Excluded from Education, Public Life, Women, Girls Facing ‘Gender Apartheid’ in Afghanistan, Delegate Tells Security Council
Many Speakers Condemn Taliban Policies, Demand De Facto Authorities End Human Rights Violations or Remain Isolated
With women and girls facing “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan, excluded from all aspects of education and public life, speakers today urged the Security Council and the international community to compel the Taliban de facto authorities to cease its despotic and inhumane measures or remain isolated from global affairs.
Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), noted that the 5 April restrictions against Afghan women working for the United Nations place a question mark over activities across the country — with no explanations given by the de facto authorities. UNAMA will not place its national female staff in danger, asking them not to report to the office. Stressing “We are steadfast: female national staff will not be replaced by male national staff,” she welcomed Council resolution 2681 (2023) that condemned the ban — which adds to earlier restrictions by the Taliban preventing girls from attending non-religious secondary and tertiary education institutions.
With United Nations humanitarian efforts continuing to address nearly 20 million people needing assistance, she stressed that Afghanistan remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. The Taliban regime remains insular, autocratic and entirely male, and in her regular discussions with the de facto authorities, she said that she is blunt about the obstacles they have created through their decrees and restrictions — making it nearly impossible that their Government will be recognized by members of the international community. Despite the problems mentioned, those reliable working channels of communication with the de facto authorities help identify greater opportunities.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh, Co-Founder and President of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan, noting that her school educates Afghan girls at the secondary level, observed: “To my knowledge, we’re the only legally operating school that’s doing this anywhere on the planet.” Emphasizing that she did not think the Taliban would ever be able to bring back the darkness of her childhood in the 1990s — attending secret schools run by brave women in Kabul — she noted her school historically receives about 300 applications per year, but has, in 2023, received nearly 2,000. She stressed that the secret to a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan “is no secret at all”: it is educated girls, who become educated women, who raise more educated girls and boys.
Calling on the international community to ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible within Afghanistan, she noted that the Taliban say that women and girls should remain hidden behind the walls of the home, responding: “I say we beat them at their own game.” Recalling the Prophet Muhammad’s hadith: “seek knowledge, even as far as China”, she noted that — while not literal — this urged Muslims to pursue education even to the ends of the Earth, and that she and her students have gone as far as Rwanda.
In the ensuing debate, speakers echoed the condemnation of the Taliban’s misogynist policies, demanding that it cease its violations of human rights or remain isolated in a country that cannot recover economically, and calling on the international community to engage more constructively.
The representative of Afghanistan said the people of his country and the international community share a common anguish, with women and girls again banned from receiving a quality education and participating in public office. Calling it “gender apartheid”, with the Taliban resorting to draconian and inhumane practices, he called on the Member States to adopt a united approach to the increasing erosion of human rights. This includes corporal punishments, often in public, stifling of civil society and war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law including torture and extrajudicial executions.
He noted the recent Monitoring Team report confirmed that the Taliban maintains links to Al-Qaida and nearly 20 other terrorist entities — a concern for neighbouring countries and the international community. Calling for a comprehensive and unified counter-terrorism strategy at the regional and international level, he stressed: “There are no good or bad terrorists” — urging the international community begin a structured engagement with democratic political forces to help find a concrete solution to the crisis.
The representative of Albania stated that Afghanistan is “the only country in the world that walks backwards, sliding back centuries in time in a matter of months”. While the economy is deemed stable, he spotlighted poverty and suffering, with the Taliban again on track to make Afghanistan the medieval manifesto of human rights violations. Stressing that the group’s misogyny and bigotry are second to none, he called on them to reverse all despotic measures against women and girls.
Tajikistan’s delegate shared the concerns about extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture of ethnic groups. While the Taliban publicly insists there are no foreign terrorist groups, he reported that Al-Qaida, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and others are present in the country. Recalling that his country’s law enforcement agencies sized 4.2 tons of narcotics in 2022 — in comparison to 2.4 tons in 2020 — he reiterated the proposal of Tajikistan’s President to establish a “security belt” around Afghanistan to counter security challenges in the border areas.
The representative of the United States recalled that resolution 2681 (2023) sends a clear message that the Council will not stand for the repression of women and girls. While supporting the United Nations decision to continue operating in Afghanistan, he called for a stronger response to the Taliban’s restrictions from the country’s neighbours and the international community. As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the United States will continue to do its part to support the people of Afghanistan. “The Taliban must respect the human rights of all Afghans,” he underscored.
