Speakers Argue over Best Way to Stabilize Country, including Establishing Inclusive Government, Releasing Frozen Assets
Amid the plummeting humanitarian and economic conditions, women and girls in Afghanistan are being deprived of their most basic human rights — employment and education, speakers told the Security Council today, as they examined the restrictive policies of the Taliban, who took control of that country in August last year.
“Women are collectively being written out of society in a way that is unique in the world,” said Ramiz Alakbarov, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and officer-in-charge for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), briefing the Council via video-teleconference. The Taliban — the de facto authorities — have increasingly restricted the exercise of basic human rights, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, quelling dissent and restricting civic space in the country.
These restrictions, he underscored, aim at the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls, limiting their involvement in social, political and economic life, including the ban on secondary schooling for girls and the decision to impose face coverings on women. He also stressed that UNAMA will remain a vocal and visible voice to safeguarding the rights of people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls.
Yalda Hakim, international correspondent and news presenter for BBC News, said she was speaking to the Council as someone who has been reporting from Afghanistan for the past 15 years, as well as “a daughter of Afghanistan” with personal and deep connection with the nation.
Today marks 279 days since the Taliban banned teenage girls from school, she noted, pointing out that “Afghanistan is now the only country in the world where girls are prevented from getting an education, locked out of their classrooms, simply because of their gender”. Education is not a privilege, but a basic human right, she emphasized.
Yalda Royan, Consultant for VOICE Amplified, said the Taliban have announced more than 30 policies that are systematically eliminating women from all aspects of society and imposing them through violence. In April, the Taliban tortured and killed a midwife in Mazar-e-Sharif, amputating her legs, stabbing her and shooting her 12 times — simply because she was a woman and a Hazara.
Tajiks in Panjshir, Baghlan and Takhar Provinces are arbitrarily arrested, killed, tortured and forcibly displaced, she continued. Recounting the 10 June arrest of Zamanuddin, a Tajik student in Panjshir, who had his ear cut off and eye shot before he was thrown off a mountain for not knowing the location of the National Resistance Front’s bases, she said: “This is the true face of the Taliban who seek your recognition and legitimacy.”
Also briefing the Council, via video teleconference, was Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who said dramatic shifts in Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape last August have brought unrelenting human suffering. A massive 25 million people in Afghanistan are now living in poverty — more than double from 2011. “Today, the average household spends three quarters of its income on food,” he said, stressing that 19 million people — nearly half the population — are food insecure, including 6.6 million at emergency levels, the highest number of any country in the world.
Currently, more than 190 partners deliver aid to millions of people every day, with a scale-up that has reached 20 million people across all 401 districts in 2022, he said. However, his office simply does not have enough funding. Only one third of the resources needed for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan has been received, he said, calling for more support.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates expressed their condolences to the victims of yesterday’s earthquake in Afghanistan, which is estimated to have killed at least 800 people. Several members echoed the calls of the United Nations senior officials for greater global support for the 2022 Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan. Among other topics, they also exchanged views on the situation of women and girls, the political situation and the threat posed by terrorism in Afghanistan.
The representative of the United States said that, if the Taliban wants to normalize its relations with the international community, it needs to immediately reverse the steps it has taken to exclude women from social, political and economic life. Ruling by decree in an exclusionary fashion is “a recipe for instability”. The United States remains the world’s leading humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, she emphasized, adding that Washington, D.C., has clarified that financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, international organizations and private‑sector companies can engage in wide-ranging financial transactions and economic activities while still complying with its sanctions.
The Russian Federation’s delegate said if the Council invites civil society representatives to brief, they should be from Afghanistan who are enduring the struggles alongside the Afghan people. He denounced hypocrisy by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) colleagues for shifting responsibility to the international community for today’s crisis and recovery from it, forcing destitute Afghans to pay for the 11 September 2001 attacks for which they had no responsibility. He said that some countries misinterpret the content of resolution 2615 (2021) to justify unilateral restrictions, urging Western States to unfreeze assets and bear responsibility for the outcomes of their 20‑year presence in Afghanistan.
Albania’s delegate, describing the Taliban’s course of action as “a road map to the dark ages of obscurantism, bigotry, misogyny, a departure from civilization”, said the interim authorities must gain the trust of the international community before seeking formal recognition, establishment of diplomatic relations, development assistance, trade and investments must come. Respect is not a given but is “earned by respecting commitments”, he stressed.
