Security Council Condemns Decision by Taliban to Ban Afghan Women from Working for United Nations in Afghanistan, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2681 (2023)
The Security Council today unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the decision of the Taliban to ban Afghan women from working for the United Nations in Afghanistan, saying that it undermines human rights and humanitarian principles.
By the terms of resolution 2681 (2023) (to be issued as document S/RES/2681(2023)), the 15-member organ called for the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and girls in Afghanistan. It also called on the Taliban to swiftly reverse its policies and practices restricting women and girls’ enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms — including those related to their access to education, employment, freedom of movement and participation in public life. To that end, all States and organizations are urged to use their influence in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
Through the text, the Council reiterated its demand that all parties allow full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for the personnel of the Organization’s humanitarian agencies, their partners and other humanitarian actors and providers of basic services regardless of their gender. In stressing the urgent need to continue addressing Afghanistan’s dire situation, it recognized the need to help address the substantial challenges facing that country’s economy, including through efforts to enable the use of assets belonging to Afghanistan’s Central Bank for the benefit of the Afghan people.
In other terms, the Council stressed the critical importance of a continued United Nations presence, reiterated its full support to the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and called upon relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders — including relevant authorities as needed — as well as international actors to both coordinate with that Mission on implementing its mandate and ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of the Organization’s personnel throughout the country. Dialogue, consultation and engagement among all relevant Afghan stakeholders are critical not only for a political settlement, but also peace and stability in the country, the region and beyond, it underscored, welcoming conducive diplomatic efforts while deciding to remain actively seized of the matter.
Lana Zaki Nusseibeh (United Arab Emirates), speaking before the vote on behalf of Japan as co-penholders, pointed out that the Taliban’s latest restrictions are unprecedented in the history of the United Nations. Her country is pleased to be joined by over 90 co-sponsors, not just from the Council, but also from Afghanistan’s immediate neighbourhood, the Muslim world and all corners of the Earth. This cross-regional support makes today’s fundamental message even more significant: the world will not sit by silently as women in Afghanistan are erased from society. “It is our shared intention that the people of Afghanistan have the opportunity to build the future that they deserve, especially the women and the girls,” she asserted.
Ishikane Kimihiro (Japan), speaking after the vote and also for the United Arab Emirates, welcomed the unanimous adoption and thanked Council members for their cooperation and constructive approach “in light of the pressing nature of the issue”. While underscoring that the full participation of women and girls is indispensable if Afghanistan is to have a peaceful future, he said that “it is in no one’s interest” to isolate the Taliban. The international community must determine how best to address the difficulties facing Afghanistan and its people, he added.
Robert A. Wood (United States), noting that the Taliban’s decisions are indefensible and not seen anywhere else in the world, pointed out that Muslim‑majority countries have spoken out against the Taliban’s rationale for such decisions. The United Nations and its Member States will not remain on the side-lines when women are girls are deprived of exercising their human rights, he declared. Through its edicts, the Taliban is causing irreparable damage to Afghanistan, erasing women and girls from society and removing itself even further from normalized relations with the international community. There must be an inclusive political process among Afghans which leads to a representative and accountable Government, he underscored.
Geng Shuang (China) expressed his hope that Afghanistan’s interim Government will protect the rights of all Afghans — including women — and “continue to make efforts in that direction” that meet the expectations of such people and the international community. He went on to say that maintaining dialogue and engagement remains the right approach to promote problem-solving, emphasizing that “mere condemnation” and pressure can only be counter-productive. Further, he recalled that the United States froze more than $7 billion of Afghanistan’s assets after it hastily withdrew its troops from that country and noted that, as of today, “not a single penny has been returned”. Pointing out that the resolution calls for addressing Afghanistan’s major economic challenges with assets belonging to that country’s Central Bank, he urged the United States to implement these provisions as soon as possible.
Barbara Woodward (United Kingdom), welcoming the unanimous adoption, called for the immediate reversal of all policies which restrict women’s rights and fundamental freedoms. She said London joined other Council members and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries in co-sponsoring this resolution to send an unequivocal message: “There is no justification for what you are doing to women and girls in your country.” Spotlighting her Government’s humanitarian assistance which has totalled $662 million since April 2021, she stressed that her country will not abandon the women and girls of Afghanistan.
Vassily A. Nebenzia (Russian Federation), Council President for April, speaking in his national capacity, voiced his regret that a more ambitious approach was blocked by his Western colleagues. The real reasons for Afghanistan’s situation remain unmentioned — including the freezing of Afghan assets. Noting that the West’s approach is no surprise — “another example of the double standards of the United States and its allies” — he stressed that the real culprits are those who speak loudest about the suffering of women. Such States, if they are sincere about helping Afghanistan, must return stolen assets, lift illegal, unilateral restrictions and begin an honest process to resolve the problems to which they contributed.
The meeting began at 5:20 p.m. and ended at 5:43 p.m.