However, the Russian Federation’s delegate rejected that message, stressing that, almost two years after the hasty retreat of United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops from Afghanistan, the United States and other Western countries are not interested in its restoration. He called it “so American” to invade a country under the pretext of fighting terrorism and then abandon its former wards.
In a similar vein, the representative of Iran called for humanitarian aid to remain unconditional, while releasing frozen assets and lifting unilateral sanctions are vital to Afghanistan’s economic recovery. As host to millions of Afghans, Iran is gravely concerned about the current situation’s potential repercussions on regional security. While acknowledging the Taliban’s failure to fully meet their commitments, he urged the international community to maintain its constructive engagement with the de facto authorities to pursue the best possible outcomes.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:41 p.m.
ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), noted that the situation in the country remains complicated. The 5 April restrictions against Afghan women working for the United Nations place a question mark over activities across the country — with no explanations given by the de facto authorities and no assurances that it will be lifted. As UNAMA will not place its national female staff in danger, they have been asked not to report to the office. At the same time, male national staff performing non-essential tasks have been asked to stay home to respect the principle of non-discrimination. “We are steadfast: female national staff will not be replaced by male national staff,” she stressed, welcoming Council resolution 2681 (2023) that condemned the ban and stressed the critical importance of a continued presence of UNAMA and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes across Afghanistan.
She reminded the de facto Taliban authorities of their continuing responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations, including respecting the privileges and immunities of the Organization and its officials, including Afghan women. The Taliban ask to be recognized by the United Nations and its members, but act against the key values expressed in the Charter — as the ban adds to earlier restrictions against women working for non-governmental organizations and other diplomatic entities; preventing girls from attending non-religious secondary and tertiary education institutions; and against girls and women visiting public parks, baths and gyms. She called on the de facto authorities to rescind the bans.
She noted that UNAMA, in collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), released a report on the situation of Afghan women — documenting the distressing toll these bans are taking on their physical and mental health, and their sense of security. The bans further obscure positive achievements, including growing evidence that the Taliban’s ban on opium cultivation has been effectively enforced in many parts of the country. The World Bank reports that inflation is declining and the exchange rate remains steady, partly due to the welcome reduction of high-level corruption — however, it further notes that 58 per cent of households struggle to satisfy basic needs, with United Nations humanitarian efforts continuing to address the nearly 20 million people who need some form of assistance. Afghanistan, she stressed, remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban regime remains insular and autocratic, and entirely male, she noted, and there is widespread concern that a lack of inclusivity will lead to instability. On counter-terrorism, the de facto authorities are making concerted efforts to counter Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL‑KP), but attacks have taken place — most recently in Badakhshan on 6 and 8 June, with two attacks targeting the authorities killing and wounding at least 63 people. She cited the annual report by the Monitoring Team of the sanctions Committee, and its observation that the existing sanctions procedures are obsolete and should be updated to reflect the realities in Afghanistan today. While the end of the armed conflict has greatly reduced the number of civilian casualties, the United Nations Mine Action Service in Afghanistan estimates around 100 casualties per month from unexploded ordinance. Unfortunately, the de facto Directorate of Mine Action Coordination has suspended its cooperation with the United Nations and without that support, the sector operates with limited technical capacity.
Expressing concern over years of drought that have compounded the effects of conflict and poverty, she stressed that mitigating the effects of climate change requires a more specific dialogue between the de facto authorities and the international community. In her regular discussions with the de facto authorities, she said that she is blunt about the obstacles the authorities have created for themselves by the decrees and restrictions they have enacted. As long as these decrees are in place, it is nearly impossible that their government will be recognized by members of the international community; it is also clear that these decrees are highly unpopular among the population. She noted that the international community can do more to ensure the future stability of the Afghan economy. Welcoming the current visit by Special Coordinator Feridun Sinirlioğlu, she affirmed that — despite the problems mentioned — her office has established reliable working channels of communication with the de facto authorities, identifying greater opportunities.