India’s representative said his country has a direct stake in ensuring the return of peace to Afghanistan and noted that it dispatched several shipments of assistance, including 30,000 metric tons of wheat, 13 tons of medicine and 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and winter clothing. Strongly condemning the 18 June terrorist attack on Gurudwara Dashmesh Pita Sahib Ji in Kabul, he urged the de facto authorities to take “much stronger” action to fulfil their antiterrorism commitments and called for progress to ensure that terrorists, entities or their aliases do not receive support from Afghan soil or from regional sanctuaries.
Ghana’s delegate, deploring the Taliban’s imposition of draconian restrictions on sections of the population, particularly the suppression of the rights of women and girls, said this is not the case that the Taliban are being called upon to do the extraordinary. To the contrary, the group is simply being asked to commit to upholding the fundamental freedoms and liberties of every Afghan citizen without discrimination.
Pakistan’s delegate said his country, as Chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Foreign Ministers, has circulated a document to the Security Council outlining the pathway to peace and stability in Afghanistan. It reiterated that Afghanistan’s access to its financial resources will be pivotal in preventing a collapse and called for exploring realistic pathways towards unfreezing Afghanistan’s financial assets and legitimate banking services. It urged the Council to ensure that existing targeted sanctions do not impede the provision of humanitarian aid or economic resources to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s representative, on behalf of the authorities before the Taliban takeover, said that, in the last 10 months, Afghans were hoping to see changes in the policies of the de facto authorities. “This has been far from realization,” he said, citing the Taliban’s inflexible attitude towards creating an accountable national Government staffed by professional women and minorities. To prevent Afghanistan from becoming a pariah State, he called for a national dialogue among all Afghans, organized and facilitated by the United Nations, and including representatives of the Taliban and opposition groups. To the Taliban, he said earning legitimacy requires winning the minds and hearts of all Afghans.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Norway, Ireland, Gabon, Mexico, France, United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Uzbekistan.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:59 p.m.
RAMIZ ALAKBAROV, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, speaking via video‑teleconference from Kabul, said that the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. Despite the adoption of a general amnesty and repeated assurances by the Taliban — the de facto authorities — the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) continues to receive credible allegations of killings, ill-treatment and other violations targeting individuals associated with the former Government and of violations committed by the de facto authorities against individuals accused of affiliation with the National Resistance Front and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant–Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP). More needs to be done by the de facto authorities to prevent such violations and demonstrate that when they are perpetrated, violators are held accountable.
The de facto authorities have increasingly restricted the exercise of basic human rights, he continued, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, quelling dissent and restricting civic space in the country. These restrictions continue to be aimed particularly at the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls, limiting their involvement in social, political and economic life. These include most prominently the ban on secondary schooling for girls and the decision to impose face coverings on women. The costs to the economy of these policies are immense. The psychosocial costs of being denied education are incalculable. “Women are collectively being written out of society in a way that is unique in the world,” he said, stressing that UNAMA will remain a vocal and visible voice to safeguarding the rights of people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls.
He also noted that the ongoing economic crisis is the single most important issue as a potential driver of conflict, as well as a driver of misery. The Afghan economy has contracted an estimated 30 to 40 per cent since August 2021; output and incomes have reduced by 20 to 30 per cent, while there has been a 50 per cent decline in the number of households receiving remittances. Some projections indicate that poverty rates may climb as high as 97 per cent by the end of 2022. Even more alarming, 82 per cent of households are now in debt. Coping resources that helped many families get through last winter’s humanitarian emergency are now being depleted. The Afghan people would face repeated humanitarian crises; potentially spurring mass migration and making conditions ripe for radicalization and renewed armed conflict. The humanitarian community has coordinated a response of unprecedented proportions, but the crisis persists and will require sustained support over the course of 2022 and 2023.
He said that a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains the only way forward for the sake of the Afghan people, as well as for regional and international security. The Taliban continue to hold power almost exclusively. The emergence and persistence of an armed opposition is in large part due to political exclusion. The overall security environment is becoming increasingly unpredictable, with armed opposition attacks against the de facto authorities doubling in May from April. The number of ISIL-KP attacks has generally decreased, but their geographic scope has widened to 11 provinces from 6. Even as the international community and the Taliban remain far apart on the question of human, women’s and political rights, there are areas where they can better cooperate to improve the lives of Afghans, as well as advance on issues of common concern, such as counternarcotics and mine action. Establishing an agenda of common interests will help build confidence and reduce misunderstandings. This includes types of assistance that directly support basic human needs, while moving where possible beyond pure humanitarian delivery into sustaining livelihoods for ordinary Afghans according to basic human needs as described above, he said.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said dramatic shifts in Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape last August have brought unrelenting human suffering. He recounted his visits to engage with de facto authorities, most recently in March, when he witnessed malnourished babies in downtown Kabul “on a scale never seen there before”. Humanitarian colleagues are now responding to yet another tragedy — an earthquake one day ago that struck Paktika and Khost Provinces, which killed nearly 800 people — while Afghanistan’s worst drought in almost 30 years has affected three quarters of its provinces, affecting crop production.
