, including in tackling the issue of inclusiveness, she said, noting that the composition of the cabinet remains entirely male, essentially Pashtun and almost all Taliban.
The Mission has not shied away from raising difficult issues with the de-facto authorities, particularly on women’s rights and girls’ education, she continued. While the Taliban have taken cognizance of such concerns, she said they make clear that for now there are limits to concessions they are willing to make on some issues. While the de-facto authorities say they are formulating a nationwide policy on the right to girls’ education, there has been a general curtailment of Afghan women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms, ranging from limiting their right to work to the absence of women from major decision-making fora and from senior echelons of civil service, she added.
She touched on other concerning developments, including reports of house searches and extrajudicial killings of former Government security personnel and officials. The Taliban has also not been able to stem the expansion of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K), which is increasingly active, stepping up attacks from 60 in 2020 to 334 in 2021, and has gained ground across all provinces, she said.
Turning to the dire humanitarian situation in the country, she said it is preventable, as it is largely due to financial sanctions that have paralysed the economy. With the winter approaching, she said, up to 23 million Afghans will be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. Moreover, although the risk of famine was once restricted to rural areas, 10 out of 11 of Afghanistan’s most densely populated urban areas are now anticipated to be at emergency levels of food insecurity. She cautioned that the continuing deterioration of the economy threatens to heighten the risk of extremism, adding that that the paralysis of the banking sector could push more of the financial system into unregulated informal money exchanges which can facilitate terrorism, trafficking and drug smuggling. “Such pathologies will first affect Afghanistan and then infect the region,” she warned.
In an emotional address, Freshta Karim, Director of Charmaghz Mobile Libraries, a representative of civil society, said Afghanistan is experiencing a huge sense of loss, with every family, including her own, having lost at least one member to the decades of never-ending war. The feeling of grief put into stark relief the need for everyone to coexist, despite disagreements, she observed.
She called on the United Nations to work with all parties on the creation of a political structure to enable coexistence and end the cycle of war that Afghanistan has been trapped in. Since the Taliban’s takeover, the international community’s approach has focused on evacuations, the migrant crisis, humanitarian aid and lobbying for girl’s education. However, the well-being of Afghans can only be realized through political stability, she said. “Without it, we are just having a pause to the war, not an end to it,” she said, noting that the current arrangements of political power by the Taliban exclude other Pashtuns beyond themselves, as well as other ethnic groups and all previous political actors.
Afghanistan’s representative painted a grim picture of the condition of the country, where close to 23 million people there need urgent humanitarian assistance and poverty is widespread, with Afghanistan poised to experience “near-universal poverty” — a 97 per cent poverty rate by the middle of 2022. Against that backdrop, humanitarian assistance and the delivery of health services must be scaled up significantly, he said, adding that a “perfect storm is brewing” with a drought taking hold, a cold winter approaching, the COVID-19 pandemic spreading, the economy in a state of collapse and a regime that cannot pay salaries and provide the most basic services to people.
However, he pointed out that, with the economy on the brink of collapse, aid alone cannot adequately address the crisis. Therefore, the Council must find ways to address the current banking problem and continue to exempt humanitarian and service-delivery operations from sanctions. Moreover, the dormant peace process that began in Doha must be resuscitated. The international community must hold the Taliban to the commitments made in various General Assembly resolutions and hold it accountable for past and ongoing violations of human rights. It must also engage Afghans not as victims, but as stakeholders in building sustainable peace in Afghanistan, he said, adding: “While the Taliban have not changed, the Afghan population has.”
In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed concern over the severe crisis enveloping the country, which faces a catastrophic humanitarian situation and the threat of economic collapse, and called for immediate and unhindered assistance. Some delegates condemned the recent spate of terrorist attacks, while others raised concerns about the repression of the rights of women, protesters and journalists, and reports of human rights violations, including arbitrary executions.
The representative of Ireland was among the delegates raising concerns about the repression of vulnerable groups who continue to be targeted by the Taliban for education, work and activism. Many have concluded their lives and futures are only possible outside of Afghanistan, she said, adding that, despite assurances regarding their safe passage — stipulated by the Council in resolution 2593 (2021) — the Taliban has failed to respect this choice. Reports on the killing earlier in November of women’s human rights defender and economist Frozan Safi clearly demonstrates the terrifying dangers women face.
