Afghanistan’s Future Depends on Taliban’s Engagement with World, But Restrictions on Women Signal Lack of International Commitments, Briefer Warns Security Council
Country Representative Shares Message from Afghan Girls: “Do Not Let Our Country Become the Cemetery of Our Goals and Dreams”
Afghanistan’s future depends on mutual engagement between the Taliban and the international community, a senior United Nations official for the country told the Security Council today, as members diverged over both the merits of that assessment and the correct path towards economic recovery in the only country in the world that bans secondary education for girls.
Markus Potzel, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, reporting that the Taliban’s ongoing ban on secondary education for girls is unique in the world, said growing restrictions on women’s rights signal that the Taliban is indifferent to more than 50 per cent of the population and willing to risk international isolation. He also pointed out that, in light of continuing terrorist presence, unanswered questions about the Taliban’s counter-terrorism commitments have further deepened the trust gap between it and the international community.
He went on to observe that the international community has adopted a pragmatic approach to dealing with the Taliban, seeking to deepen trade ties and build stability to avoid the collapse of the country. However, if the Taliban does not respond to the needs of all elements of Afghan society and urgently engage with the international community, it is unclear what could come next. Detailing likely fragmentation, isolation, poverty and internal conflict — leading to mass migration, a domestic environment conducive to terrorism and greater misery for Afghans — he stressed: “That’s why we have to engage”.
Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), recalling that the Taliban banned the cultivation and production of all narcotics in April, said that the international community will see over the coming months how that ban and its consequences will unfold. She pointed out that, although illicit cultivation may seem the only alternative to starvation for many, terrorist and organized criminal groups can profit from illicit drugs. The international community, therefore, must respond to these trafficking challenges while extending as much help as possible to those affected by them.
Fawzia Koofi, former Deputy Speaker of the Afghan Parliament, then stressed that the people of Afghanistan feel betrayed because the world “is still not vocal about the current gender apartheid in Afghanistan under the Taliban”. Generations of Afghan women — 55 per cent of Afghan society — are excluded from public life and have become prisoners within the walls of their own homes. When they protest on the streets, they are silenced with violence, arrests and torture. She voiced their hope that the Council will act on their behalf, facilitating a stronger mechanism for political dialogue — the only solution to the problem.
In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s continued repression of women and girls. Many also called on the de facto authorities to address the illicit narcotics trade and live up to their counter-terrorism commitments. Others stressed the need to engage with the Taliban to avoid Afghanistan’s collapse, calling on the international community to prioritize alleviating the humanitarian crisis and stabilizing the economy, rather than politicizing these issues.
The representative of the Russian Federation underlined that the international community must maintain dialogue with the new authorities in Afghanistan “without using blackmail”. Emphasizing that Western donors are not interested in expanding assistance to the country beyond that required for basic needs and early-recovery programmes, she also spotlighted the continued freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the United States and its allies despite multiple appeals for this practice to cease. Further, Western States are trying to shift the blame for the failure of their 20-year war onto the new authorities.
Responding, the representative of the United States pointed out that no country serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan would advocate for giving the Taliban ready access to these funds. Rather, Council members should focus their attention on figuring out what they can do to address the country’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crises. For its part, he said, the United States has provided an additional $327 million in humanitarian assistance and has recently announced the establishment of an alliance to foster career-enhancing educational and entrepreneurial activities for Afghan women.
Kenya’s representative, while noting that all stakeholders must identify suitable mechanisms to disburse Afghanistan’s frozen assets and revive its economy, declared that the Taliban must allow girls their right to education and mainstream women into the economy. Spotlighting the lack of progress on the “repugnant restrictions” on these individuals, he called on the Taliban to take its obligations seriously if it wishes to receive international recognition.
Echoing that, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said that revitalizing Afghanistan’s economy will not be possible if half of the population is excluded from participation. The Council, therefore, must insist on an inclusive Government and the full participation of women, tackling in parallel that situation of women and girls, economic recovery and security. For its part, the United Arab Emirates will keep constructive lines of communication with the Taliban open, she said.
Several other countries in the region also presented their perspective, with the representatives of Iran and Kyrgyzstan urging the international community not to let other conflicts divert attention from the situation in Afghanistan. “We must avoid another civil war, rising terrorism, drug trafficking or new refugees, which none of Afghanistan’s neighbours are in a position to accommodate,” added Pakistan’s representative. Iran’s delegate also stressed that, as Afghanistan is a member of the international community, the de facto authorities must acknowledge this fact and fulfil their international obligations.