He said a massive 25 million people are now living in poverty — more than double from 2011. “Today, the average household spends three quarters of its income on food,” he said, stressing that 19 million people — nearly half the population — are food insecure, including 6.6 million at emergency levels, the highest number of any country in the world. The humanitarian exception approved by resolution 2615 (2021) has been critical in ensuring humanitarian partners continue to receive funds and implement programmes.
Currently, more than 190 partners deliver aid to millions of people every day, with a scale-up that has reached 20 million people across all 401 districts in 2022, he said. This operation, in addition to being the largest food assistance response globally, spans all sectors of need: shelter, health, nutrition and more. A key component of the humanitarian exception was enabling the transfer and payment of funds necessary for humanitarian programming to public entities, such as line ministries, health facilities or the State-owned electrical company.
Most importantly, he said, humanitarian organizations have doubled up on their own systems to minimize the risk of funds and economic resources being misappropriated or diverted. These measures include spot checks, data reconciliation, photo verification, project completion certificates and complaints mechanisms. Prior to transactions, agencies ensure that partners and suppliers are checked against the Security Council Consolidated Sanctions List. During distributions, they work to ensure community representatives and department officials are present, while operations at the final stage involve post‑distribution monitoring, he explained.
Describing impediments to the humanitarian response, he said the formal banking system blocks transfers, due to excessive de-risking, impacting payment channels and causing breakdowns in supply chains. “We have seen limited progress because of resistance by the de facto authorities,” he said, stressing that this issue “is not going to fix itself”. In addition, national and local authorities seek to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries and channel assistance to people on their own priority lists. There are demands by the de facto authorities for data on budget and staffing contracts, making it hard for non-Governmental groups to hire national women in certain functions. “There is now a much more palpable frustration by aid organizations, communities and local authorities,” he said.
Turning to the situation of women and girls, he said the March announcement that secondary schools for girls above sixth grade would not reopen is affecting over 1 million secondary schoolgirls — “a big mistake” at the time that has not been rescinded. “In no other country in the world is a government banning girls from secondary school,” he said, adding that the requirement that women travel beyond certain distances with a mahram — or chaperone — constrains women’s ability to access life-saving services.
In addition, his office simply does not have enough funding. Only one third of the resources needed for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan has been received. “Now is not the time for hesitancy,” he insisted. Without intervention, hunger and malnutrition will intensify, drought will persist, wreaking havoc on crop yields and triggering population movements across the country. He called for addressing the economic and banking paralysis, expanding and improving the quality of the United Nations reach in underserved areas, and resisting the establishment of parallel service delivery systems to national institutions. He commended, in particular, the many thousands of Afghans who work courageously in both national and international organizations across the country.
YALDA HAKIM, introducing herself as an international correspondent and news presenter for BBC News, said she was here as someone who has been reporting from Afghanistan for the past 15 years, as well as a daughter of Afghanistan with personal and deep connection with the nation. Today marks 279 days since the Taliban banned teenage girls from school. “Afghanistan is now the only country in the world where girls are prevented from getting an education, locked out of their classrooms, simply because of their gender,” she pointed out, adding that education is not a privilege, but a basic human right. Before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Sheila, a mother, was a teacher at a secondary school. But, like millions of other female government workers, Sheila was ordered to stop going to work. She now sits at home, alongside her 12-year-old daughter, Mursal, who has been banned from attending school. Sheila was 10 when the Taliban first came to power in the 1990s and does not want her daughter to be deprived of an education like she was.
Some of the female protesters say they have had Taliban gunmen point weapons at them, pepper spray them and shout insults, Ms. Hakim continued. One activist, Marzia, continues to receive threatening phone calls and now has no choice but to move from safe house to safe house. Just last month on 9 May, the Taliban ordered women and older girls to cover their faces when in public and avoid being outside at all, if possible. Punishments for violating the decree would be inflicted on their male family members. On 21 May, the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue ordered all women television presenters to cover their faces, stating “the decision was final and that there was no room for discussion”. In response, male presenters at several major news channels in Afghanistan wore masks on air in solidarity. “To the best of my knowledge,” she said, “it is the most sudden and significant change in the position of women to take place anywhere in the world, in modern history.”