SHABANA BASIJ-RASIKH, Co-Founder and President of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan, noting that her school educates Afghan girls at the secondary level, observed: “To my knowledge, we’re the only legally operating school that’s doing this anywhere on the planet.” Emphasizing that she did not think the Taliban would ever be in a position to bring back the darkness in which she lived as a child in the 1990s — attending secret schools run by brave women in Kabul — she said that those secret schools have reopened in the capital and the provinces. Further, her school — which historically has never received more than 300 applications in any given year — has, in 2023, received nearly 2,000. “You want what I want,” she said to those present, which can be summed up in a single word — stability.
Underscoring that education is what makes stability possible, she pointed out that “everything spirals up from the schoolroom”, including economic prosperity and improved public health. Further, education enables a replanting of the soil in which extremism grows, “replacing the seeds of hate with the hope and possibility” that comes when girls are given the opportunity to learn and the certainty that they matter. She stressed that the secret to a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan “is no secret at all”. It is educated girls, who become educated women, who raise more educated girls and boys. Those girls then become educated, independent women themselves, charting a course that elevates their families, their nation and the world.
To this end, she offered two recommendations to ensure that this virtuous circle will always spin. First, the international community must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible within Afghanistan. When girls can’t go to school, educators can bring school to them. Noting that the Taliban say that women and girls should remain hidden behind the walls of the home, she said: “I say we beat them at their own game.” Second, she called on the international community to ensure that Afghan refugees — particularly female ones — have access to quality education in their nations of residence. Space must be allowed for opportunities to flow into diaspora communities, and these opportunities should be driven by qualified educational institutions allowed by host nations to operate within these communities. Noting that her school has done this in Rwanda, she said that this model can be one for others to follow.
“Borders do not contain the threat of extremism,” she went on to say, adding that they also do not contain the benefits brought by educated girls. Pointing out that the Prophet Muhammad spoke openly and clearly about the importance of education, she recalled the hadith: “seek knowledge, even as far as China”. While not literal, this urged Muslims to pursue education even if they had to go to what was — at the time — the ends of the Earth to find it. Noting that she and her students have gone as far as Rwanda and that other Afghans have gone to other nations, she stressed: “All of us are seekers and, with the eyes of the world watching, all of us will find what we seek.”
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), Council President for June, speaking in her national capacity, reiterated her call for women and girls’ inclusion in Afghani society through education, adding: “This is non-negotiable.” Encouraging online interim efforts of the neighbouring countries, she highlighted the importance of safeguarding women and girls’ access to the Internet. Further, by removing women as actors in the humanitarian aid delivery, the Taliban is weakening the ability to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, she stressed, underscoring that humanitarian aid should remain depoliticized. Advocating against a security vacuum in the country, she underscored that Kabul’s soil will not serve as a safe harbour for threats against other nations. “The economy cannot be sustained on humanitarian aid alone,” she added, noting that revitalizing the country’s economy — through foreign investment, trade and skilled workforce — is the only way forward. Moreover, narcotics trade revenues should not be channelled to fund organized crime, she stated.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) expressed alarm that humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are exceedingly desperate and poverty is near universal. Humanitarian access has been further constrained by a series of restrictions on the ability of women to work. “Hope is diminishing, particularly for women and girls in Afghanistan,” he warned, urging the Taliban to heed the unified call of the Council and wider international community, and swiftly reverse the restrictions on women and girls to allow their full, equal and safe participation in society. “This will not only secure the welfare and dignity of women and girls, but will also allow Afghanistan to fulfil its potential and achieve long-term stability and prosperity,” he said. To that end, the international community needs to continue to pursue patient and principled engagement with the Taliban in order to encourage them to change the course of their policies.
ZHANG JUN (China), calling for engagement to be maintained with the interim government, reported that on 6 May, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan relaunched the foreign minister dialogue. He voiced hope that the interim government will make positive efforts towards meeting the needs of its population and the expectations of the international community, including ensuring the rights of women to education and employment. Further, the Sanctions Committee should make exemptions for international travel for the interim government’s relevant personnel, while sanctions measures under resolution 1988 (2011) should also be adjusted or lifted. Noting that poppy cultivation has dropped this year, he also urged the international community to support for those efforts. However, this year’s humanitarian response plan is only 9 percent funded, with a gap of $4 billion, he said, adding that it unacceptable for developed country donors to cut their aid and link humanitarian aid to other issues. With unilateral sanctions imposing serious difficulties in all domains, he urged those States to lift them, further calling on the United States to return $7 billion of Afghanistan assets frozen since 2021.