The representative of Afghanistan said that the people of his country and the international community have waited more than a year for the Taliban to fulfil its commitments. However, “the Taliban has disappointed all of us”, he observed, calling on the Council to act — united — to eliminate terrorist threats, protect Afghan women and girls, increase humanitarian support and help ensure an inclusive future for all Afghans. Quoting Somaya Faruqi, former captain of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, he urged: “Do not let our country become the cemetery of our goals and dreams”.
Also speaking today were representatives of Norway, Ghana, India, Ireland, China, United Kingdom, Mexico, Gabon, Brazil, Albania and France.
The representatives of the Russian Federation and the United States took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:39 p.m.
MARKUS POTZEL, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said that positive developments in Afghanistan have been outweighed by the negatives in recent months, in particular the ongoing ban on secondary education for girls. This is unique in the world, he underscored, pointing out that growing restrictions on women’s rights signal that the Taliban is indifferent to more than 50 per cent of the population and willing to risk international isolation. The relegation of women and girls to the home not only deprives them of their rights but denies Afghanistan as a whole the benefit of the significant contributions that women and girls have to offer. Also pointing out that some of the Taliban’s claimed and acknowledged achievements are eroding, he said that recent months have seen a steady rise in security incidents monitored by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), including armed clashes, criminality and high-profile terrorist attacks. The Taliban dismissed the Mission’s earlier warnings about the capabilities of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-KP). Further, in light of continuing terrorist presence, unanswered questions about the Taliban’s counter-terrorism commitments have further deepened the trust gap between it and the international community.
The economic situation remains tenuous, with per capita income collapsing to 2007 levels despite the Taliban’s claims to have increased exports, maintained the value of the Afghani and generated solid revenue collection, he continued. Like many aspects of Taliban governance, “the details behind their claims remain opaque”, he said. Noting that the economic downturn partly results from liquidity problems related to Afghanistan’s isolation from the international banking system, he pointed out that liquidity remains heavily dependent on the cash that the United Nations continues to bring in for humanitarian operations. However, even this funding is uncertain as the 2022 humanitarian response plan has only received $1.9 billion out of the required $4.4 billion. In the immediate term, humanitarian partners require $614 million to support priority winter preparedness, in addition to the $154 million required to pre-position essential supplies before areas are cut off by the weather. Noting the United States’ creation of an Afghan fund that will place half of the $7 billion of Afghan reserves in an account in Switzerland, he said that he has been informed that this is a temporary measure until there is greater confidence in the ability of Afghanistan’s central bank to safeguard against money laundering and terrorist financing. But these measures will not meet the Afghan people’s longer-term needs.
Many donors feel that the Taliban should not be relieved of its responsibility to meet the needs of the population it controls, he reported. While the Taliban has committed to private-sector-led growth that will prevent aid dependency and conditionality, this will require practical steps that — so far — have not been taken. Pointing out that the Taliban’s self-identified emirate has not been recognized by any State, he said that the international community has adopted a pragmatic approach, seeking to deepen trade ties and build stability to avoid the collapse of the country. However, if the Taliban does not respond to the needs of all elements of Afghan society and constructively engage within the very limited window of opportunity with the international community, it is unclear what could come next. Further fragmentation, isolation, poverty and internal conflict are likely, which would lead to potential mass migration, a domestic environment conducive to terrorism and greater misery for the Afghan population. “That’s why we have to engage,” he stressed.
GHADA FATHI WALY, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that in April, a complete ban on cultivation and production of all narcotics was enforced by the Taliban de facto authorities. However, they granted a grace period that practically exempted the most recent major harvest of opium poppy, which was concluded in July. The national average price of opium skyrocketed since the announcement, reaching $190 per kilogram of dry opium and $127 per kilogram of fresh opium in July — more than double what it was a year ago. Pointing out that severe droughts have destroyed food harvests at a time when the Afghan economy is collapsing, illicit cultivation may seem to be the only alternative to starvation for many, she noted.
Over the next months, the international community will see how the narcotics ban and its consequences will unfold, as farmers in the country make decisions on cultivation for the next major harvest, amid dire economic and political circumstance, she continued. Also pointing out that it remains unclear to what extent the ban would be enforced by the de facto authorities, she highlighted that terrorist and organized criminal groups can profit from illicit drugs and other forms of trafficking such as firearms. UNODC is conducting surveys on the opium cultivation in the country remotely, and in a week will publish estimates of how much heroin was produced from the most recent harvest. In neighbouring countries, UNDOC has bolstered the capacities of border liaison offices, port control and air cargo control units, and supported practical measures to counter illicit firearms trafficking.