In 2018, the Yalda Hakim Foundation was created, and for three years, it sponsored scholarships for female students from the American University of Afghanistan and supported them into higher education placements at Georgetown University in Qatar, and at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, she said. The questions she hears the most often from young Afghans are about the possibility for the international community to provide more scholarships and how technology can be leveraged to help Afghans who cannot leave Afghanistan continue to learn. However, the question she was repeatedly asked by Afghan women and girls is if they are forgotten — whether the outside world cares and if so, what it is prepared to do. Appealing to Council members, she asked what answer she should give to the women and girls of Afghanistan when they ask her this question.
YALDA ROYAN, Consultant for VOICE Amplified, said Afghan women warned that the Taliban’s promises to respect women’s rights were false. “You ignored us and now we are paying the price for the negligence of the international community, including all those sitting at this table,” she stressed. The Taliban have announced more than 30 policies that are systematically eliminating women from all aspects of society, imposing them through violence. In April, the Taliban tortured and killed a midwife in Mazar-e-Sharif, amputating her legs, stabbing her and shooting her 12 times — simply because she was a woman and a Hazara.
She said Tajiks in Panjshir, Baghlan and Takhar Provinces are arbitrarily arrested, killed, tortured and forcibly displaced. She recounted the 10 June arrest of Zamanuddin, a Tajik student in Panjshir, who had his ear cut off and eye shot before he was thrown off a mountain for not knowing the location of the National Resistance Front’s bases. His brother was also killed. “This is the true face of the Taliban who seek your recognition and legitimacy,” she said. Since March, the Kuchis have attacked Hazaras in Behsud, Malistan, Jaghori and Shaikh Ali districts, killing and injuring 31 people, burning houses and taking 21 people hostage. While Hazaras were targeted in eight explosions in April alone, UNAMA’s condemnation did not even mention the victims’ ethnicities.
In fact, she said UNAMA has not publicly reported on these atrocities until now, nor published its protection of civilians reports since July 2021. She urged UNAMA to immediately resume its regular public reporting, using accurate and unvarnished data. It must prioritize the participation of Afghan women’s organizations and politicians in exile, not only engage with Taliban leaders, in any future political process. While it is required to coordinate aid delivery to all Afghans, without discrimination, the Taliban manipulate distribution to ensure their followers benefit, while women-headed households and marginalized ethnic groups do not.
“If UNAMA fails to ensure accountability for aid diversion, the Taliban will continue their terrorist activities using your aid,” she warned. She called on the Council to end all exemptions for sanctioned Taliban leaders if there is no progress on women’s rights in 60 days. UNAMA must prioritize facilitating an inclusive, intra-Afghan dialogue as soon as the new Special Representative has been appointed. More broadly, she urged the Council to support efforts to hold the Taliban accountable for its past and ongoing abuses, fully resource the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and support the creation of a fact-finding mission that regularly reports on human rights violations.
If the Council wants the Taliban to take it seriously, it must follow through on its words of support for women’s rights, hold UNAMA accountable for implementing its mandate and impose costs on the Taliban for its horrendous treatment of women, she said. “Stop patronizing Afghan women with awards and empty words of praise,” she demanded. “Together, and individually, the members of this Council have incredible power and resources — I urge you to use them to take real action and restore the dignity and rights of all Afghans.”