The representative of the United States said that the United Nations presence in Afghanistan is more critical than ever, pointing to a range of factors leading to a humanitarian crisis of daunting proportions in the country, including endemic aid dependency exacerbated by the pandemic, drought and decades of prolonged conflict culminating in the seizure of power by military means instead of a negotiated settlement. “The Afghan people should not have to pay twice for the Taliban’s decisions,” he said. The United States is the largest contributor of aid to the country, and has committed to providing $474 million in 2021 alone.
Kenya’s delegate, who also spoke for Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, was among many raising concerns about recent rampant terrorist attacks, which reprehensibly target civilians and civilian infrastructure. He called for immediate steps to revitalize the global counter-terrorism architecture, and stated that the Security Council should ensure that any interventions are informed by security interests of the Afghan people rather than by geostrategic interests.
For his part, China’s delegate said Afghanistan must be able to pursue a sound path towards development, calling on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider the resumption of financial support. In light of the dire situation facing the country, the impact of unilateral sanctions and the freezing of overseas assets cannot be ignored. “When teachers and doctors have not received salaries for half a year, where does one begin to speak of girls’ education, or fighting the pandemic?”, he asked, adding that such measures are morally unacceptable and worsen the humanitarian crisis.
Pakistan’s representative likewise called for the lifting of the unjustified freeze on Afghanistan’s assets, noting that his country has committed $30 million in assistance to the country, together with wheat, rice, emergency medical supplies and other essential items. Highlighting that his country has initiated the platform of the six neighbouring countries plus the Russian Federation to promote a regional consensus on steps towards Afghanistan’s normalization, he also credited the Extended Troika grouping of China, Pakistan, Russian Federation and the United States, as a key format to that end.
Also speaking were representatives of Norway, Estonia, Viet Nam, India, Russian Federation, France, United Kingdom, Mexico, Iran and Tajikistan.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:25 p.m.
DEBORAH LYONS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said while the needs of the country have been discussed and acted on by the Security Council over the past 20 years, with the Taliban takeover, the Afghan people now feel abandoned, forgotten and punished by circumstances that are not their fault. “To abandon the Afghan people now would be a historic mistake — a mistake that has been made before with tragic consequences,” she stressed.
She outlined her general assessment of the de facto Taliban administration based on engagement with them over the past three months in Kabul and the provinces, which have been “generally useful and constructive”, with the authorities seeking to have a United Nations presence and international recognition, as well as looking to overcome the trust deficit between them and the international community. On governance, she stated, they have started raising revenues from customs, which they have used to address pressing issues such as paying civil servant salaries. Further, the Taliban continue to provide security to the United Nations presence and allow broad humanitarian access, including for female humanitarian workers. She pointed out that the changed security situation has permitted UNAMA to visit parts of the country they have not accessed in 15 years, and to provide vital assistance.
Nonetheless, she stated, difficult issues have been raised with the Taliban, particularly on women’s rights, girls’ education, and on reports of harassment and extrajudicial killings. She said while they have taken cognizance of such concerns, they make clear that for now there are limits to concessions they are willing to make on some issues. The de facto authorities say they are working on a nationwide policy on the right to girls’ education and had initially assured the protection of women’s rights within Islamic law; however, there has been a general curtailment of Afghan women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms, ranging from limiting their right to work to the absence of women from major decision-making fora and from senior echelons of the civil service. The Mission has called for more inclusiveness from the administration; however, there has been limited progress on the issue, she said, noting that the composition of the cabinet remains entirely male, essentially Pashtun, and almost all Taliban.
Turning to the general mood of Afghan society, which her office has gleaned from contacts around the country, including media, former Government officials and women’s groups, she said Afghans remain apprehensive about the future intentions of the Taliban. They are also hugely concerned about the paralysed economy, the inability to withdraw money and fears of not being able to feed themselves during the winter. Further, their ability to participate in demonstrations and freedom of expression has been curtailed, while media outlets have been closing due to financial reasons and ongoing restrictions by the de facto authorities. Moreover, there are concerns around minority rights, due to continued inter-ethnic tension and violence, she said.