Stressing that interventions inside Afghanistan are also necessary to help the Afghans in need, she said that UNODC is also working with other partners of the Organization on health interventions related to the use of illicit drugs in the country, in support of the United Nations Transitional Engagement Framework for Afghanistan. She outlined UNODC’s efforts to provide health services as well as diagnostic kits for HIV and hepatitis, as well as launching an initiative to map treatment facilities and identify factors facing high-risk drug users. It has also supported alternative livelihoods for opium poppy farmers in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which account for 72 per cent of its cultivation. “Afghanistan is at a sensitive juncture,” she reported, emphasizing that the international community needs to be ready to respond to the drug challenges and illicit flows emanating from the country, while extending as much help as possible to those affected by illicit drugs.
FAWZIA KOOFI, former Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Afghanistan, conveying the message of the Afghan men and women with whom she spoke in preparation for the briefing, stressed: “The people of Afghanistan are disappointed, horrified and feel betrayed that the world is still not vocal about the current gender apartheid in Afghanistan under the Taliban.” Moreover, they are disappointed that, during the Assembly’s seventy-seventh session, world leaders did not talk about their suffering. Nonetheless, they are hopeful that the Council will act on their behalf, she said. According to various estimates by the United Nations and other groups, over 2.3 million Afghans have fled the country since August. Millions more are looking to leave, desperate for a way out due to violence, uncertainty, economic deprivation and the Taliban’s brutality and lack of governance. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan has become a country with no laws and its Constitution is in limbo. There is no place for women in the country and no future for its people. The country has yet again become a safe haven for military extremist groups who are trying to overthrow their own Governments, inspired by the Taliban’s victory.
Afghanistan has become “a place of horror for women”, she continued, noting that the Taliban has issued more than 31 sanctions, edicts and orders to eliminate women in the country, banning them from their basic human rights, such as access to education, employment and liberty. As a result, generations of Afghan women — 55 per cent of Afghan society — are excluded from public life and have become prisoners within the walls of their own homes. The country has become the only one in the world where girls from grades 6 to 12 are banned from going to school. Women who were the sole breadwinners in their families — constituting 30 per cent of civil servants — can no longer go to their offices, leaving them with no means of income while their posts are being filled by men. In the last year, 300 media outlets were closed and there are no women journalists in 17 provinces. Before the handover of Kabul to Taliban, there were 2,756 female journalists. Now only 600 female journalists work with the media, as others were either fired or faced enormous security risk that they had to leave their jobs. When women protest on the streets, they are silenced with violence, arrests, torture and are disappeared.
She recalled the Council’s decision in June 2011 to separate the Taliban Sanctions Committee from that of the Al-Qaida, and then its later decision to delist a significant number of Taliban from the 1988 Committee’s sanctions regime. The result is evident in the new wave of violence, which includes targeted extrajudicial killings and mass killing of different segments of the population. Those killings amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, she underscored, urging the Council to recognize them accordingly. “It’s high time for the Council to identify and list individuals involved in those atrocities,” she stressed, further calling on the Council to extend and strengthen sanctions on concerned Taliban figures, so that the group can commit to a real dialogue for genuine peace in the country. Moreover, the Council must initiate and facilitate a stronger mechanism for political dialogue — the only solution to the problem. She voiced support for engagement but stressed the need for clear conditions. “With due respect to my UNAMA colleagues, they have failed to fulfil their commitment on political dialogue and human rights,” she said, calling on the Council to stand with the people of Afghanistan in their struggle for a safe, peaceful and secure country.