TRINE HEIMERBACK (Norway) said the Council must urge the Taliban to do more to respond to the humanitarian crisis and do less to create a human rights crisis. Echoing concern over reported attacks, killings and disappearances of former Government officials, security force members, prosecutors and judges, journalists and media workers and all those who speak up against a society ruled by fear instead of law, she underscored the responsibility of the de facto authorities to end arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings. An investigation into the disappearance of Alia Azizi, Head of the Herat Women’s Prison, must be launched. She expressed alarm at terrorist attacks against civilians, often in ethnic- or religious-minority communities and called on all parties to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. For its part, UNAMA must monitor, report and engage with parties to undertake commitments to end such violations. Without engaging with the de facto authorities, the global community will lose its most important avenues for influencing the worrying trajectory of Afghanistan’s future.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), noting that his country has a direct stake in ensuring the return of peace to Afghanistan, said it supported the adoption of resolution 2615 (2021) and expressed hope that its humanitarian carve outs are fully used by United Nations agencies and their aid partners. Recalling the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, he said aid disbursement should be non-discriminatory and accessible to all. He noted that India dispatched several shipments of assistance, notably 30,000 metric tons of wheat, 13 tons of medicine and 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and winter clothing. To oversee the use of his country’s assistance, a team from India met representatives of international organizations in Kabul on 2 and 3 June. India is also monitoring security conditions, he said, strongly condemning the 18 June terrorist attack on Gurudwara Dashmesh Pita Sahib Ji in Kabul, and noting that the report of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) indicates that authorities must take “much stronger” action to fulfil their anti‑terrorism commitments. He called for progress to ensure that terrorists, entities or their aliases do not receive support — tacit or direct — from Afghan soil or from regional sanctuaries. He also joined calls for ensuring the protection of women and girls.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said Afghanistan is not a more stable and secure country under the Taliban, citing attacks against a Sikh temple in Kabul, a crowded market in Nangahar and a mosque in Kunduz Province. “There is no security for the millions who are members of minority communities,” she said, nor for women and girls who are “under siege”, targeted, intimidated, abused, policed and effectively eliminated from public life. The country’s immense challenges cannot be solved without Afghan women fully participating in public life. She also expressed deep concern over food insecurity across the country, and condemned reports of aid interference by the Taliban. “Taking food from the mouths of those most in need is reprehensible,” she said. The Council has a responsibility to respond, based on respect for human rights, humanitarian principles and inclusive participation with women at the table.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said the latest calamity will compound the situation of millions of Afghan citizens, who are confronted by acute food shortages, are internally displaced and lack basic services including drinking water, health care and education, urging the humanitarian agencies to scale up their interventions to bring the much-needed relief to the population. Deploring the unwarranted actions of the de facto authorities, he said the imposition of draconian restrictions on sections of the population, particularly the suppression of the rights of women and girls, including attempts to exclude them from participating fully and meaningfully in the governance process, is unacceptable. This is not the case that the de facto authorities are being called upon to do the extraordinary, he emphasized. To the contrary, he said that the Taliban are simply being asked to commit to upholding the fundamental freedoms and liberties of every Afghan citizen without discrimination and provide them with equal access to the basic of human services as well as access to a fair judicial system, employment, freedom of expression and movement and guaranteeing girls full access to education.
TRINA SAHA (United States) welcomed the Taliban’s ban on narcotics as a positive first step towards the establishment of a lawful agricultural sector. However, she emphasized that the Security Council has been clear and unanimous: If the Taliban wants to normalize its relations with the international community, it needs to immediately reverse the steps it has taken to exclude women from social, political and economic life. Allowing Afghans to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms a prerequisite for a stable, prosperous Afghanistan. Ruling by decree in an exclusionary fashion is a recipe for instability. It is no wonder, then, that Afghans’ humanitarian needs remain severe, she said. The United States remains the world’s leading humanitarian donor in Afghanistan and a source of funds for United Nations operations in that country, she noted, adding that her delegation is proud to have championed resolution 2615 (2021), which established a humanitarian carveout to facilitate the critical delivery of aid to support the basic needs of the Afghan people. As well, Washington, D.C., has clarified that financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, international organizations and private sector companies can engage in wide-ranging financial transactions and economic activities to benefit the people of Afghanistan, while still complying with its sanctions.
ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon) noted several measures undertaken by the Taliban, including a series of announcements to dissolve several entities, such as the Independent Human Rights Commission and the High Council for National Reconciliation, as well as the abolition of some policies. Despite repeated calls from the international community, including from the Security Council, she said the Taliban continue to restrict freedoms and violate the rights of women and girls. Human rights are universal and cannot be waived under any circumstance. Turning to the tensions along the Afghan borders with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Iran and Pakistan, she expressed concern that this could lead to clashes resulting in civilian casualties and weaken the region. Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for the launch of dialogue between the de facto authorities and other stakeholders, she called for the achievement of peace and sustainable development in Afghanistan and the whole region.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said the “frail optimism” of some about possibility of trust has been eroded, as measures have been taken to wipe women off the map, exclude minorities and mount a weak fight against terrorism. Noting that the international community’s ability to support Afghanistan hinges on who is in power, she said the dismantling of institutions, dysfunction in the justice system, restrictions on women and lack of representation of ethnic communities are not in sync with Afghan aspirations. Dialogue is the best way to support the Afghan people. At the minimum, there should be a substantial change to an inclusive governance system, along with a transparent legal framework to regulate daily life, featuring access to justice mechanisms that reflect international obligations. Humanitarian assistance, meanwhile, cannot be made contingent on political considerations, she insisted, calling for unrestricted aid access. She also asked how the economy would ever recover if half of the workforce is unable to work, underscoring the need for UNAMA to have access to those in power, most importantly, to address measures that restrict girls from attending school.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) recalled her country’s immediate response to the humanitarian crisis, noting as well that the European Union contributed €335 million since 2021. All efforts must be undertaken to strengthen risk management to prevent the Taliban’s misappropriation of resources. Five conditions must be met for the travel ban against 13 Taliban officials to be lifted, notably: the constitution of a representative Government, safe departure for those wishing to leave the country, free humanitarian access throughout the country and a cut-off of ties with terrorists. “Not one of these conditions have been met,” she said, stressing that trust has been broken because the Taliban’s promises have rung hollow. She also pointed to the proliferation of serious violations, including limits on women’s daily freedom which has made them “prisoners in their own country, stressing that respect for human rights is a key principle outlined in the Charter of the United Nations and “we must all uphold and promote it”. She outlined France’s expectation that the Mission fulfil this task.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), noting that his country is among the largest aid donors to Afghanistan, said 24 million Afghans need humanitarian support. Urgent action is needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and economic collapse. He described strong United Nations leadership as essential for negotiating effectively with the Taliban to ensure humanitarian access across the country. Noting that the United Kingdom allocated $380 million to support basic human needs, he expressed support for the 1988 sanctions regime to support Afghanistan’s security, adding that the humanitarian exception ensures that the regime poses no obstacle to the provision of humanitarian assistance. He urged the Taliban to stand by their commitments to the Afghan people and the international community. He also expressed deep concern over extrajudicial detentions and disappearance of Afghans, as well as reports of increased terrorist attacks. The international community must speak with one voice to urge the Taliban to focus on counter‑terrorism and creating a more inclusive Government, among several other issues.
ZHANG JUN (China) that Afghanistan is at a critical stage of transition from chaos to governance. The security situation has remained stable since last August, with a marked decline in violent conflict while the country faces the most daunting challenges in the humanitarian and economic spheres. Afghanistan has a long way to go in peace and development. Its people should be not forgotten, he stressed, calling on the international community to step up support and UNAMA to act quickly in support of the country’s earthquake relief effort. Calling for autonomous governance in the country, he said that lessons learned over the past 20 years showed that military interventions and foreign models do not work. All parties should implement Afghan-owned and -led principles. The international community should strengthen its engagement with the interim Government in a pragmatic manner and patiently guide the country in national reconciliation and unity. The humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan is only 30 per cent funded, representing a $3 billion shortfall, as other geopolitical conflicts have reduced the focus of donors on the country. That, in turn, could plunge the current crisis into a greater catastrophe. He then called on the United States to unconditionally unfreeze Afghanistan overseas assets.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said that humanitarian exemptions for any sanctions must be strictly observed in order to ensure that they do not undermine access to food, shelter and essential health supplies for those most in need. This understanding is applicable to the situation in Afghanistan, like any other humanitarian crisis. Life-saving aid must continue to flow to alleviate suffering of all the vulnerable in the country. However, only long-term development measures will pave the way for a more prosperous and peaceful future. In this regard, he echoed the appeals for the international community to consider unfreezing the assets of Afghan institutions. Women’s and girls’ rights must be respected not only due to Afghanistan’s obligations under international human rights law, but because women’s participation in the economy is paramount for the country’s economy, for recovery and future sustainable development.