She touched on concerning developments, including reports of house searches and extrajudicial killings of former Government security personnel and officials. Further, the judicial system is unevenly applied, she added, with no women working in the justice sector, raising questions on women’s access to justice. The Taliban has also not been able to stem the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K), which is increasingly active, stepping up attacks from 60 in 2020 to 334 in 2021, and has gained ground across all provinces. She expressed concern that the Taliban’s action to curb ISIL-K’s activities appears to rely heavily on extrajudicial detentions and killings of suspected ISIL-K members.
She went on to highlight the dire humanitarian situation in the country, which is preventable, as it is largely due to financial sanctions that have paralysed the economy. According to a recent United Nations report, she noted that almost one in two Afghans face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. With the winter approaching, she said, up to 23 million Afghans will be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity; a situation which will worsen over the winter. Moreover, although the risk of famine was once restricted to rural areas, 10 out of 11 of Afghanistan’s most densely populated urban areas are now anticipated to be at emergency levels of food insecurity.
Against this dire backdrop, she said her office is delivering significant amounts of humanitarian aid. By the third quarter of the 2021, assistance has reached close to 10.3 million people across the country. However, humanitarian assistance is not enough. The international community needs to urgently find a way to provide financial support to health-care workers in State hospitals, staff in food security programmes, and eventually to teachers, she said. The United Nations will make every effort to ensure these funds will not be diverted to nor by the Taliban. It has created an independent facility for the payment of salaries in the health sector, but this needs to be expanded to other essential services. The continuing deterioration of the economy threatens to heighten the risk of extremism, she said, adding that that the paralysis of the banking sector could push more of the financial system into unregulated informal money exchanges which can facilitate terrorism, trafficking and drug smuggling. “Such pathologies will first affect Afghanistan and then infect the region,” she warned.
Depending on its future mandate, UNAMA will aim to play a vital role in a sustained and structured policy dialogue between the de facto authorities, other Afghan stakeholders and the wider region and international community, with the goal of establishing a pathway towards forging constructive relations between Afghanistan and the world at large, with the well-being and rights of its people being the central goal of these efforts. “This is, to be frank, the only way to avoid losing much of the progress of the last 20 years,” she emphasized, adding: “This is not the time to turn our backs on the Afghan people. If we do, our collective failure will resonate for decades — as will the pain of millions of innocent Afghans.”
FRESHTA KARIM, Director of Charmaghz Mobile Libraries and representative of civil society, cited a huge sense of loss in the country, as every Afghan family including her own has lost at least one member to the decades of never-ending war. That grief led to a stark and clear realization: no one is an enemy, and no human must be killed anymore for this war or any other war. “We need to make the effort to see the human in the ‘other’ and hear their suffering and their story,” she emphasized.
Despite disagreement, she said all must coexist, calling on the United Nations to work with all parties in creation of a political structure for coexisting and ending the cycle of war that Afghanistan has been trapped in. Since the Taliban’s takeover, the international community’s approach has focused on evacuations, the migrant crisis, humanitarian aid and lobbying for girl’s education. Despite their importance, the well-being of Afghan citizens can only be sustainably realized with political stability.
“Without it, we are just having a pause to the war, not an end to it,” she emphasized, as the current arrangements of political power by the Taliban exclude other Pashtuns beyond themselves, exclude other ethnic groups and all previous political actors. The country’s centralized political system and Constitution centred on Kabul disempowers people in provinces and rural areas, explaining why those citizens joined the fight to take over Kabul. Without a political structure that allows all groups to make themselves heard through non-violent means, they are likely to use violence. She called for a genuine global effort to turn the current moment into a window of opportunity for long-lasting peace. After violent takeovers of power in Afghanistan by different groups over the years, only non-violent means and negotiations involving all groups can create a new political system for all.
She urged the United Nations and friendly neutral Governments to bring all stakeholders back under a Bonn Conference model to ensure transitional justice, create an inclusive political system, with distribution of wealth and opportunities, decentralization of power and the fundamental rights of all citizens. All rival regional powers — including but not limited to India and Pakistan — must bring the best versions of themselves, leaving aside rivalries to genuinely work for peace. She called on the international community to support local actors, non-governmental organizations and associations working in Afghanistan with financial and social support to continue their grassroots work for peace. That approach will ensure local-level peace efforts work in parallel with international ones. “The darkest of times require the bravest decisions,” she said.