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said that one year after the Taliban takeover, many of the Afghan people’s worst fears are playing out before the world’s eyes. Against the background of a deteriorating humanitarian situation, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned of alarming disruptions to women and girls’ access to basic health services with potentially catastrophic consequences. Calling for the Taliban to adopt measures to end and prevent violations and abuses against children, she pledged support for the Children in Armed Conflict Analysis and Outreach Doha Hub in Qatar. Further, regarding the country’s opium cultivation, the de facto authorities should be held responsible for the distribution of illicit drugs globally, particularly in light that the proceeds may be used to finance terrorism domestically and abroad. However, the United Nations and the international community should continue their support for Afghanistan, noting that this means engaging with the de facto authorities. “Non-engagement, isolation or total collapse is neither in the interest of the Afghan people nor the international community.” To this end, she highlighted the unique position of UNAMA in supporting the Afghan people. She also pointed out that Afghanistan is the only country in the world to deny girls the right to secondary education, adding that leaders who oppress half their population will not gain legitimacy from the Council, the international community nor the Afghan people.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) called for an end to the Taliban’s restrictions imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls, as well as an end to the attacks on schools, hospitals and key infrastructure. Turning to the continuous harbouring of terrorist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, ISIL-KP and Al-Qaida, he stressed that this situation runs counter to the Taliban’s commitment concerning counter-terrorism. He also noted he was “hesitantly encouraged” by the decision of the de facto authorities to facilitate the return of Afghans, including former Government officials and political figures, from abroad along with its desire to provide them with safety guarantees and limited employment opportunities. Highlighting the recent diplomatic engagement between the Taliban and countries in the region, he welcomed the meeting of national security advisers where the de facto authorities were encouraged to create inclusive political structures, pursue sustainable domestic and foreign policy, ensure compliance with international law and promote inclusive governance and respect for human rights. While encouraging further support by donors to address the shortfall in meeting the country’s humanitarian needs, he urged that Taliban to focus its attention on girls’ education, poverty alleviation and improved trade and economic conditions, which are the “legitimate expectation of the governed from those who govern”.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said that India has shipped 40,000 metric tons of wheat, 36 tons of essential medicine, 500,000 doses of COVID‑19 vaccines and 28 tons of disaster relief aid to the Indira Gandhi Children Hospital in Kabul, the Afghan Red Crescent Society, and specialized United Nation agencies, including the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Humanitarian assistance should be based on the principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence, be disbursed non-discriminatorily and reach the most vulnerable first. India’s approach is guided by the Council’s resolution 2593 (2021) that includes, among others, ensuring that Afghan territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks or harbour and train terrorist such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. She strongly condemned the recent attacks on Gurudwara Dashmesh Pita Sahibji in Kabul and the one close to the Russian Federation’s embassy. Drug trafficking is another menace for the region, she stressed, spotlighting large shipments that were seized in India’s high seas and ports. She called for further cooperation to understand, identify, track and disrupt the illegitimate networks of drug traders and terrorists. More so, a broad-based, inclusive and representative formation is necessary for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. India will continue to play its role towards these goals and the interests of Afghan people continue to be at the hearts of such efforts, she emphasized.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland), condemning the collective punishment against Hazara communities, added: “The Taliban know only how to maintain power and consolidate control at the expense of minorities, on the backs of Afghan women and girls.” As it is the Taliban alone conducting this regime of repression, it is the Taliban alone who can undo this harm. With winter approaching, the country faces alarming levels of food insecurity driven by economic shocks and aggravated by climate change, continuing violence and political upheaval. Sustained levels of support from the international community will be required. While donors should stick to their commitments, humanitarian support alone is not enough. The international community must look at constructive ways to make space for more assistance on basic needs, which will help to build resilience and to prevent the worsening of crises. Describing attacks, intimidation, and aggression against women humanitarian workers by the Taliban as “truly reprehensible,” he stressed that these actions have driven capable women from their jobs, denying them the opportunity to work and provide for their families. Further, Taliban actions are crippling the effectiveness of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations to provide support, he said, calling on the Taliban to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access and to guarantee the safety and security of humanitarian workers. “We can and must hold the Taliban to account for their actions,” he stressed, noting that it is the Security Council’s responsibility to respond and to call out abuses and violations.