JAYNE JEPKORIR TOROITICH (Kenya) pointed to a rise in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, calling on the Taliban to renew their commitment to fighting terrorism and ensuring that the country does not become a haven for terrorist groups. Highlighting the important contribution of women to economic development, she stressed that their underutilization and exclusion in the labour force will continue to restrict economic growth in the country. She also pointed out the need to consider how Afghan frozen assets can serve as part of efforts to revamp the ailing economy. Commending efforts by neighbouring countries to open their borders during such a difficult period, she urged the international community to support such efforts through predictable funding.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) said that, while Afghanistan may have managed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe this past winter, poverty and hunger continue to rise and she urged continued attention to the worsening humanitarian situation. The access of women and girls to education and all aspects of public life is not optional. Afghanistan’s chances of recovery are doomed if half of its population continues to be marginalized, she said, urging the Council to continue to demand that the Taliban’s decision that excludes girls from secondary education be reversed and that women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in society is reinstated. UNAMA must also continue to implement its comprehensive mandate to engage with the Taliban through structured dialogue, including its active engagement with the Taliban vis-à-vis women’s empowerment and girls’ education. The Taliban must engage in a serious and meaningful counter-terrorism dialogue with the international community. This Council must also send a unified message to the Taliban that Afghanistan cannot be a safe haven for terrorists.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that, if the Council invites civil society representatives to the Chamber, they should be from Afghanistan, enduring the struggles alongside the Afghan people. In six months, humanitarian conditions have deteriorated, with manufacturing on the decline and drought creating seed, food and fertilizer shortages. He denounced hypocrisy by the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) colleagues for shifting responsibility to the international community for today’s crisis and recovery from it, forcing destitute Afghans to pay for the 11 September 2001 attacks for which they had no responsibility. He also expressed confidence that the dialogue between humanitarian agencies and the de facto authorities will allow for significant progress. However, assistance from abroad has a limited effect in mitigating social tensions.
He said that, while resolution 2615 (2021) was meant to be an opportunity to step up assistance, some countries misinterpret its content to justify unilateral restrictions. He urged Western States to return monetary resources and to provide assistance in order to normalize the situation, as they bear responsibility for the outcomes of their 20-year presence in Afghanistan. He cited the risks associated with plans by ISIL/Da’esh to expand to Central Asia and eventually, the Russian Federation, noting that his country has provided humanitarian assistance through United Nations agencies, as well as bilaterally. However, he expressed regret that sanctions against the Russian Federation have affected its cooperation with humanitarian organizations. If necessary, it will provide grain supplies to Afghanistan. It will also maintain cooperation with the de facto authorities who have focused on the terrorist and narcotic threat, as well as on human rights, including those of women and girls.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, expressed deep condolences to the families of the victims of the earthquake. He went on to say that, since the Taliban takeover, the country’s economy has been in free fall. The economy contracted by more than a third compared with the same period a year earlier. While education has moved humanity forward, the Taliban have chosen ignorance. No free women in public life means half of the society left out of the country’s future, he said, describing this course of action as “a road map to the dark ages of obscurantism, bigotry, misogyny, a departure from civilization”. Last month, the Taliban leader, called on countries to engage with Afghanistan based on “mutual respect”. That means formal recognition, establishment of diplomatic relations, development assistance, trade and investments. Respect is not a given but is earned by respecting commitments. Unfortunately, the actions of the Taliban go on the opposite direction, to the detriment of the people and to the detriment of the country. It is high time that a meaningful and inclusive political process is initiated, in good faith and with goodwill.
NASEER AHMED FAIQ (Afghanistan) said today’s civil society briefers exemplify “the might and capability of Afghan women”. Afghans today are confronted with multifaceted challenges. Political instability, economic downturn and protracted conflict have ravaged the country since the Taliban’s forceful takeover in 2021. Despite the delivery of humanitarian assistance, Afghanistan is now no closer to stability security or self-sufficiency. In the last 10 months, Afghans were hoping to see changes in the policies of the de facto Taliban authorities to address the crises, as well as efforts to safeguard the rule of law, justice, safety and the protection of social, political and economic rights for all. “This has been far from realization,” he said. The Taliban have not been flexible on the creation of an accountable national Government which is staffed by professional women and minorities, and enjoys national and international legitimacy.
Instead, he pointed to the closure of girls’ secondary schools, enforced wearing of the hijab, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, among the many credible reports that run counter to the amnesty announcement, as well as to Islamic guidance and principles. Security concerns are mounting, due to the presence of Al-Qaida, Da’esh and foreign terrorist fighters, and terrorist attacks against religious and education centres, with Afghan minorities — including Hazaras — targeted. “Imagine what it is like having your God-given freedoms…taken away from you all of a sudden,” he said, including being banned from education or the enjoyment of a decent life. This is a reality for girls and women, as well as all young people forced to pursue degrees outside the country. The only daily struggle is to find food, shelter and clothing without ambition for the future. “This is the typical life of all Afghans today,” he said.