NORBERTO MORETTI (Brazil), condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, pledged support to the implementation of UNAMA’s mandate. Brazil has consistently advocated for the strengthening of Afghanistan’s institutions, and the promotion of socioeconomic development, he said, calling on the Taliban to reverse their “exclusionary policies” against women and girls. “These policies are not only discriminatory, but also profoundly detrimental to the future of Afghanistan,” he stressed, also expressing alarm that the number of people in Afghanistan requiring assistance rose by half a million in the first half of this year alone, reaching a staggering 28.8 million by the end of May. Hence, promoting food security in Afghanistan remains paramount, especially as the country grapples with its third consecutive year of drought and the looming threat of a devastating locust infestation that could severely undermine wheat harvests.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) recalled that resolution 2681 (2023), adopted unanimously, sends a clear message that the Council will not stand for the repression of women and girls. Supporting the United Nations decision to continue operating in Afghanistan, he welcomed the principled approach that prioritizes non-discrimination, inclusion and the safety of female staff. However, the Taliban’s restrictions demand a strong response both from Afghanistan’s neighbours and the larger international community. With the closure of women-led non-governmental organizations, ration cuts and a reduced number of food-assistance beneficiaries, the world — despite obstacles and competing global priorities — cannot turn its back on the Afghan people’s growing humanitarian needs. As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the United States will continue to do its part to support the people of Afghanistan, and will also carefully watch the Taliban’s actions regarding the commitments they have stated they will uphold. “The Taliban must respect the human rights of all Afghans,” he underscored.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), also speaking for Ghana and Gabon, said the State apparatus’ restructuring continues, as the de facto authorities impose restrictions on female national staff — working for the United Nations — and reshuffle senior civil servants, mainly men affiliated with the group. Underscoring the importance of women’s participation in governance, he called for ensuring that all Afghans can engage in the political process and urged the authorities to allow women civil servants to resume their duties. Turning to education —a major development factor — he emphasized that females should be allowed to reach their full potential, while participating in social, economic and political life. To this end, he urged the de facto authorities to allow women and girls to resume their education.
Turning to the fragile security situation, he pointed to human rights abuses and violations against former Government officials and Security Forces’ members, while noting that illicit drug trafficking and the presence of foreign forces, increases the volatility of the situation on the ground. Pointing to subregional tensions between Iran and Afghanistan over the water supply, he called for de-escalation. On the economic front, he recognized increased revenue-collection, positive trade performance, reduced corruption and increased eradication of opium poppy fields, while highlighting the limited growth and poverty reduction prospects. Regarding the dire humanitarian situation, he underscored the critical shortage in humanitarian funding for 2023. Turning to landmines and explosive devices, he welcomed the clearance of 9.2 square kilometers of contaminated land and the campaign to sensitize 39,000 people, including 14,000 women and girls.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that, almost two years after the hasty retreat of United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops from Afghanistan, and the rise to power of the Taliban, it is increasingly clear that the United States and other Western countries — which essentially brought the country to ruins in 20 years — are not interested in its restoration. Noting that all their forces are thrown into fighting the Russian Federation on the “Ukrainian field”, he called it “so American” to invade a country under the pretext of fighting terrorism and then abandon its former wards. Rhetoric by Western colleagues about the suffering of the Afghan people appears immoral, as do calls to take up the “sanctions baton” and increase pressure on the de facto authorities. Expressing concern over the security risks posed by the terrorist activity of ISIL-KP, he said it is no secret that the group is supported by external forces. He noted that United Nations efforts to expand aid beyond basic needs continue to be blocked by Western donors.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that more than 2 million girls between 7 to 11 years of age cannot formally access secondary school education and the Taliban has issued more than 50 decrees restricting the rights of women and girls. This impedes the United Nations from delivering humanitarian assistance at a time of dire need. “The trajectory is negative and options are limited,” she said. The international community should support United Nations efforts to provide assistance yet remain firm on that there should be no delivery of aid without women. The United Kingdom has contributed more than $500 million to address the country’s humanitarian crisis since April 2021 and he called on other Member States to step up funding, noting the United Nation revised Humanitarian Appeal for Afghanistan for 2023, for $3.2 billion, is currently 13 per cent funded. She urged the international community to remain united its message to the Taliban.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), taking note of the United Nations commitment not to replace female staff with male staff, recalled that, through resolution 2681 (2023), Council members unanimously condemned restrictions on women in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the situation has worsened, and he said that “reaching an understanding in the short-term seems impossible”. Turning to security challenges, he stressed that — without an institutional presence — the only solution is to strengthen coordinated work among competent United Nations bodies, regional organizations and neighbouring countries. This is necessary to prevent escalating violence along Afghanistan’s borders, to support the fight against terrorism, violent extremism and drug trafficking, and to prevent the area from becoming a threat to regional peace and security. On the deteriorating human rights situation, he condemned the extrajudicial execution, arbitrary detention and torture of members of the political opposition and former officials, along with institutionalized, discriminatory policies that limit the education and labour rights of women and girls.
