Restrictions on Fundamental Human Rights, Especially for Women, Girls Exacerbating Bleak Humanitarian Plight in Afghanistan, Briefers Warn Security Council
Delegates Disagree over Optimal Level of International Engagement with Taliban, as Speaker for Kabul Urges National Dialogue to End Impasse
Restrictions on fundamental human rights and freedoms — especially for women and girls — are exacerbating the bleak humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today, as members diverged over the international community’s optimal level of engagement with the Taliban in light of such repression.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that people in Afghanistan continue to face extreme hardship and uncertainty, with over half of the population — some 24 million people — in need of humanitarian assistance. Around 25 million people are now living in poverty, unemployment could reach 40 per cent and inflation is rising due to increased global prices, import constraints and currency depreciation. “Relentless layers of crisis persist at a time when communities are already struggling,” he stressed, also highlighting a recent earthquake, massive flash floods and oncoming cold weather that will force families to choose between nutrition, education, healthcare or warmth for their children.
“Afghanistan’s problems are, unfortunately, neither new nor unique,” he said, citing the halting of large-scale development assistance, a challenging operating environment and the relegation of women and girls to the sidelines as factors making the country’s current situation so dire. The United Nations and its partners — despite the many challenges — have mounted an unprecedented humanitarian response over the past year to reach almost 23 million people in need. However, the humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan faces a financing gap of $3.14 billion, and $614 million is urgently required to support winter preparedness. “There are many musts,” he added, “but there are many opportunities — the path is clear, and the dangers equally so”.
Markus Potzel, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said that the Taliban’s practices to govern by decree and policy decisions — declared to be in adherence with “Islam and Afghan traditions” — have curtailed fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially for women and girls. Noting the 23 March announcement of the continued closure of secondary education for girls, he underscored that Afghanistan is currently the only country in the world that denies girls the full right to education.
Attacks against human-rights defenders, journalists and media workers — combined with the impact of broader policy measures taken by the de facto authorities — have had a chilling effect on media freedom and civic activism. It is vital, he stressed, to move towards a sustained dialogue between the Taliban, other Afghan stakeholders, the wider region and the international community, as the country’s future rests on meeting the Afghan people’s needs, preserving their rights and reflecting the country’s diversity in all governance structures.
Lucy Morgan Edwards, independent researcher and author, also briefing the Council, said that, “for those paying attention”, signs of how the current crisis in Afghanistan would unfold were visible in 2001. Noting that the Taliban’s political influence in rural areas grew exponentially from 2003 in proportion to Western broken promises, corruption and brutal military response, she said that, to understand why this catastrophic failure occurred, it is necessary to examine the character of the post-2001 Western intervention in Afghanistan.
Detailing the same, she underscored that the military-industrial complex has been “catastrophic” in Afghanistan, pointing out that United States taxpayers have paid some $300 million per day to fund the war. Relatedly, the United States spent around $148 billion to supposedly reconstruct Afghanistan, but reports document many instances in which money was spent on useless projects. These and other factors indicate “extreme deception” about the reasons for the 20-year Western occupation of — and sudden withdrawal from — Afghanistan, and she said that the entire project was about “recycling United States and NATO taxpayers’ money into the coffers of private business”.
In the ensuing debate, many Council members expressed concern over the Taliban’s restriction of the autonomy, employment and movement of Afghan women and girls. Several expressed worries over the increasing risk that terrorist groups will be able to strengthen their foothold in the country. Members also took note of the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, calling on the international community to act to relieve the suffering of the country’s population and underlining the de facto authorities’ responsibility in this regard.
The speaker for the Russian Federation, noting that the United States’ arrival in Afghanistan only strengthened its status as a hotbed of terrorism and narcotics, said the country has ultimately become dependent on outside aid with no prospects for independent development. Additionally, the United States and its allies — instead of acknowledging their mistakes and supporting reconstruction — blocked Afghan national financial resources. He said the international community must engage constructively with the Taliban to enable effective solutions addressing political inclusivity, terrorism, drugs and human rights.