GENG SHUANG (China), urging the international community to not pay lip service to phrases like “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned”, called upon them to remain engaged with the Afghan interim Government. It is not constructive to keep accusing and pressuring that interim Government or to instrumentalize travel ban exemptions as a bargaining chip in negotiations; this will only make the door for dialogue narrower and deepen confrontation. The international community should prioritize alleviating the humanitarian crisis and stabilizing the economy, not politicize these issues. Affirming that the rights and interests of women and girls in receiving education and employment should be guaranteed, he said he looked forward to the Afghan authorities making greater efforts. He also called on the Taliban to fulfil its commitments and cut ties with terrorist groups to prevent the country from becoming a hub for terrorism again. Moreover, the Afghan interim Government’s efforts to combat poppy cultivation deserved encouragement. International efforts should help implement alternative cultivations to eliminate the source of drugs. In the long run, all parties should help Afghanistan restore its domestic markets and regional integration. He highlighted the resulting consensus of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s meeting in September on Afghanistan, towards building an independent, neutral, unified, democratic and peaceful country and eliminating terrorism, war and drugs. Lastly, he pledged support for the United Nation’s important role in the peaceful reconstruction of the country and for UNAMA carrying out its mandated activities, adding that China will continue to help Afghanistan within its capabilities through bilateral and multilateral channels.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said the assertions by some Security Council members to politicize the humanitarian, economic and human rights crisis in Afghanistan are neither accurate nor helpful. In noting her country’s $306 million contribution to humanitarian and development assistance and its position as the second largest donor to the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund, she reiterated the United Kingdom’s continued commitment to working with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others on economic stabilization. While restoring liquidity to Afghanistan’s banking system is important, there must be an independent central bank that operates transparently, has professional leadership and enacts proper controls to prevent the diversion of funds for terrorism. Returning reserves without these essential steps, she explained, “is neither responsible nor compatible with a genuine commitment to stopping terrorist financing.” Afghanistan’s problems will not be resolved until there are the fundamental building blocks for stability. Therefore, the Taliban must uphold human rights, allow unhindered humanitarian access and meet their counter-terrorism commitments under the Doha Agreement. In addition, they must stabilize the economy by creating an enabling environment for greater investment, ensuring transparency on revenue and budget and enabling women to contribute economically. In welcoming the appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, she called upon the Taliban to cooperate and urged Council members to support her on implementing UNAMA’s mandate.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) spotlighted the Taliban’s lack of progress on its promises to the international community, including the regression of Afghan women’s and girls’ rights, with women having difficulty accessing justice, renewing driving licenses and work permits and obtaining basic services such as health and education. Moreso, girls have been made vulnerable to forced labour and early marriage. “Bearing this in mind, we once again call on the Taliban to reverse the decision in suspending secondary education for girls,” she emphasized. Further, the continued presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan is concerning, including reports of direct links to Al-Qaida, she noted, adding that Afghanistan cannot become a base of operations nor a refuge for terrorists. Since economic recovery is fundamental for a stable Afghanistan, economic development should be a priority. Citing the United Nations Children's Fund’s (UNICEF) estimates and the World Bank’s forecasts on the economic effects of segregating women, she questioned how the Taliban could ask for the support of the international community to reactive the Afghan economy when it obstructs the participation of women in economic life. The Afghan people cannot forgo women’s valuable economic contribution, especially in the face of urgent humanitarian needs. Highlighting the work of regional States, she urged them to continue their progress in stabilizing Afghanistan. As the international community has already demonstrated its commitment to Afghanistan through humanitarian support and UNAMA, the Taliban must respond by protecting women’s and girls’ rights and addressing terrorism. Expressing gratitude to the agencies, funds and programs on the ground, she also highlighted UNAMA’s work in combatting illicit arms tracking.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) called for decisive actions, noting that Afghanistan’s economic, humanitarian and security challenges required concerted efforts on the part of the international community. The Taliban must engage in open dialogue, demonstrate flexibility to improve the livelihoods of millions of Afghans and ensure Afghanistan is not a haven for any terrorist group. It should also urgently unite the country and form an inclusive Government which represents all ethnic communities and vulnerable groups, including women, youth and persons with disabilities. He encouraged all donors to scale up their humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and called for the necessary resources for farmers in order for them to have the capacity to farm alternative crops. In that regard, and noting the ban on opium farming as a positive step, he underscored the need for long-term solutions and pragmatic approaches that are climate-resistant agriculture investments to improve food security and self-reliance. He also noted that all stakeholders must identify suitable mechanisms and frameworks to disburse Afghanistan’s frozen assets and revive its economy. Spotlighting the lack of progress on the “repugnant restrictions” on women in Afghanistan, he urged that the Taliban “do what is right — allow the girls their right to get an education and mainstream women into the economy by granting them opportunities to work.” The Taliban must take seriously its obligations on all fronts if they desire and expect to receive international recognition. He also welcomed the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, adding he stood ready to support the Afghan people’s safety and well-being.