FRANCESCA GATT (Malta) expressed alarm that 6 million Afghans are on the brink of starvation, and yet no strategic pathway exists to address their needs. Humanitarian aid workers are finding themselves working within an increasingly restrictive humanitarian space, balancing principled humanitarian action with the dilemmas of engaging with the Taliban. Aid workers in Afghanistan require the greatest level of support and flexibility when it comes to undertaking their vital work, she stressed. The Taliban continue to perpetuate the most extreme forms of systematic gender-based discrimination through restrictive edicts targeting women and girls. They are also abolishing legal protections and accountability mechanisms for gender-based violence. “This must end,” she said, also urging: “Women must be allowed back into the workforce.” Females must have their right to education secured. For its part, the Council should remain steadfast in demanding an immediate and unconditional revocation of the Taliban’s dictates.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that Afghanistan is “the only country in the world that walks backwards, sliding back centuries in time in a matter of months”. While noting that the country’s economy is deemed stable, he spotlighted poverty, suffering and discretion of its people. “The Taliban are again on the track of making Afghanistan the medieval manifesto of human rights violations,” he stressed, adding that the country is a black hole in the world “by design, by choice, by the Taliban”. Turning to the brutal assault of women, he said the Taliban’s misogyny and bigotry are second to none, while their depth of depravity is unparalleled. Moreover, the regime also wants to “play the human resources department of the United Nations”, he added, noting: “It would be risible, if it was not tragic.” In this context, he reiterated the condemnation to the Taliban’s repressive policies, calling on them to reverse all despotic measures against women and girls.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) expressed concern that the increasingly severe restrictions imposed by the Taliban lead to the effective exclusion of women and girls from public, political, economic and cultural life. This in turn exacerbates the suffering of the entire population of Afghanistan. The Taliban's blatant disregard for human rights has dramatic consequences not only for women, but for entire families and communities, including children, she said, stressing that all children must have access to safe, quality education. Moreover, the recent decision of the Taliban-controlled Supreme Court to impose the death penalty is incompatible with respect for human rights and human dignity. With almost half of the Afghan population suffering from acute food insecurity, there is also an urgent need to mitigate the negative effects of climate change to improve food security in the long term. In this context, she welcomed UNAMA’s work with local communities to strengthen their management of climate change-related risks and their resilience.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) strongly condemned the decision taken last April to ban Afghan women from working for the United Nations, as well as new restrictions imposed on international non-governmental organizations in the field of education. The unanimous adoption of Council resolution 2681 (2023) shows that the international community has not forgotten Afghan women, maintaining the priority to demand that the Taliban reverse decisions that violate their rights and fundamental freedoms. Stressing that humanitarian aid is unconditional and must remain so, she noted that France has contributed more than €140 million since August 2021, particularly in the medical sector, while the European Union has responded to the basic needs of Afghans with €1.9 billion since 2011. She underlined that her delegation expects tangible gestures from the Taliban, on the basis of the five demands made in resolution 2593 (2021).
NASEER AHMAD FAIQ (Afghanistan) said the people of his country and the international community share a common anguish. Nearly two decades after women regained their rights, women and girls in Afghanistan have again been banned from receiving a quality education, from working in non-governmental offices and have been wholly excluded from public office and the judiciary. “Today, Afghanistan’s women and girls are faced with gender apartheid and gender persecution,” he said. The Taliban is systemically violating the rights of women and young girls while resorting to using draconian, cruel and inhumane practices.