The representative of the United States, however, said that no country that is serious about containing terrorists would advocate to give the Taliban unconditional access to funds in the Afghan central bank. Stressing that the Taliban has failed to provide for the Afghan people — repressing and starving, instead of protecting them — she asked countries questioning her Government’s actions what they are doing to help. She further noted that the United States is the world’s leading donor in Afghanistan, providing $775 million in humanitarian assistance in 2021.
Underscoring the “tragic reality” faced by millions of Afghans, Mexico’s representative expressed regret over “backsliding” in 2022 regarding the rights of women and girls. The Taliban has restricted the same through an “unfathomable return” to practices like forced marriages and honour killings and the decision to suspend secondary education for girls. Not allowing women to work limits the purchasing power of families and fuels the vicious circle of poverty, hunger and discrimination, he stressed, calling for an end to the exclusion of women from the labour market.
Similarly, the representative of the United Arab Emirates underscored that the Taliban has reversed gains made on women’s and girls’ empowerment over the past two decades, stressing that ensuring their full, equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of life must remain a mainstay in the Council’s demands. Her country, for its part, has given over $2 billion in humanitarian assistance over the last five decades. Calibrated engagement with the Taliban should be maintained, she added, highlighting that Islamic countries have a special role in engaging with the same to help promote religious and cultural dialogue, respect for diversity and elimination of discrimination.
France’s representative, however, said that the Taliban — through its failure to respect its commitments — is choosing isolation. To emerge, it must meet five conditions: allow those who wish to safely leave the country to do so; ensure free access for humanitarian assistance across the country; respect the fundamental rights of all, particularly women and girls; form a representative Government; and break links with terrorist groups. Despite none of these conditions being met, France has contributed €123 million to help the country’s people since 2021, and the European Union has disbursed €335 million over the same period. The United Kingdom’s speaker also detailed his country’s support in this regard, having committed $676 million in aid between April 2022 and March 2023.
On that point, Iran’s representative stressed that the international community must continue to support Afghanistan, especially through the provision of humanitarian and development assistance. As Afghanistan’s security, stability and prosperity are inseparable from those of its neighbours, the United Nations must improve the country’s deteriorating humanitarian situation and ensure its long-term peace and development. Relatedly, the representative of Pakistan warned that a geopolitical divergence on Afghanistan between major powers would have serious implications for Afghanistan and the entire region.
“In general, the outlook for a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is bleak and opaque,” said that country’s representative, calling for national dialogue to break the current impasse and provide the Afghan people with an opportunity to create a representative, inclusive system. The Council and all international partners should support and facilitate such a dialogue, along with a comprehensive political roadmap to guide all relevant efforts towards an inclusive, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. He went on to call on the Taliban to protect and respect the fundamental human rights of all Afghan citizens, including re-opening girls’ schools, restoring women’s full human rights and honouring their amnesty announcement. To do otherwise violates international human rights and humanitarian law, and Islamic values and principles, he added.
Also speaking were representatives of Norway, Gabon, Ireland, Brazil, Albania, Ghana, Kenya, India and China.
The representatives of the Russian Federation and the United States took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 5:31 p.m.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the Council that people in Afghanistan continue to face extreme hardship and uncertainty, with more than half of the population — some 24 million people — in need of humanitarian assistance. A crisis of malnutrition — affecting an estimated 3 million children — is fuelled by recurrent drought, and around three quarters of people’s income is now spent on food. Further, around 25 million people are now living in poverty, unemployment could reach 40 per cent and inflation is rising due to increased global prices, import constraints and currency depreciation. “Relentless layers of crisis persist at a time when communities are already struggling,” he stressed, noting a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in June and heavy rains leading to massive flash floods in July. He added that, once the cold weather sets in, skyrocketing food and fuel prices will force families to choose between feeding their children, sending them to school, taking them to a doctor or keeping them warm.
