8587th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Afghanistan

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26-Jul-2019 02:00:31
Women’s rights must not be sacrificed during political deal-making in Afghanistan, civil society expert warns Security Council amid calls to end bloodshed at 8587th meeting.

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The international community must stand with the women of Afghanistan and ensure that their hard-won gains since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001 are not sacrificed in any peace agreement, a leading Afghan human rights activist told the Security Council today ahead of presidential elections in September.

Jamila Afghani of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Afghanistan, speaking via videoconference from Kabul, made the appeal as two senior United Nations officials briefed Council members on their visiting mission to Afghanistan on 20-21 July, which focused on women, peace and security.

Emphasizing that today’s Afghan women are not the women of 30 or 40 years ago, she said they know their rights, which are granted by their faith and guaranteed by the Constitution and international conventions. “The international community must stand with us at this crucial moment and ensure that our rights will not be compromised for a political peace deal or after a settlement is reached,” she said.

She added that despite an obligation to ensure women’s participation, the United States’ approach to its talks with the Taliban has led to the marginalization of Afghan women. She urged the Council to ensure clear procedures for engaging Afghan women from diverse backgrounds in peace negotiations and conflict resolution efforts.

Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, who led last weekend’s trip to Kabul, expressed condolences to the victims of the 25 July attacks in the capital and elsewhere. Indeed, Afghan women have paid a high price over four decades of conflict. Under the Taliban, women and girls were denied schooling, health care and protection from extreme violence, but the past 18 years has seen significant progress. “For peace to be sustainable, it will take time and it must be inclusive of the whole country, of women and of victims,” she said.

Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, who also participated in the visiting mission along with the Executive Directors of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN-Women), said presidential elections scheduled for 28 September must be credible and held on time. “The overriding responsibility for a successful election lies with the political leaders themselves,” she said, urging restraint as campaigning begins.

On the peace process, she said that while direct talks between the United States and the Taliban are ongoing, an intra-Afghan peace conference on 7 and 8 July in Doha marked a key step towards formal negotiations between the Government and the Taliban. “Our interlocutors stressed that peace cannot come at any cost, particularly the democratic gains of the last 18 years,” she said, stressing that women must be fully, effectively and directly involved in the peace process.

In the ensuing debate, speakers emphasized the close connection between women, peace and security in Afghanistan, as well as the lingering threat of illicit drugs and terrorism to the country and the region. Some also noted the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which now has more female staff members than in the past.

Belgium’s representative, one of several to emphasize that the Council must send a clear signal of support to women in Afghanistan, said no peace agreement can allow for a deterioration in their situation. It would be a severe injustice if women were made to pay the price for peace. To the Taliban, she said there is no alternative than to condemn terrorism, abandon the military track, choose the political track and invest in the negotiating process.

The representative of the United States underscored her country’s commitment to pursuing a comprehensive peace agreement. “We have been clear that we are not negotiating or will not negotiate with the Taliban on behalf of the Government of the people of Afghanistan,” she said. The United States is pressing the Government and its electoral bodies to be ready for the September polls, and that it will keep placing women at the centre of its diplomatic efforts.

Emphasizing that “by helping women, we are helping the whole of Afghanistan,” the representative of the Russian Federation said the situation remains critical given the latest terrorist attacks. He expressed serious concern over the continued presence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and influx of foreign terrorist fighters from Syria and Iraq. The peace process must not be turned into a “vanity fair” or a political competition, he said, but rather aim for a unified and ethnically diverse Afghan State.

In the same vein, China’s delegate said the security situation remains a major source of concern. During recent consultations in Beijing, his country along with the Russian Federation, United States and Pakistan, called on all parties in Afghanistan to begin a dialogue. Negotiations should produce a peace framework as soon as possible in order to guarantee the orderly transition of the Afghan Government.

Kuwait’s representative condemned attacks against civilians as “reprehensible and unjustifiable”, stressing that perpetrators must be brought to justice. Political authorities meanwhile must make every effort to avoid partisan divisions. “We cannot talk about political reconciliation without discussing the central role of women,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, Afghanistan’s representative said the momentum for peace is growing, with the Government committed to ensuring an inclusive role for women, and to transparent, free and secure elections. He urged the Taliban to honour their commitment to peace through deeds, not words, particularly following the deadly blasts in Kabul on 25 July. Only a dual-track approach of pressure and incentives can ensure a conducive environment for a successful, comprehensive agreement with the Taliban, he said.

He said the last 18 years have seen the emergence of a new democratic Afghanistan, with reforms in the security and civil sectors proceeding alongside a steady path towards stability and self-reliance. He expressed hope that UNAMA’s mandate, which expires on 17 September, will be extended for at least one year.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Indonesia, France, United Kingdom, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic and Peru.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.

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