The people of Afghanistan look to the international community to adopt a united and coherent approach about the increasing erosion of human rights. This includes corporal punishments, carried out often in public, constituting torture and ill treatment under international law, along with a greater stifling of media and civil society. The list of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Taliban is long, including torture, extrajudicial executions, hostage-taking and the intentional burning of civilian homes. Meant to instil fear, these acts constitute collective punishment, which is itself a war crime. Many of these concerns were validated once again at a 19 June meeting of the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. His delegation hopes to see new and decisive measures by the international community to ensure accountability for grave human rights violations.
Turning to terrorism, he said the recent Monitoring Team report confirmed that the Taliban continues to maintain links to Al-Qaida, in addition to nearly 20 other terrorist entities. The presence of foreign terrorist fighters and the relocation of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan to northern provinces of Afghanistan are extremely alarming. The Taliban’s association with terror groups is a concern for Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries and the international community. Ensuring a comprehensive, unified and coherent counter-terrorism strategy — without distinction and short-term approaches — at the regional and international level is vital. “There are no good or bad terrorists,” he added. He urged the international community to adopt a new coherent and united approach towards Afghanistan with principled engagement. He welcomed the Council decision that has led to an independent assessment meant to ensure greater coordination and a more integrated international approach to create stability in Afghanistan. He also urged the international community to begin a structured engagement with democratic political forces to help find a concrete solution to the crisis. These political forces should be given the platform and opportunity needed to help improve — and eventually stabilize — the situation, based on the people’s will.
JONIBEK HIKMAT (Tajikistan) expressed concerns about extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture of ethnic groups — affiliated with the National Resistance Front in Panjshir — and former Government officials. While the Taliban publicly insists there are no foreign terrorist groups, he reported that Al-Qaida, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, among others, are present in the country. Recognizing that the political instability, interethnic conflicts and ineffective governance enable these groups to win local support, he said the relocation of the Pashtun ethnic group representatives to northern Afghanistan — dominated by non-Pashtun ethnic groups — exacerbated the existing divisions. Recalling that his country’s law enforcement agencies sized 4.2 tons of narcotics in 2022 — in comparison to 2.4 tons in 2020 — he reiterated the proposal of Tajikistan President to establish a “security belt” around Afghanistan to counter security challenges in the border areas. In this context, Tajikistan offered the use of its infrastructure for helping with international humanitarian aid, including facilitating aid delivery through the country’s six bridges along Afghanistan’s border. In addition, it has exported essential commodities, including electricity supply to Kabul’s northern provinces, and enabled the transportation of goods and supplies through the Panji Poyon-Sherkhon Bandar crossing point.
AMIR SAEID IRAVANI (Iran) said humanitarian aid must remain impartial and unconditional and reach those in need without political interference. Releasing frozen assets and lifting unilateral sanctions are vital to help Afghanistan’s economy recover. As a neighbouring country with a long-shared border and host to millions of Afghans, Iran is gravely concerned about the current situation’s potential repercussions on the region’s security and stability, especially the neighbouring States.
His delegation reaffirmed its unwavering support for the United Nations ongoing efforts, including through UNAMA, which is critical to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan. He commended the Secretary-General’s initiative held in Doha on 1 and 2 May, which brought together Afghanistan’s Special Envoys from concerned countries. His delegation supports the upcoming second meeting on this initiative. He remains hopeful that, under the United Nations leadership, the international community will continue to provide crucial humanitarian and developmental assistance to Afghanistan. He welcomed the appointment of Feridun Sinirlioğlu as the Special Coordinator entrusted with the crucial task of carrying out an independent assessment on Afghanistan. His delegation will collaborate closely with him in fulfilling his mandate. His delegation emphasized the need for collective cooperation to help Afghanistan rebuild its economy and establish favourable conditions for the people and the safe return of Afghan refugees. While acknowledging the Taliban’s failure to fully meet their commitments, his delegation urged the international community to maintain its constructive engagement with the de facto authorities through UNAMA to pursue the best possible outcomes for the people of Afghanistan and the broader international community.
AIDA KASYMALIEVA (Kyrgyzstan), emphasizing the importance of holding constant consultations with regional countries to maintain Afghanistan’s peace and security, said that State’s stability is a priority for the region. Kyrgyzstan stands ready to develop good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan, and in light of its commitment to the principle of non-interference in that nation’s internal affairs, respects the Afghan people’s right to determine the future of their country. Since the Taliban came to power in August 2021, the Kyrgyz diplomatic mission has continued its work, she noted, also reporting that 500 Afghan students are studying in Kyrgyz universities. She went on to underscore the importance of respecting human rights, calling for steps to enable women’s real participation in all spheres and stating that her country shares the international community’s concerns over infringements on women’s right to learn and work in Afghanistan. She added that Afghanistan’s economy must be reintegrated into regional processes, emphasizing that her country is ready to cooperate with the international community and the de facto government to stabilize this situation as soon as possible.