“Afghanistan’s problems are, unfortunately, neither new nor unique,” he went on to say, before outlining several factors making the country’s current situation so dire. Large-scale development assistance has been halted for a year, the operating environment is challenging and women and girls have been pushed to the sidelines. Yet, humanitarian organizations have done their utmost to provide the population with a lifeline and, despite the many challenges, the United Nations and its partners have mounted an unprecedented response over the past year to reach almost 23 million people in need. Humanitarian operations have been expanded to reach affected communities in all 401 districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, all possible because of a reduction in conflict, the introduction of cash shipments and the adoption of resolution 2615 (2021). He stressed, however, that “humanitarian aid will never be able to replace the provision of system-wide services to 40 million people across the country”.
Underscoring that preserving the delivery of basic services alongside humanitarian assistance remains the only way to prevent an even greater catastrophe, he said that some development support must be restarted. Agriculture and livestock production must be protected, hospitals and clinics must be kept running, nutrition centres and preventative care must be maintained, outreach to financial institutions must be stepped up to mitigate against bank de-risking and girls and women must be educated and employed. Noting that the humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan faces a financing gap of $3.14 billion, he stressed that $614 million is urgently required to support winter preparedness. The humanitarian community has stayed and delivered for the people of Afghanistan, and the international community must do the same. Further, Afghanistan’s de facto leaders must do their part, female humanitarian aid workers must be allowed to work unhindered and girls must be allowed to continue their education. “There are many musts,” he added, “but there are many opportunities — the path is clear, and the dangers equally so”.
MARKUS POTZEL, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said that since the Taliban’s takeover one year ago, the United Nations has remained exceptionally focused on addressing humanitarian and human needs in Afghanistan, which continue to be significant. He is scheduled to brief the Council in a few weeks on the overall situation in the country, he said, adding that the Council will also soon receive a report from the Secretary-General on the topic. The current regime in Afghanistan has not been recognized by any member of the international community as the Taliban must adhere to their international obligations, but instead request recognition based on their having secured territorial control, he pointed out. Noting that sanctions against the Taliban have affected the Afghan economy since they took control, he said the Secretary-General has called for efforts to facilitate access to assets belonging to the Afghan central bank for the benefit of the Afghan people, in addition to international assistance that supports basic human needs.
He went on to say that the Taliban, despite persistent rumours of internal differences, continue to present themselves as a unified, cohesive governing entity. The Kabul-based cabinet meets regularly, with outcomes of meetings reported publicly by the de facto authorities. However, the relationship between the cabinet in Kabul and the Kandahar-based Taliban leader Haibatullah remains unclear, he said. Moreover, practices to govern by decree and through policy decisions, declared to be in adherence with “Islam and Afghan traditions”, have further curtailed fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially for women and girls, such as the 23 March announcement of the continued closure of secondary education for girls. Today, Afghanistan is the only country in the world that denies girls the full right to education, he underscored.
The last three weeks have seen the highest number of civilian casualties in a one-month period since 15 August, in a series of improvised explosive device attacks in Kabul, most claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K), he continued. Citing the July report “Human Rights in Afghanistan” by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which covers the 10-month period since the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021 to 15 June 2022, he said UNAMA is particularly concerned about reports received of action taken by de facto officials from the “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice” departments that result in verbal harassment, ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests of people as they carry out their daily lives. Attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and media workers combined with the impact of broader policy measures taken by the de facto authorities have had a chilling effect on freedom of the media and civic activism. The inaugural meeting of the media violation commission last week is a welcome development, if it indeed works to prevent further restrictions of free media space, he said.
Commending the regional response to the current situation, he said: “The Taliban must understand that neighbours, regional partners, and the wider Islamic world want them to be part of the international community.” Afghanistan’s tremendous potential resources, if properly harnessed, could benefit itself and its region as well as the world. Despite immense resources expended over the past decades, Afghanistan remains significantly underdeveloped, vulnerable and in need of international assistance. United Nations officials and UNAMA, including through its 11 field offices across the country, continue to engage with the de facto authorities, and have facilitated their engagement with community leaders, religious groups, women and civil society, aimed to promote inclusive and participatory governance and the promotion of rights and freedoms. It is vital to move towards a sustained dialogue between the Taliban, other Afghan stakeholders, the wider region and international community. The country’s future stability rests on meeting the Afghan people’s needs, preserving their rights, and reflecting the country’s diversity in all governance structures.