MONA JUUL (Norway), citing World Food Programme (WFP) warnings about the risk of large-scale deaths from hunger throughout Afghanistan in the coming months, cautioned that this may lead to further instability, displacement, and the increasing vulnerability of marginalized groups, including women. Against this backdrop, humanitarian aid is of urgent importance, she said, drawing attention to her country’s increased humanitarian support to a total of $37 million in 2021. Calling on the international community to save Afghan lives despite the political challenges of dealing with the Taliban taking power by force, she emphasized that the re-establishment of basic services — particularly health and education — is vital. To this end, Norway has decided to support the newly created United Nations Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan with approximately $23 million, she said, noting that preventing a total economic collapse is essential. She went on to note that her country increased its support to organizations promoting women’s rights and participation in Afghan society, especially those working at the grassroots level. Condemning the recent acts of terrorism targeting places of worship and hospitals, she said the Taliban should do their utmost in countering terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida and ISIL-K.
ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia) called on the Taliban to fulfil their promise to live up to their public statements. First and foremost, this means the formation of an inclusive and representative Government, he said. Sustainable peace in Afghanistan can only be ensured by respecting and upholding international norms and standards, and constitutional protections for the rights of all Afghans, particularly women, girls and persons belonging to minorities. Estonia, together along with all other European Union members, pledged almost $800 million for humanitarian assistance as part of the Flash Appeal in September, and called for immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access. However, Estonia’s cooperation with any Afghanistan leadership will be based upon its willingness to uphold the positive achievements of recent decades and act by the norms and standards of international law, including international human rights law. Condemning the use of violence against peaceful protestors and journalists, and the recent terrorist attacks, which have multiplied across the country, he recalled the expectation that the territory of Afghanistan would not be used as for terrorist activity against any country.
HO THE NAM PHAN (Viet Nam) strongly condemning the continued terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in recent weeks, stressed that it is imperative to promote an inclusive political settlement with strong and meaningful participation of women. Emphasizing that it is critical to ensure order and security in the country as well as the safety, security and well-being of all Afghans, he highlighted the need to ensure essential infrastructure and services for the civilian population, particularly vulnerable groups such as women, children and persons with disabilities. He further pointed out that efforts are needed to tackle the increasing humanitarian and economic challenges, as 22.5 million people, over half the country’s population, are facing crisis level of food insecurity. He called for immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and international efforts to support the peace and reconstruction of the country. Commending the efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), he stressed the importance of ensuring the security and safety of all its personnel.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya), also speaking for Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, called for immediate steps to revitalize the global counter-terrorism architecture, pointing to the recent spate of heinous terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, which reprehensibly target civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Security Council should ensure that any interventions are informed by security interests of the Afghan people rather than by geostrategic interests, he said, calling on the Taliban to immediately take steps to improve governance and form an inclusive Government as well as to apprehend Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) leaders. Drawing attention to the dire humanitarian situation — over 23 million facing acute hunger and nearly 9 million in near-famine conditions — he commended the pledges of over $1.1 billion in aid and development made during the September conference. Cautioning the Taliban against capitalizing on the goodwill of the international community, he voiced concerns over the plight of women and girls, who are denied fundamental human rights to work and education.