AURÉLIE FLORE KOUMBA PAMBO (Gabon), calling on the Afghan authorities to end restrictions on the freedoms of women and girls, underscored that the inalienable, fundamental right to education — particularly secondary education — must be guaranteed for girls. She further called on those in power to “put women back at the heart” of Afghanistan’s political, social and economic life. Turning to security, she expressed concern over drug trafficking, increasing terrorist attacks by ISIL-KP and the presence of foreign fighters on Afghanistan’s territory. On the humanitarian front, she underlined the need for an effective humanitarian intervention plan, as food insecurity has reached disquieting levels and winter is approaching. The consequences of climate change are exacerbating this situation, and urgent action is needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. She therefore called on donors to contribute more to the humanitarian response plan for the country. Also highlighting the need for dialogue between the major protagonists in Afghanistan, she urged the international community to maintain its efforts to foster stability and enduring peace in the country.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) stated that the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan sheds light on a number of positive developments, such as the return of former Government officials and political figures from abroad; greater engagement among de facto cabinet members, local leaders and constituencies — including tribal leaders, civil society and the media; and a decrease in the overall number of conflict-related security incidents and civilian casualties. Meanwhile the same report raises unsettling concerns, chief among them being allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture and other forms of human rights violations as well as threats, arbitrary arrests and detentions against human rights activists, journalists and media workers. In addition, the observations on the continuing hardship of Afghan women and girls are particularly disturbing. Their rights must be entirely upheld and their presence in public life guaranteed, he added, if the country is to follow a sustainable path ahead. Therefore, he called on the de facto authorities to respect its previous commitments and form an inclusive Government, with adequate participation of women along with ethnic and religious minorities. He then reiterated that any travel bans should be assessed in depth, while also calling for the unfreezing of assets held by local financial institutions. Recalling his country’s policy on humanitarian visas, with a particular focus on women and girls, he shared that more than 5,000 of those have been issued to Afghans threatened by the crisis.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) expressed concern over the continued deprivation of basic rights, arbitrary exclusion of women and denial of their humanity. By keeping girls out of school, the Taliban is normalizing their unequal treatment, she pointed out, adding: "There is no rationale for excluding or oppressing women.” The effective protection of universal rights must be a condition for any form of engagement. The international community must ensure these rights are central in all efforts to secure order and the rule of law in Afghanistan; it must not concede fundamental norms in search for a semblance of security or stability. In expressing her country’s strong support for UNAMA, she called upon the de facto authorities to ensure UNAMA’s full and unimpeded freedom of movement and cut ties with terrorist networks and groups. The de facto authorities must earn their acceptance and legitimacy by heeding these minimal demands and their international commitments, she emphasized.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) pointed out that the discrimination against women and girls, collapse of the economy, terrorist attacks, extreme weather events and aid shortages, among others, have created a perfect storm in Afghanistan. The Afghan economy must be revitalized in order the prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. To that end, she welcomed the United States’ announcement on establishing the Afghan Fund, which will manage $3.5 billion of Afghan central banks. However, further steps are need by States and international financial institutions to ease financial transactions, reactivate banking services and mitigate banks’ excessive de-risking, she said. However, revitalizing the economy would not be possible if half the population was excluded from participation, she said, expressing regret that the Council was not able to issue a statement on Afghan girls’ education and other challenges. The situation of women and girls, economic recovery and security are all issues that threaten peace and security and should be tackled in parallel by the Council with the assistance of UNAMA. Further, the Taliban’s issuance of edicts, without taking the interests and wishes of the Afghan people into account, will fuel further discontent in the mid- to long-term, she observed, noting the emergence of new anti-Taliban groups and related security incidents. It is critical that the Council insists on an inclusive Government and the full participation of women. Her country is committed to keeping open constructive lines of communication with the Taliban, she said, adding that it also remains steadfast in its support to the Afghan people and will continue to constructively engage with the Council and through regional arrangements to improve the situation in Afghanistan.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) said that, as the people of Afghanistan continue to deal with the consequences, Western States express outrage over the Taliban’s 12-month reign while trying to shift the blame for the failure of their 20-year war onto the new authorities. Recalling the recent attack on the Russian embassy in Kabul, she stated that terrorists seek to destabilize Afghanistan, which would create a hub of instability that could spill over into Central Asia and the Russian Federation. She also expressed concern over increased narcotics production in the country, which has reached an unprecedented scale in recent years. This is not surprising, however, as this problem was swept under the carpet by the former administration in Kabul and its masters in Washington, D.C. On the socioeconomic situation, she pointed out that Western donors are not interested in expanding assistance beyond basic needs and early recovery programmes, also spotlighting the continued freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the United States and its allies despite multiple appeals for this practice to cease. Further, evidence of war crimes by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have not been included in the reports of United Nations entities — “as though they never happened” — and she expressed hope that the International Criminal Court will unfreeze its work to collect such evidence and hold those responsible accountable. The international community must maintain dialogue with the new authorities in Afghanistan “without using blackmail”, she added.