LUCY MORGAN EDWARDS, independent researcher and author, then briefed the Council that, “for those paying attention”, signs of how the current crisis in Afghanistan would unfold were visible in 2001. The same Western media that cheered the military invasion of Afghanistan in September 2001 — telling a gullible Western public that this action would lead to a liberal democracy — feigned surprise in August 2021 that the Taliban had taken Kabul so quickly. Noting that the Taliban’s political influence in rural areas grew exponentially from 2003 in proportion to Western broken promises, corruption and brutal military response, she said that, to understand why this catastrophic failure occurred, it is necessary to examine the character of the post-2001 Western intervention in Afghanistan.
Detailing the same, she said that Western intelligence’s support of unindicted warlords in October 2001 proved fatal to the State-building project. The West failed to address the corrosive issue of impunity — and its effect on the rule of law, legitimacy and the ability to build a State — instead preferring to impose its own version of so-called liberal democracy on Afghanistan. Further, a failure to support human rights, transitional justice or truth and reconciliation created a climate of impunity that emboldened warlords to return to their fiefdoms and engage in illicit activities. Recalling that, in 2005, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commanders thought it appropriate to use local warlords to guard the perimeter of their bases, she said that local Afghans complained of abuses by these “allies”. Feeling their concerns were unheard by the West, they turned to the Taliban.
She also highlighted the West’s failure to work with the tribal system in rural areas, recalling Commander Abdul Haq’s warning that a Western bombing campaign after the events of 11 September 2001, “would change the political landscape overnight” and dismantle the cells already built up within the Taliban to topple the regime from within. She further underscored that the military-industrial complex has been “catastrophic” in Afghanistan, pointing out that United States taxpayers have paid some $300 million per day to fund the war in Afghanistan. Relatedly, the United States has spent around $148 billion to supposedly reconstruct Afghanistan, but reports document many instances in which that money was spent on useless, white-elephant projects. These failures, she noted, have led to the suspicion that United States taxpayer money was recycled and transferred to the arms industry.
She went on to detail the huge amounts of money spent on training Afghanistan’s national army and police force — supplied with military equipment from the United States — also noting that these soldiers were poorly trained and unable to function without United States air support. The West also failed to support Afghanistan’s agricultural sector — always the heart of the country’s economy — which would have been the easiest way to develop the national economy and allow the population to become self-reliant and food secure. Underscoring that the above factors indicate “extreme deception” about what was at the heart of the 20-year Western occupation of Afghanistan and what prompted the sudden withdrawal, she said that — far from building a State that would not play host to terrorism — the entire project was more about “recycling United States and NATO taxpayers’ money into the coffers of private business”.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) recalled that the United States entered Afghanistan to fight terrorism. However, its arrival in the country only strengthened its status as a hotbed of terrorism and a centre for the production and distribution of narcotics. Noting that more than 140 enterprises, including industrial ones, were set up during the Soviet period, he said that not a single enterprise was built during NATO’s 20 years in the country. “Billions in investments have lined the pockets of corrupt American puppets,” he emphasized, noting that Afghanistan has ultimately become dependent on outside assistance without any prospects for independent development. Moreover, despite the irresponsible actions of the United States and NATO forces who regularly launched indiscriminate airstrikes against ordinary Afghans, investigations have not been conducted due to the “gross blackmail exerted by Washington,” he said.
Noting the widespread humanitarian and economic crisis in the country, he said that the United States and its allies, instead of acknowledging their mistakes and supporting the reconstruction of the country, blocked Afghan national financial resources and disconnected the banking system from SWIFT, pushing poor Afghans to the brink and forcing many of them to sell their organs and their children in order to make ends meet. The Russian Federation prioritizes political inclusivity and the upholding of human rights in its bilateral and regional efforts for Afghanistan and provides humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. The international community must engage constructively with the Taliban, he said, stressing that such dialogue will enable effective solutions to address political inclusivity, terrorism and drugs, and human rights.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said that when taking power, the Taliban became responsible for the security and welfare of the Afghan people. They have not delivered. Millions of Afghans need humanitarian assistance. In addition, the Taliban’s imposed restrictions on women’s autonomy, employment and movement has impeded women’s ability to deliver and receive lifesaving assistance, or to generate income to pay for food and basic services. She expressed concern about continued reports of interference, discrimination and corruption, adding that such activity was hindering the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need — particularly internally displaced persons, minorities and households headed by women. Further, there has been an increasing risk of terrorist groups strengthening their foothold in Afghanistan. Frequent terrorist attacks continue to target and kill civilians. The Council’s expectations are clear: Afghan territory must not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists. She said Norway will continue to support the basic human needs of Afghans and do its utmost to help address the economic crisis.
ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon) said the situation in Afghanistan has had an impact on security throughout the region and beyond. The diversity of the Afghan people is scarcely being represented and many people, including women, remain outside the political process. The international community must act as one to relieve the suffering of the Afghan people. She called on the de facto authorities to protect the population, stressing it was their responsibility. It was also their responsibility to promote dialogue between the Taliban and all responsible stakeholders. The humanitarian crisis has been deepened by the paralysis of the country’s banking situation, sanctions, the pandemic and the climate crisis, she said, pointing out that women and children are on the front line of these crises. She also called on donors to promote efforts for humanitarian aid and voiced her support for the work of UNAMA.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico), spotlighting the “tragic reality” faced by millions of Afghans, stressed the need to guarantee unfettered humanitarian access, avoid any interference in the distribution of humanitarian aid and allow women to participate in these tasks. Further, necessary measures must be taken to ensure that transfers of resources to finance humanitarian work actually reach those in need. He went to express regret over “backsliding” in 2022 regarding the rights of women and girls, pointing out that the Taliban has restricted the same through an “unfathomable return” to practices like forced marriages and honour killings. Not allowing women to work limits the purchasing power of families and fuels the vicious circle of poverty, hunger and discrimination. Calling for an end to the exclusion of women from the labour market, he also expressed regret over the Taliban’s decision to suspend secondary education for girls. This action jeopardizes Afghanistan’s ability to overcome the humanitarian crisis. The international community has a responsibility not to allow further deterioration of the human-rights situation in the country, he added.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said that while United Kingdom personnel have left Afghanistan, his country's commitment to the Afghan people remains resolute. Between April 2022 and March 2023, it has committed $676 million in aid to Afghanistan and its Foreign Secretary co-hosted the United Nations humanitarian pledging conference earlier this year, raising $2.4 billion. In contrast, the Russian Federation contributed nothing to the United Nations humanitarian response plan, and China pledged a mere $2 million, he said, adding that both have done little to support the work of humanitarians on the ground. Noting the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the stark human rights situation, he called on the Taliban to meet its commitments to ensure principled, unhindered humanitarian access across the country; uphold basic human rights, most pressingly for women and girls; and ensure Afghanistan is never again a permissive environment for terrorist groups. Strong and consistent United Nations leadership remains crucial to ensuring a well-coordinated and prioritized response, he underscored, affirming his country’s full support to UNAMA in delivering its mandate.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland) said the Taliban have sought to render women invisible and women are quite literally being systematically wiped from public life. Despite international condemnation, the Taliban continue their draconian assault on human rights. The vacuum left by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, dissolved by the Taliban in May, makes robust international monitoring more important. Support for the work of UNAMA’s Human Rights Service and the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan is essential. More than 19 million people remain food insecure, with children suffering the most. Afghanistan now has the highest number of people in emergency food insecurity globally and the health system is on the brink of collapse. Commending the work of United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations on the ground, he said the preservation of the humanitarian space is an overarching priority for Ireland across the sanctions regime. Regretting that the Council has not heard directly from Afghan civil society today, he said the international community must demonstrate its solidarity with them by holding the Taliban to account. The Council must be prepared to consider further measures from its toolbox, including revisiting broad-based privileges that were granted to the Taliban to pursue peace and security.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said that in the aftermath of the withdrawal of foreign forces, his Government established a policy of humanitarian visas for Afghans threatened by the crisis in their country, focused on women and girls. To date, more than 5,000 humanitarian visas have been issued, allowing Afghans to find an opportunity to rebuild their lives. He went on to note that although the prospects for engagement with Kabul are not encouraging, dialogue with de facto authorities must be fostered. Technical contacts that can be of benefit to the local population and to the provision of services should be considered. Voicing regret that the Council could not reach consensus on renewing exception to the travel ban for some of the individuals listed by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) — 1988 Committee — he said preventing Afghan leaders from traveling is not a punishment for misbehaviour, but a measure that limits the possibilities for constructive and pragmatic engagement.