T. S. TIRUMURTI (India) cited Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) data that over half of Afghanistan’s population is facing acute food insecurity. He noted that India has contributed significantly to the development of Afghanistan over the last two decades, and it is once again ready to deliver urgent humanitarian aid consisting of food grains and medicines to the people. He went on to reiterate that access to humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan should be direct and without any hindrance, reaching the most vulnerable first. Terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to Afghanistan and the region, he pointed out, recalling resolution 2593 (2021) which noted the commitment of the Taliban not to allow the use of the Afghan soil for terrorism. One immediate priority is to evacuate stranded people, as well as to ensure their free movement in and out of Afghanistan, he said. Highlighting the “Delhi Declaration on Afghanistan” adopted recently at the Third Regional Security Dialogue of National Security Advisors on Afghanistan hosted by India, he emphasized that it is more necessary than ever for the international community speak with one voice on Afghanistan.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) noting that his country supports formation of a genuine inclusive Afghanistan Government following moderate foreign policy and respecting human rights, said that eradication of terrorism and drug threats remains the key objective. Citing some progress observed in the country regarding women’s employment and girls’ education, as well as the new authorities’ effort to combat ISIL-K, he voiced hope that the Taliban will uphold its promise of preventing a spillover of terrorist and drug trafficking threats to neighbouring countries. Pointing to the problems inherited by the Taliban, he said the group is deprived of income sources, noting that that providing Afghanistan with urgent humanitarian assistance, including the swift actions by the United Nations, should be a top priority. Against that backdrop, he said his country will send food and medicine to Afghanistan and voiced hope that the United Nations will work with the relevant ministries to disperse on frozen resources to ensure uninterrupted work of civil servants. He further called for a swift organization under the auspices of the United Nations of an international donor conference, drawing attention to his country’s efforts in the format of the Troika Plus meetings as well as contacts with the Central Asian countries.
ZHANG JUN (China) said Afghanistan is at a critical stage, facing a humanitarian crisis, with reconstruction remaining an uphill task. He stressed the need for the country to be able to pursue a sound path towards development, calling on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider the resumption of financial support. He called for steps to be taken to establish stable State governance, with a broad-based moderate foreign policy, with protection provided to the rights of minorities and women. He expressed deep concern over the recent spate of terrorist attacks, calling on all parties to break with terrorist groups and for support to be lent to combat forces including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement. Turning to the humanitarian crisis, with Afghans facing acute food insecurity and widespread child malnutrition, he warned that if no immediate action is taken, 1 million children might perish. In this regard, he said unilateral sanctions and the freezing of overseas assets cannot be ignored. “When teachers and doctors have not received salaries for half a year, where does one begin to speak of girls’ education, or fighting the pandemic?” he said, adding that such measures are morally unacceptable and worsen the humanitarian crisis. The frozen overseas assets must not be used as a bargaining chip or as a threat, he emphasized. Further, UNAMA’s future mandate must fully reflect the evolving expectations of the country, and reinforce regional efforts.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that in taking Afghanistan by force, the Taliban has created a crisis situation for the people and may destabilize the entire region. Despite Council resolution 2593 (2021), it is clear that links between the command of Al-Qaida and the Taliban persist, which is not mobilizing against attacks perpetrated by ISIL-K. France will not accept Afghanistan again becoming a sanctuary for terrorist organizations, he stated, while the Taliban must demonstrate that those groups have no form of direct or indirect support, be it financial, political or logistical, in Kabul or the provinces. Half the population needs emergency assistance, he stressed, that number rising as winter approaches, and France has committed €100 million in humanitarian aid. The Taliban must comply with international humanitarian law and pose no obstacle to delivery of aid. “We expect the Taliban will not take Afghanistan back 20 years,” he said, urging respect for human rights, in particular for women and for freedom of the media, as well as formation of a Government representative of the various components of Afghan society. Despite assurances from the Taliban, there are numerous cases of arbitrary executions, repression of peaceful protests and violence against journalists. “These actions must stop,” he stressed. Afghan women fought for their rights, continue to do so, and the international community must support them in that fight. He also stressed the Taliban must ensure freedom of movement for threatened Afghans who wish to leave the country and not put up administrative obstacles to their departure.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) pointing to the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, urged the international community to ensure adequately resourced, prioritized and coordinated response led by the United Nations, drawing attention to his country’s aid of £286 million to provide lifesaving support to the Afghan people. He further urged the international community to find creative solutions to provide assistance beyond humanitarian aid, including repurposing of $1.5 billion in the Afghan Reconstruction Fund to support health and other basic services. On terrorism, he called on the Taliban to prevent terrorist groups from organizing attacks in the country as well as to address concerns related to humanitarian access, an inclusive Government and human rights, particularly those of women and girls. Voicing concern over serious human rights violations in Afghanistan, he said the United Kingdom’s approach to the Taliban will continue to be calibrated according to their actions, not their words.