Adopting Resolution 2721 (2023), Security Council Requests Secretary-General Appoint Special Envoy for Afghanistan
The Security Council today adopted a resolution requesting the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy for Afghanistan, provided with robust expertise on human rights and gender, as it also stressed the critical importance of a continued presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Adopting resolution 2721 (2023) (to be issued as document S/RES/2721(2023)), the 15-nation Council by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with two abstentions (China, Russian Federation), reiterated its full support to UNAMA and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. It also took positive note of the independent assessment on Afghanistan (document S/2023/856) and encouraged Member States and other relevant stakeholders to consider the implementation of its recommendations, especially in regards to increasing international engagement in a more coordinated manner.
By the text, the Council also affirmed that the objective of this process should be an Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbours, fully reintegrated into the international community and meeting international obligations. Further, it recognized the need to ensure the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of Afghan women in the process throughout. As well, it welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to convene the next meeting of the Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan and requested that the UN chief brief the Council on the outcome of these consultations and discussions within 60 days.
Speaking before the vote, Yamazaki Kazuyuki (Japan), also on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the co-penholder of the file, said that the Council deliberated multiple times on the issue of the situation in Afghanistan over the past year and that the draft resolution is the product of those extensive consultations. The resolution expresses the Council’s strong determination to facilitate a new strategy that addresses a wide range of issues, including the need to engage more coherently and in a more structured manner with Afghanistan. “By adopting this resolution, we will also demonstrate to the people of Afghanistan — including relevant authorities, women, girls and civil society — that the international community remains committed to a peaceful, stable, prosperous and inclusive Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the country continues to face enormous challenges.
Speaking after the vote, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh (United Arab Emirates) commended the collaborative nature of the work done on the text, and paid tribute to Afghan people — both in the country and in the diaspora — stating: “I would like to salute their spirit.” However, she expressed deep concern about the Taliban’s move to ban girls from attending school. Afghanistan’s people, but most notably its women and girls, are increasingly isolated. Afghanis are also struggling to access basic goods and services like food, health care and education. “Let today signal the beginning of the end for all of that,” she declared, adding that compromises are required and the resolution sets forth a practical approach.
Washington, D.C., stressed Lisa Browne (United States), is committed to promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, but remains concerned over the Taliban’s policies against Afghan women and girls. This has only moved the Taliban further away from being able to normalize relations with the international community. She welcomed the resolution’s request to set up a Special Envoy for Afghanistan, emphasizing that such a post would help coordinate work to achieve progress in the country.
Adding to that, Barbara Woodward (United Kingdom) said Council members should seize the momentum of the independent assessment with the hope of shaping Afghanistan’s “current negative trajectory”. She also noted that the Taliban has a responsibility to meet its international commitments, including by immediately reversing the policies restricting women’s rights and fundamental freedoms. She encouraged all parties, including Afghan and international stakeholders, to take forward the independent assessment’s recommendations and to work towards an Afghanistan that is at peace with its people, its neighbours and the international community.
The vote showed the common resolve within the Security Council to address the situation in Afghanistan, observed Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana), also speaking for Gabon and Mozambique. Reaffirming his commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan, he emphasized that the resolution is not merely procedural. In this regard, he called on the Taliban to reverse its discriminating policies against Afghan women and girls and urged frank and robust discussions and coherent efforts to ameliorate the political, security and human rights situation on the ground. “The road ahead for Afghanistan is fraught with challenges. But it is a road we must traverse with them,” he said, adding that “the rights, hopes and dreams of the Afghan people must not be ignored”.
However, Geng Shuang (China) stressed that the actions of the Council and the Secretary-General — including appointments of Special Envoys — should be based on thorough communication with the country concerned. Therefore, the Council’s follow-up to the independent assessment should be done in full communication with the Afghan authorities. Forcibly appointing a Special Envoy without regard for the country’s views may not only lead to a situation in which the Special Envoy would not be able to function but may also heighten confrontation between the international community and the Afghan authorities. As Council members are divided on the follow-up implementation of the independent assessment’s report, and as the Afghan authorities still have reservations, it “seems hasty” to force the adoption of a resolution. Noting that his delegation abstained, he emphasized that Afghanistan’s history demonstrates that externally imposed solutions will end in failure.
Nevertheless, Anna M. Evstigneeva (Russian Federation), while noting that her country abstained, pointed to the many ideas that her delegation is in sync on. Because it is imperative to maintain peace and stability in Afghanistan, the international community must therefore move towards pragmatic consultations with Afghanistan’s de facto authorities that would help restore many essential aspects of the country, including its recommitment to rebuilding and development. She also commended efforts to ensure work is being done on countering terrorism and drug threats. However, she warned against attempts to force Afghanistan to “dance under someone else’s tune”. Doing so would not help the country progress. She also called on Western donors to refrain from tying aid to certain political goals.
Underlining the usefulness of a unified strategy in Afghanistan, Nicolas De Rivière (France) said the independent assessment in front of the Council was helpful. Recognizing the importance of further structuring the political and humanitarian coordination of the international community in Afghanistan, he said that France will contribute to a further road map to help reintegrate an Afghanistan that respects its international obligations. Nonetheless, he condemned the systematic persecution of the Afghans by the Taliban, adding that his country will continue to follow the situation closely to ensure the five demands, in particular respect for women’s rights, continue to guide international actions.