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said Afghanistan continues to suffer from terrorism. Noting the persistent and pervasive ties between the Taliban and transnational terrorist groups, he called on the Taliban to denounce terrorist in all its forms and cut ties with terrorist organizations. Underscoring that Afghanistan is today one of the worst places to be a woman, he pointed out that, contrary to their promises, the Taliban are undoing decades of progress in empowering women in Afghan society. Girls are forced out of schools — the only country in the world to impose shocking measures — and forced into early marriages. Women have lost their hard-earned rights to education and jobs. “We should not accept such an aberration to continue,” he stressed, calling on the Taliban to change their course, take steps to lift restrictions on women and girls, respect their human rights, and allow their full and meaningful participation in work, education and public life, as well as their freedom of movement and freedom of speech — critical prerequisites for their country’s long-term peace and stability.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan requires the international community’s attention. There are relentless layers of crises in the country. The Taliban have failed to provide for the Afghan people, repressing and starving, instead of protecting them. The most serious action is the repression and abuse of women and girls, she said, noting that women are denied the right to work and girls have not been allowed to return to school. That is a moral issue and an economic issue. Recently the Taliban has made the delivery of humanitarian assistance more difficult and interfered with deliveries of goods. It has increased taxes on critical assistance and is not protecting humanitarian aid workers. “The Taliban has not provided for the Afghan people,” she said, adding: “The United States will not give up or look way.” It is determined to help Afghan people through the United Nations and the Council. Highlighting her country’s support for UNAMA, she said the United States is the world’s leading donor in Afghanistan and last year gave $775 million in humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
No country that is serious about containing terrorists would advocate to give the Taliban unconditional access to funds in the Afghan central bank, which was hollowed out long ago and has no credible or independent monitoring system to combat the financing of terrorists. The bank on its own cannot carry out responsible monetary policy. She asked countries questioning the United States’ actions: “What are you doing to help? Other than rehash the past and criticize the others.” The Russian Federation has contributed $2 million to the United Nations humanitarian response plan. China’s contribution has been similarly underwhelming. If countries want to help the Afghan people, she suggested that they “put your money where your mouth is” and said her Government will continue to contribute to United Nations efforts toward that end.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said that his country is “appalled” by the deliberate policies of Afghanistan’s de facto authorities to effectively remove women from public life. Noting that over 14 million Afghan women and girls have lost their right to go to high school or university, to work and to move freely, he stressed that these individuals need the Council’s support to preserve their rights and hold the Taliban to its earlier promise that women would be able to exercise their sharia rights. He also called on the de facto authorities to act in good faith and align themselves with global efforts to bring lasting relief to Afghan citizens, spotlighting the untiring efforts of UNAMA and other international organizations in this regard. Expressing concern over the security situation, he urged the de facto authorities to stabilize the situation and desist from arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, extrajudicial killings, collective punishment and the targeting of members of ethnic, tribal and religious groups on mere suspicion. The Taliban must understand that the Council is prepared to constrain them should they continue on the course of action they have chosen, he added.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that the Taliban is responsible for Afghanistan sinking into chaos, and its forceful seizure of power — and all subsequent decisions — have “brought Afghanistan to the brink”. Despite the Taliban’s failure to respect its commitments, however, the international community has worked to help the country’s people. For its part, France has contributed €123 million since September 2021, and the European Union has disbursed €335 million since 2021. Nevertheless, the Taliban is choosing isolation and, far from accepting the international community’s outstretched hand, continues to flout its commitments, including by banning girls’ access to secondary education. To emerge from its isolation, the Taliban must meet five conditions: allow those who wish to safely leave the country to do so; ensure free access for humanitarian assistance across the country; respect the fundamental rights of all, particularly women and girls; form a representative Government; and break links with terrorist groups. “Currently, none of those conditions have been met,” he said.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), voicing concern that more than two months have passed without the appointment of a successor to Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons, urged the swift appointment and the Council’s full engagement with UNAMA. Underscoring that the Taliban have reversed gains made on women’s and girl’s empowerment over the past two decades, she said ensuring the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of life must remain a mainstay in the Council’s demands. Turning to the fragile security situation, she called on the Taliban to live up to its commitments to combat terrorism and on the Council to use the tools at its disposal to ensure that that is the case. She also urged the redoubling of efforts by those involved to come to agreement to restore the essential operation of the Afghan economy. Calibrated engagement with the Taliban needs to be maintained, she said, highlighting that Islamic countries have a special role in engaging with the Taliban to help promote religious and cultural dialogue, respect for diversity and elimination of discrimination. Her country stands ready to contribute to a renewed efforts for the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan and its people, as it has done over the last five decades with more than $2 billion in humanitarian assistance.