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) noted that women and girls in Afghanistan remain under attack, targeted by the Taliban for education, work and activism, adding that many have concluded their lives and futures are only possible outside of Afghanistan. But despite assurances regarding their safe passage — that the Council stipulated in resolution 2593 — the Taliban has failed to respect this choice. Reports on the killing earlier this month of women’s human rights defender and economist, Frozan Safi, clearly demonstrate the terrifying dangers women face. Today marks 61 days of Taliban restrictions on girls attending secondary school, she said, observing that a generation of them are being deprived education due to men’s fears and suspicions. Reports also indicate that children’s rights in Afghanistan have significantly deteriorated since August, with a rise in child labour, recruitment, trafficking and marriage. Strongly condemning recent terrorist attacks, violence, intimidation, forced displacement targeting minorities and the repression of Afghan journalists, she said the international community must move beyond pledges and act to prevent widespread suffering and death.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said it is clear the United Nations presence in Afghanistan is more critical than ever, with the country facing a humanitarian crisis of daunting proportions, citing endemic aid dependency exacerbated by the pandemic, drought and decades of prolonged conflict culminating in the seizure of power by military means instead of a negotiated settlement. The Taliban chose the path of battleground victory, he said. The international community is now witness to the results, “but the Afghan people should not have to pay twice for the Taliban’s decisions”, he said. The United States is committing an additional $144 million in assistance, for a total of $474 million in 2021 alone, making it the largest contributor. That aid will flow through a number of organizations, he noted, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as WFP undertakes an immense operation, scaling up efforts month by month. All aid workers including women must be permitted to operate independently and safely, he stressed, as without women involved, the operation is simply not possible. He urged other Member States to increase their assistance, voicing concern over the ongoing liquidity shortage and welcoming creative solutions from the international community, in a way that limits undue benefit to Taliban and other illegitimate actors. Women and girls must be permitted to participate in all levels of life, he stressed, enjoying universal human rights, as there is no excuse to disrupt their education or prevent them from returning to the workforce.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), President of the Security Council, spoke in his national capacity, noting that terrorism continues to be one of the main threats to peace and security in Afghanistan and the entire region, called on the Security Council to identify new patterns and trends to address this problem in a more effective way. “Afghanistan must not become once again synonymous with a breeding ground for terrorism,” he stressed, noting that the international community cannot allow a return to an Afghanistan where women, youth, ethnic and religious groups do not meaningfully participate in the country’s governance. In that context, he recalled resolution 2596 (2021), which stresses the importance of establishing an inclusive and representative Government. Expressing his country’s support to UNAMA, he emphasized its critical role in promoting the stability of Afghanistan for the benefit of the Afghan people and the entire region.
GHULAM M. ISACZAI (Afghanistan) said his country faces a crisis of historic proportions, with the lives and dignity of millions of its people currently being threatened by a failing economy, severe food insecurity and the absence of security, basic rights and freedoms. He painted a grim picture of the condition of the country, where close to 23 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance and poverty is widespread, with Afghanistan poised to experience “near-universal poverty” — a 97 per cent poverty rate by the middle of 2022.
Against this dire backdrop, he said, the Taliban has failed to deliver on their promises and commitments to the Afghans and international community. He pointed out that the Taliban continues to defy international calls to respect Afghans’ human rights, form an inclusive Government and cut their ties with international terrorist groups. Further, they continue to commit “gender apartheid” by preventing women from working and girls to attend secondary schooling. The Taliban has also suppressed peaceful protests and continues to carry out revenge killings, despite their so-called general amnesty, he said, adding that the group is yet to take concrete steps to establish a road map for peace that can lead to an inclusive and democratic Government.
Recalling that the members of the Council said they would judge the Taliban on their actions, not their words, he said Afghanistan’s people expect them to keep this promise and press the Taliban to take steps towards an inclusive Government with internal and external legitimacy. He underlined the need for humanitarian assistance and delivery of health services to be scaled up significantly, adding that a “perfect storm is brewing” with a drought taking hold, a cold winter approaching, the pandemic spreading, the economy in a state of collapse, and a regime that cannot pay salaries and provide the most basic services to people. To facilitate this, he called for greater support to be lent to national non-profits and existing delivery platforms. While welcoming the generous pledges made during the Secretary-General’s High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan, he urged donors to continue to fund the United Nation humanitarian appeals as the needs are far greater than the current funding level can address.