PRAKASH GUPTA (India) said that, as a contiguous neighbour and long-standing partner of Afghanistan, New Delhi has direct stakes in ensuring the return of peace and stability to that country. In view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation, India has delivered 40,000 metric tons of wheat, 150 tons of medical aid consisting of medicines, vaccines and other medical items. Recently, it has supplied 500 units of winter clothing and more than 5,000 units of stationary items for the students of Habibia School in Kabul. India has also partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its humanitarian efforts and has supplied 1,100 units of female hygiene kits and blankets for UNODC female rehabilitation centres across Afghanistan. Outlining immediate priorities, he stressed the need to provide humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people, to form an inclusive and representative Government structure, to combat terrorism and drug trafficking and to preserve the rights of women, children and minorities.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said there are reasons for optimism and pessimism regarding Afghanistan. The security situation has vastly improved, the interim government is stable and secure, and there is no credible internal threat. Further, the government has managed the economy and revenue collection reasonably well, and engaged with all its immediate neighbours. However, he noted the humanitarian situation remains dire, under the impact of climate change and sanctions, while unacceptable restrictions on women girls have increased. Citing the fifth dialogue between Afghanistan, China and Pakistan on 6 May, he called on the international community to engage constructively with the interim government, and other regional countries — particularly those of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — to play a larger role. The international community should identify clear objectives and “move away from utilizing only sticks and instead try some carrots” to advance them, he stated — including maintaining unconditional humanitarian assistance, releasing externally held reserve assets and reviving the banking system.
AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan), recalling that the new government in Afghanistan has been working for two years, said that the country needs to survive and build normal relationships with its neighbours and partners. He underscored the importance of Afghanistan’s integration into regional economic system and diversification of its trade relations for the Central Asian region, while reporting that in 2022 trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Kabul reached $1 billion. Pointing out that Afghanistan could play a central role in connecting Central and South Asia, he noted that regional cooperation could accelerate the country’s stability and development. To establish business contracts, Kazakhstan accredited representatives to the new Afghan administration, without giving them diplomatic status. In this regard, he underscored the importance of maintaining close interaction with Afghanistan’s de facto authorities aimed at resolving crises in the interest of the Afghan people. Reiterating his country’s commitment to multidimensional cooperation aimed at combating terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan, he added: “We hope that the de facto authorities of Afghanistan will take appropriate steps to establish an inclusive and representative government, and uphold human rights, including rights of women.” He also said that Astana is exploring opportunities to strengthen activities of the Kazakhstan International Development Agency to provide official development assistance (ODA) to Afghanistan.
BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) said that as an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan, his country has consistently emphasized the importance of providing not only humanitarian aid, but also concrete measures to support the recovery of the Afghanistan’s national economy. Uzbekistan firmly believes that isolating Afghanistan on the international stage would only worsen the already dire humanitarian situation there. “We are talking about the fates of millions of people,” he said, calling for the lifting of the ban on girls’ education and women’s employment. Uzbekistan considers the establishment of an inclusive government and the protection of basic rights and freedoms, particularly for women and national minorities, as fundamental prerequisites for achieving long-term peace in Afghanistan. “Uzbekistan strictly adheres to this position in its contacts with the Taliban,” he added.
To facilitate Afghanistan's recovery and compliance with international requirements and obligations, Uzbekistan proposed the creation of a high-level international negotiating group under the auspices of the United Nations, he continued. The primary objectives of this group would be to engage in direct negotiations with the Afghan authorities, develop a detailed road map and implement the necessary steps outlined therein. Successfully implementing this road map would lead to improved relations between the Taliban and the international community. These improvements could entail removing the Taliban from the United Nations Sanctions List, resuming financial assistance from donor countries and intensifying international efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. Preventing Afghanistan’s territory from becoming a springboard for international terrorists and severing all ties with various terrorist groups and other terrorist organizations, should be among the key objectives of this negotiating group.