GIDEON KINUTHIA NDUNG'U (Kenya) said the international community must consider ways of engaging with the Taliban to articulate practicable near-term policy objectives to rebuild Afghanistan’s economic and social fabric. The engagements could address how to ensure that Afghanistan’s frozen assets are deployed in a structured manner with clear monitoring mechanisms to help the ailing economy. However, those engagements should be predicated on the Taliban committing in word and deed to two fundamental imperatives, he underscored. They must uphold the rights of the millions of Afghan people without any discrimination to gender, age, ethnicity or religion, and accord equal rights and opportunities to women and girls as their male counterparts in all aspects. In addition, the Taliban must disassociate with listed terrorist groups and ensure that Afghanistan is no longer a base for such terror groups as Islamic State and Al-Qaida to launch attacks in Afghanistan and afield.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said the recent findings of the 1988 Committee’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team report indicate that the current authorities need to take much stronger action to fulfil their anti-terrorism commitments. There is a significant increase in the presence of ISIL-K in the country and their capacity to carry out attacks, she added, stressing the need for concrete progress in ensuring that such proscribed terrorists, entities or their aliases do not get any support, tacit or direct, either from Afghan soil or from the terror sanctuaries based in the region. She called for an inclusive dispensation in Afghanistan which represents all sections of the Afghan society, and emphasized that a broad-based, inclusive, and representative formation is necessary for both domestic and international engagement. Voicing concern at developments in Afghanistan which directly impact the well-being of women and girls, she called for the protection of the rights of women and girls, so that the long-fought gains of the last two decades are not reversed.
ZHANG JUN (China), Security Council President for August, speaking in his national capacity, said one year ago, Afghanistan was going through chaos, which shocked the world. A 20-year war ended in panic. A war waged in the name of counter-terrorism was not successful. Instead, terrorist groups continue to operate. Claiming 200,000 lives and leaving millions of people homeless and displaced, a war waged under the banner of democracy has left behind a fragmented and shattered country, he said, adding that the fiasco of the last 20 years has proven that military intervention is not the right way. The tragedy in Afghanistan should never be allowed to be repeated. The withdrawal of foreign troops is not the end of responsibility but a time for reflection.
Noting that the interim Afghan Government has promoted political dialogue, he said he expected Afghanistan will live in harmony with all countries, including its neighbours, and called for the international community to support in a rational manner. The rights of Afghan women and girls should be guaranteed. Noting the humanitarian situation is very grave, he said it is hypocritical to advocate for the rights of women and girls while slashing humanitarian aid and applying unilateral sanctions. The current economic and humanitarian situation has been caused by foreign sanctions. The country’s overseas assets belong to the Afghan people, he said, urging the United States to return these assets to the Afghan people in full, without conditions. As Afghanistan’s largest neighbour, China has always supported that country’s peace and development. For example, since last winter, China has provided more than 300 million Yuan in emergency assistance and it is supporting Afghanistan’s integration into the regional economy.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, noted the United States representative’s call for the Russian Federation and China to spend more on Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Instead of acknowledging its mistakes and trying to remedy them, the United States is now reproaching others for “not being willing to settle other people’s accounts”. He called on the United States to pay for its mistakes, return to the Afghan people the money that has been stolen from them and focus on settling its own accounts after 20 years of “thoughtless occupation”.
Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), taking the floor again, said her country has not turned its back on Afghanistan. It has remained in the country to provide essential assistance to the Afghan people, working closely with the international community and partners to support the establishment of mechanisms that will protect, preserve and disburse on a limited basis Afghan central bank assets for the benefit of the Afghan people. However, the United States will not turn over those funds to the Taliban to be used for their purposes that do not contribute to the well-being of Afghans, she stressed.
NASEER AHMAD FAIQ (Afghanistan) said the Council’s discussion is taking place one year since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan by force. The country is going through one of the worst social, political, economic and humanitarian crisis at a global level. Its people are being impacted by multiple natural and man-made catastrophes, such as floods, poverty, unemployment, internal displacement and migration. Women and girls, who comprise half of the population, are deprived of their legitimate rights and are being systematically erased from social and public life. The doors of secondary schools for girls are still closed. “In general, the outlook for a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is bleak and opaque,” he said.
The good news is that, compared to previous years, there has been a noticeable decrease in the level of civilian casualties, an increase in the national income resources and a sharp drop in corruption, he said. Yet the Taliban de facto authorities have failed to earn national and international trust and have not fulfilled their commitments on core issues. He reiterated a call for a national dialogue to break the current impasse and provide the Afghan people with an opportunity to discuss and agree on core issues, through a framework or roadmap to create a representative, inclusive system. This cannot be achieved without the support of the United Nations to engage actively with all stakeholders, which must have a stronger role and be engaged beyond humanitarian assistance. He called on the Council and all international partners to support and facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive political roadmap to guide all relevant efforts towards an inclusive, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
He called on the Taliban to protect and respect the fundamental human rights of all Afghan citizens without prejudice based on gender, ethnic and religious identity. This includes reopening girls’ schools and restoring women’s full human rights. It also includes honouring their amnesty announcement immediately ending detainment, torture, forced displacements, extrajudicial killings of former security forces and civilians, and bringing the perpetrators of these acts to justice, he said. These acts violate international human rights and international humanitarian laws as well as Islamic values and principles.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said the catastrophic situation in Afghanistan requires those foreign forces that illegally invaded and occupied the country under the guise of fighting terrorism and left nothing but devastation in their wake to take responsibility. The international community should continue to support Afghanistan, especially through the provision of humanitarian and development assistance that has been critical in keeping the Afghan people alive, maintaining basic services, and bolstering the economy. She called for the return of frozen assets belonging to the Afghan people, noting that they are critical in assisting the Afghan economy and saving lives and should not be politicized or conditional. The Taliban must heed the international community's repeated calls for the formation of an inclusive Government that accurately reflects Afghanistan's multi-ethnic society. As the security, stability and prosperity of Afghanistan are inseparable from those of its neighbours, the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, must use its capacities to bring peace and prosperity in order to improve Afghanistan's current deteriorating humanitarian situation and ensure the country's long-term peace and development.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the international community’s primary interest is the restoration of sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan, to avoid another civil war. Also vital is continued humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan, he said, urging the international community to fulfil the Secretary-General’s call for $4.2 billion in humanitarian assistance and economic support to its people. He called for the release of all of Afghanistan’s frozen national reserves and the creation of effective mechanisms for their disbursement to and use by the Afghan people, warning that without such support, economic collapse and chaos may be the consequence. Voicing concern about the disagreement within the Council on the resumption of the travel ban exemption for the 13 Taliban leaders, he also warned that a geopolitical divergence on Afghanistan between major powers would have serious implications for Afghanistan and the entire region. Moreover, isolating the Kabul leadership is unlikely to persuade it to change its policies, much less its ideology, he said, underscoring that only through sustained engagement can the international community’s objectives in Afghanistan with respect to human rights, political inclusivity and counter-terrorism be advanced.