However, with the economy on the brink of collapse, he said aid alone cannot address the crisis facing the country. He urged the Council to find ways to address the current banking problem and continue to exempt humanitarian and service delivery operations from sanctions. He underlined the need to resuscitate the dormant peace process that began in Doha, and work towards a long term and durable peace. Further, the international community must hold the Taliban to the commitments made in various General Assembly resolutions, and not recognize the reinstatement of the Islamic Emirate or any Government imposed by force. He also called for the establishment of human rights monitoring and accountability mechanisms in Afghanistan.
While welcoming the Human Rights Council’s decision to establish a Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan, he stressed that more must be done to hold the Taliban and other parties accountable for past and ongoing violations of human rights. Moreover, the international community must engage Afghans not as victims, but as stakeholders in building sustainable peace in Afghanistan. “While the Taliban have not changed, the Afghan population has,” he emphasized, adding that many in his country have benefited from opportunities provided over the past 20 years and can inform policies, and drive local and national change.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) stressed that the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan must be addressed urgently, as estimations suggest that hundreds of thousands of Afghans are set to enter Iran this winter. Afghanistan’s neighbours should not be expected to address this challenge single-handedly, he said, calling on the international community to honour their responsibilities by extending new and adequate financing to help Afghan refugees and displaced persons. He further underscored that humanitarian assistance and the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets, which are vital in reviving the economy and saving people’s lives, should in no way be politicized or conditional. Also highlighting the need to counter terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan, he expressed grave concern over recent attacks, which indicate how essential addressing them has become for regional as well as international peace and security. Finally, he said that establishing a truly inclusive and representative Government committed to combatting terrorism and guaranteeing human rights for all, including women as well as ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, is vital in building a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
JONIBEK HIKMAT (Tajikistan), noting that following the withdrawal of coalition forces, Afghanistan stands at a critical juncture — with almost half of the population in need of humanitarian assistance — warned that the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul has worsened the security situation in the country. That situation will have a greater implication for regional countries and beyond, including the export of extremism and an increase in drug trafficking. Recalling the messages sent to the Taliban during meetings in Italy, the Russian Federation, India, Pakistan and Turkey — to form an inclusive Government, cut ties with other terrorist organizations and ensure the fundamental rights of women, children and ethnic groups – none of which has been met, he urged the international community to be consistent in its approach and apply additional pressure on the Taliban to comply with the above demands. “Twenty years have passed, the world has changed but not the Taliban,” he said noting that their “medieval mindset” left no place for women’s and girls’ rights. Stressing that the humanitarian catastrophe will further deteriorate during the winter, he called for the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people under the auspices of the United Nations, offering his country’s infrastructure and territory for this purpose. Tajikistan will only support an inclusive Government in Afghanistan, which guarantees the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens, particularly women, he said.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) pointed out that the immediate challenge in Afghanistan is the dire humanitarian and economic crisis, as half the population — 28 million people — face acute food insecurity, which will be exacerbated by the harsh winter conditions. Noting that the Secretary-General’s Flash Appeal for $606 million for 2021 has been fully funded, he called for more help to avoid a humanitarian disaster and an economic collapse in the country, and to enable unimpeded humanitarian access. Expressing hope on the lifting of the unjustified freeze on Afghanistan’s assets, he noted that his country has committed $30 million in assistance to the country, together with wheat, rice, emergency medical supplies and other essential items. Pakistan has also lifted duties on imports of Afghan commodities, and worked to facilitate transit trade, provide essential medicines and refurbish hospitals. Highlighting that his country has initiated the platform of the six neighbouring countries plus the Russian Federation to promote a regional consensus on steps towards Afghanistan normalization, he also credited the Extended Troika grouping of China, Pakistan, the Russian Federation and the United States, as a key format to that end. Pointing to progress made through engagements with the interim Government, he expressed hope that UNAMA’s renewed mandate would be responsive to such a role. After 40 years, there is an opportunity for peace throughout Afghanistan and to root out terrorism, he said.