To prevent Afghanistan from becoming a pariah State, he called for a national dialogue among all Afghans, organized and facilitated by the United Nations, and including representatives of the Taliban and opposition groups. A mechanism must be created through which agreement can be reached on political, economic and social rights, type of Government and efforts to amend the Constitution. This requires full support by the Taliban, and both regional and international partners. “If Afghanistan is abandoned, we risk squandering the progress made,” he said. To the Taliban, he said earning legitimacy requires winning the minds and hearts of all Afghans. They must honour their commitment of amnesty for former Government officials and soldiers, regardless of their ethnicity or gender, work for the formation of an accountable Government, open girls’ schools, allow women take part in the development of the country, honour international commitments to human rights laws and norms, and strengthen coexistence. Consensus will require real compromise by all parties, he said. It is the only way to free Afghanistan from a cycle of dependency.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCI (Iran) said his country has hosted millions of refugees who have received “minimal” international assistance for the last 40 years. “Neighbours of Afghanistan, including Iran, should not feel all the burdens associated with receiving Afghan refugees,” he said. He stressed the importance of support for humanitarian development needs, noting that Iran has provided more than 30 consignments of humanitarian assistance to Afghans. Afghanistan’s frozen assets belong to the Afghan people and their release is crucial for saving lives.
Noting that attacks claimed by or attributed to Da’esh or its affiliates have spread in Afghanistan, he expressed deep concern about that trend, citing the international demand that the Taliban commit to fighting terrorism. Equally critical are efforts to combat drug trafficking. The Taliban have failed to make significant efforts to ensure the Government’s ethnic and political inclusiveness, he added, underscoring Iran’s support for UNAMA’s efforts to promote stability.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the Council heard today from three Afghans who “represent themselves”. The Council has not invited those who actually control the country, calling into question its credibility. “We are at another inflection point in Afghanistan’s recent turbulent history,” he said. “We must be clear about our objectives,” the primary of which is to achieve peace and stability. As chair of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers, Pakistan circulated to the Council a document outlining a pathway to peace, as envisaged by OIC countries at the last two ministerial conferences. OIC members call for sustained engagement, including in recovery, reconstruction, education, financial and material assistance, he said, reiterating that Afghanistan’s access to its financial resources will be pivotal to preventing economic collapse and urging the Council to ensure that targeted sanctions do not impede the provision of humanitarian aid or economic resources.
In addition, he said, they reaffirmed that Afghanistan’s territory must not be used as a safe haven for terrorist groups, recalled their previous statement on Afghan girls’ right to education, and reiterated the central role of OIC member States, Islamic scholars and others in exchanging best practices with Afghan authorities on women’s rights. OIC called on the Council to support all such efforts and trusted that both it and UNAMA would consider those elements for normalizing the situation in Afghanistan. He also noted he looked forward to working with UNAMA, which must address the impact of bilateral sanctions and help to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets. Further, he expressed his concern about terrorist attacks emanating from Afghanistan, sponsored and financed by its adversary, and will “find ways” to end them, along with the disinformation campaign which one Council member — a State sponsor of terrorism — has launched against it.
He said the expanded United States, China, Russian Federation and Pakistan “troika” can advance peace in Afghanistan, including in addressing terrorism. Despite frustration over the lack of progress on several issues, the international community’s engagement with the authorities has produced progress. There are no longer thousands of civilian casualties, the political and security situation has remained “relatively stable”, while the threat of reprisal killings and mass exodus of refugees has thus far been avoided. He expressed hope that “we will make the right choices” to steer Afghanistan towards peace and stability.
BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) said that, for centuries the Uzbek and Afghan peoples have lived side by side in a single cultural and civilizational space, adding his support for Afghanistan a peaceful, independent and prosperous State. “Herein the Afghan soil should never again pose a threat to the countries of the region and international community as a whole,” he emphasized. Afghanistan’s interim Government needs some time for practical implementation of its promises. Exerting pressure or enforcing bans would only exacerbate the already dire situation. The further worsening of the social-economic situation could lead to radicalization of society, confrontations between various groups and strengthening positions of extremist forces, as well.
However, he went on to say that the international community should continue to demand from the Taliban not to renege on its promises to form an inclusive government, ensure human rights and provide girls access to school education. He welcomed the opium poppy ban announced by the interim Government, as the decision could deprive various terrorist groups, operating in the country, of an income source, he continued. In the border city of Termez, Uzbekistan established a multifunctional transport-logistics hub being used by the United Nations delivering aid to Afghanistan and has started two major joint projects — construction of a power transmission and a railroad — that will help transform Afghanistan into a bridge between Central and South Asia, further advancing regional connectivity. Further, Uzbekistan has tabled a General Assembly draft resolution titled “Strengthening connectivity between Central and South Asia”, he said.