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), underscoring the importance of “remaining clear-eyed in dealings with the Taliban”, said that his country is doing everything it can to assist women and girls in light of the Taliban’s destructive policies. The United States recently announced the Alliance for Afghan Women’s Economic Resilience, which will foster career-enhancing educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for Afghan women, and he called on Council members to join in creative ways to support all Afghans during this “particularly harrowing time”. Further, the United States has established a fund to benefit the people of Afghanistan that will protect and preserve targeted disbursements of $3.5 billion in Afghanistan’s central bank reserves to provide greater stability to the national economy. Noting that some Council members “have made it a sport to criticize our efforts”, he underscored that no country that is serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan would advocate for giving the Taliban ready access to these funds. Rather, such members’ attention would be better spent on figuring out what more they can do to address the ongoing humanitarian and economic crises in the country. For its part, the United States has provided an additional $327 million in humanitarian assistance and will continue to focus these discussions on what Council members can do to help Afghanistan. To the Russian Federation’s representative, he said that “you were chased out of Afghanistan in the 1990s” and therefore are not in a position to lecture the United States or anyone else. “It’s your neighbourhood and now you need to step up,” he added.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), Council President for September, speaking in her national capacity, stressed that human rights, in particular the rights of women and children, are being flouted and trampled by the Taliban in contempt of their prior commitments. She also expressed great concern regarding the persistent violence against women, their exclusion from public life and imposition of the “full veil”, as well as restrictions on accessing public services, secondary education and jobs. She called for the end to granting impunity to perpetrators of such violations and the implementation of UNAMA’s recommendation on human rights. Noting that the security situation in Afghanistan remains extremely fragile, she pointed out that ISIL-KP continues to show that it can strike in new provinces and attack both civilians and diplomatic targets. She also stressed that ties between the Taliban and Al-Qaida have not been broken, in contravention to the demands by the Council. Spotlighting that the country remains one of the three countries that together cultivate 95 per cent of opium poppy, she reported that trafficking of methamphetamine produced in Afghanistan is further developing. Regarding the humanitarian situation, her country has dispersed over €120 million of humanitarian aid since August 2021, along with emergency aid to the victims of floods and the earthquake in June. Adding that her country has also participated in the European Union’s financing efforts mobilizing over €1 billion, she demanded full and unimpeded access toward such assistance. Emphasizing that the international community is ready to work with the country, she said that now is not the time to tone down its demands or provide financial concessions to the Taliban.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, asked the representative of the United States to recall the state in which the former Soviet Union left Afghanistan, along with what Afghanistan became with the United States’ assistance. The issue is not who performed better or worse, she stressed; rather, the Russian Federation is against the United States shifting responsibility to anyone else for what was done to Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), also taking the floor a second time to respond, said that the Russian Federation is determined — “perhaps desperate” — to demonstrate that the United States is as violent, duplicitous and manipulative as Moscow is behaving in Ukraine. “You will never succeed,” he underscored.
NASEER AHMAD FAIQ (Afghanistan), noting that the “main motto at the United Nations is to leave no one behind”, reported that Afghan women and girls under the Taliban’s rule are now deprived of their fundamental human rights and freedoms and are being systematically erased from all social, political and economic spheres of life. Such rights and freedoms must be restored, the doors of schools must be opened to girls immediately. Women must be allowed to fully exercise their rights, build their capacities and participate in the rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan. Calling on the Council to support Afghan women, he also expressed hope that pledging countries will continue supporting the humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan. Humanitarian aid must be delivered without hindrance to all vulnerable people across the country, but such assistance is not a sustainable solution. Rather, this will require concrete steps such as the resumption of development assistance to national programmes implemented by an accountable, legitimate and inclusive Government.
He went on to say that the people of Afghanistan and the international community have waited for more than a year for the Taliban to fulfil its commitments. However, “the Taliban has disappointed all of us,” he observed. The Taliban must cease its actions that contradict international law and Islamic values and, with the country on the verge of economic collapse, genuine cooperation between all stakeholders is needed. Only with a representative, accountable and functional system that fully includes women can Afghanistan be saved from the ongoing crisis. Calling for the Council’s full support in this regard, he underlined the need for stronger, more effective engagement by the United Nations in his country, particularly concerning the issue of Afghan migrants and refugees. The Council must act, united, to eliminate terrorist threats, protect Afghan women and girls, increase humanitarian support and help ensure an inclusive future for all Afghans. Quoting Somaya Faruqi, former captain of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, he urged: “Do not let our country become the cemetery of our goals and dreams.”
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said the international community must continue to assist Afghanistan and not let other conflicts divert attention away from the situation in the country. While humanitarian and development assistance are critical to keeping Afghans alive, they are not long-term solutions and must be supplemented by sustained economic growth. In that regard, the frozen assets, which belong to the Afghan people, must be returned in full, without being politicized or conditional in any way. Sanctions imposed on specific individuals and entities in Afghanistan must also not obstruct humanitarian, economic or development cooperation. Moreover, the sanctions should not have an impact on efforts to revitalize the Afghan economy. Afghanistan is a member of the international community. The de facto authorities must acknowledge this fact and fulfil their international obligations, particularly with respect to the formation of an inclusive and representative government that accurately reflects Afghanistan’s multi-ethnic society. Only a Government comprised of all Afghans can guarantee and protect their rights, she said.
