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SG/SM/20853
16 August 2021

We Cannot, Must Not Abandon People of Afghanistan, Secretary-General Tells Security Council Meeting, Stressing ‘the World Is Watching’

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council meeting on Afghanistan today:

The world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead.  All of us have seen the images in real time.  Chaos.  Unrest.  Uncertainty.  And fear.

Much lies in the balance.  The progress.  The hope.  The dreams of a generation of young Afghan women and girls, boys and men.  At this grave hour, I urge all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.

Conflict has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.  The capital city has seen a huge influx of internally displaced persons from provinces around the country where they felt insecure or fled during fighting.

I remind all parties of their obligation to protect civilians.  I call on all parties to provide humanitarians with unimpeded access to deliver timely and life-saving services and aid.  And I also urge all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees and refrain from any deportations.

Now is the time to stand as one.  The international community must be united and utilize all available instruments to ensure the following:

First, we must speak with one voice to uphold human rights in Afghanistan.  I call upon the Taliban and all parties to respect and protect international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all persons.  We are receiving chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights throughout the country.

I am particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan, who fear a return to the darkest days.  It is essential that the hard-won rights of Afghan women and girls are protected.  They are looking to the international community for support — the same international community that assured them that opportunities would be expanded, education would be guaranteed, freedoms would spread and rights would be secured.

Second, the international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organizations.  I appeal to the Security Council — and the international community as a whole — to stand together, to work together and act together — and use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and to guarantee that basic human rights will be respected.  Regardless of who holds power, these two fundamental principles — in which our world has such a deep and abiding interest — must be upheld.

The United Nations is committed to supporting Afghans.  We continue to have staff and offices in areas that have come under Taliban control.  I am relieved to report that in large measure, our personnel and premises have been respected.  We urge the Taliban to continue to do so and to honour the integrity and inviolability of diplomatic envoys and premises.

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan affects 18 million people — fully half of the country’s population.  It is vital that basic services continue to be provided.  In a statement issued yesterday, the Taliban said that they would work with existing institutions.  It is crucial that civil servant salaries continue to be paid, infrastructure is maintained, airports are reopened and health and education services continue.

The United Nations presence will adapt to the security situation.  But above all, we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.  Looking ahead, I call for an immediate end to violence, for the rights of all Afghans to be respected and for Afghanistan to comply with all international agreements to which it is a party.

Afghans are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage.  They have known generations of war and hardship.  They deserve our full support.  The following days will be pivotal.  The world is watching.  We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan.

For information media. Not an official record.