Further, the de-facto authorities must commit to fighting terrorism and take all appropriate steps to protect diplomatic and consular premises and prevent attacks on those premises, their agents and officers, she continued. Afghanistan must no longer serve as a haven for terrorist groups like Da’esh and Al-Qaida. Efforts to combat drug trafficking are equally critical and must be a priority. Over the past 40 years, her country has played an active role in combating drug trafficking in the region, which has claimed the lives of 4,000 members of Iran’s law enforcement forces and injured over 12,000 others. As well, Iran has used its capacities and resources to help the Afghan people, hosting millions of refugees who have received minimal international assistance in the last 40 years. After the Taliban takeover, Iran never closed its border with Afghanistan, she pointed out, noting that since last year, thousands of Afghans have entered her country daily. However, neighbours of Afghanistan should not feel all the burdens associated with receiving Afghan refugees, she said, calling on other countries to welcome refugees as well.
MEDER UTEBAEV (Kyrgyzstan) congratulated Roza Otunbayeva on her appointment as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA, noting that among previous experience, she had served as Kyrgyzstan’s President. He also commended the work of international organizations and personnel supporting the Afghan people and addressing their humanitarian needs, stressing that while the conflict in Ukraine produced a temporary shift in the priorities of the global agenda, Afghanistan’s issue is remained relevant at the global and regional levels. The recent international conference on Afghanistan in Tashkent gathered many key countries of the world, which was a testimony of the important role of this country for the future development, stability, security and peace in the region. He also welcomed the Taliban decision to ban opium poppy cultivation and drug production. However, the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, including in front of the Russian Embassy in Kabul, were of great concern, he said, expressing condolences to the families of the victims.
A traditionally friendly country to Afghanistan, he stressed that “Kyrgyzstan will always stay strong to create peace in this country”, as proved last year through the humanitarian assistance it provided to the Afghan people. Welcoming the general amnesty announced by the de facto authorities of Afghanistan and hoping for its full practical implementation, he added that the main priority for the international community should be the restoring of the Afghan economy and the reintegration of the country to the interregional economic processes. Further, he emphasized the importance to invite the authorities to create an inclusive Government and ensure human rights, including women’s rights. As his country has established a dialogue with the current Government, he expressed hope that the international community will move forward in a coordinated manner on the Afghan issues and actively cooperate with each other, especially with the countries of the region, in order to ensure peace and stability and provide the Afghan people with the necessary humanitarian and economic assistance, he concluded.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) stressed: "We must avoid another civil war, rising terrorism, drug trafficking or new refugees, which none of Afghanistan’s neighbours are in a position to accommodate.” He urged the international community to respond positively to the Secretary-General's appeal for $4.2 billion in humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan and release the country’s financial reserves to revive its banking system. The early resumption of reconstruction activities and implementation of regional connectivity projects with central Asia, as well as the extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan can provide a pathway to economic growth and stabilization in the country. However, it requires funds and financial stability. Afghanistan’s frozen national reserves should be released and channelled through Afghan institution; doing so can contribute to reviving the Afghan economy and its banking system. However, without this, trade cannot take place, nor can investment be expected. "In the absence of such conditions, Afghanistan shall continue to remain on external life support and in constant danger of economic collapse,” he warned.
The countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), including Pakistan, remains engaged through conversation between the Taliban and delegations of Islamic scholars and ulama to find ways and means to address question of Sharia and its interpretation, particularly with a view to facilitating education prospects for Afghan women and girls, he continued. Meanwhile, Afghan girls in refugee camps in Pakistan are going to school and colleges and many Afghans are sending their daughters to attend school in Pakistan. Voicing concern about terrorism emanating from and happening within Afghanistan, he said the Taliban must prevent Afghanistan’s territory from being utilized for terrorism against neighbouring and other countries. Eliminating the threat posed by terrorist groups is of vital importance, he said, citing ISIL/Da’esh and the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and others. His country will support all sincere efforts to neutralize and eliminate those terrorist groups while fully respecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Council, international community and UNAMA must develop a workable roadmap and objectives they seek with respect to human rights, inclusivity and counterterrorism. The much-maligned Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan and the relevant resolutions adopted by the Council since then contain elements which can provide such a roadmap towards normalcy in Afghanistan.