The situation in Afghanistan- Security Council, 8954th Meeting

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26-Jan-2022 03:40:34
With Afghanistan ‘hanging by a thread’, Security Council delegates call on Taliban to tackle massive security, economic concerns, respect women’s equal rights.

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Permanent Representative Urges New Leaders to ‘Act Responsibly’, Save Country from Crisis

Now is the time for the Taliban to expand opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and demonstrate a real commitment to be a part of the global community, delegates in the Security Council stressed today, amid calls from the Secretary-General and other briefers to reverse sharp curtailments of human rights, first and foremost for women and girls.

“We will not be silenced,” said Mahbouba Seraj, Executive Director of Afghan Women Skills Development Center, who briefed the Council in person. “You have a tremendous responsibility for keeping the promises you have made to us, the women of Afghanistan, over the years.” Describing how the Taliban — in fewer than six months — undermined two decades of hard-won rights for women and girls, she said its 15 members, the United Nations and international community have a duty to shoulder their responsibilities.

She said it is in the collective interest to ensure that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) monitors and reports on whether the Taliban are following through on their bilateral and international commitments. “I hope members of this esteemed body and the international community more broadly will start to take us seriously,” she said, urging the Council to “choose to work differently” by ensuring that Afghan women are meaningfully a part of Afghanistan’s future.

More broadly echoing that call, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described a country on the brink of collapse, amid a 30 per cent contraction of gross domestic product (GDP). “Afghanistan is hanging by a thread,” he said. He urged the global community — and the Council — to provide resources to prevent the country from spiralling further. He called on Member States to support the “One UN” Transitional Engagement Framework for Afghanistan, launched today. The window for trust-building is open, he said, but trust must be earned.

Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA, said the United Nations is “well-positioned” to continue supporting the Afghan people, acting as an enabler of others who are willing to provide support, and engaging with the de facto authorities. As the Secretary-General prepares to present recommendations on a future political mission, she said the premise is based on a presumed consensus that it is in no one’s interest to see a collapse of Afghanistan, and that engagement with the Taliban can lead to negotiated progress. “Testing that hypothesis will be our task in the months ahead,” she affirmed.

T.S. Tirumurti (India) then briefed the Council in his capacity as Chair of the Committee created pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011), tasked with overseeing sanctions related to the Taliban, who explained that the goal is to facilitate conditions that promote dialogue and ultimately result in peace and stability.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates roundly supported efforts to address Afghanistan’s epic humanitarian concerns and protect the rights of women and girls, with some offering suggestions of how best to do so. Several called on the Taliban to release Afghans unjustifiably detained, productively engage with the international community, launch a national reconciliation process and build an inclusive Government.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway, Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, drew attention to a recent visit in Oslo involving members of Afghan civil society and a high-level delegation from the de facto authorities aimed at engaging Taliban representatives on how the needs of millions of Afghans will be met. Such dialogue and multilateral cooperation are vital. It is also essential that the Security Council provide UNAMA with a comprehensive mandate to engage with the Taliban, monitor and report on human rights and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and support.

Echoing calls for prompt action, Gabon’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pacôme Moubelet-Boubeya, expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the political process since the Taliban’s takeover. The closed circle of leaders is not representative of the diversity of the Afghan people, and this absence of inclusivity hinders effective governance. Noting that calls for dialogue with the Taliban do not imply a recognition of that regime, he expressed support for the travel ban exemption for visits related to the peace process. However, he voiced concern about relations between the Taliban and Al-Qaida — especially the Haqqani Network — and about the presence of foreign fighters, over which the Taliban have no control.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said attempts to engage the Taliban through coercion are counter-productive. As the Taliban have made some gains, he anticipated further progress. Meanwhile, he called on Western States and donors to return frozen funds to the Government, saying these resources cannot be kept from the people of Afghanistan and if they are withheld, the nation will lack the capacity to cope with challenges and instead face even greater instability.

China’s representative called for an end to all unilateral sanctions, which have frozen $9 billion and severely hindered Afghanistan’s access to financing. He urged the international community to explore further options to inject liquidity. In addition, the fact that aid deliveries have not improved since the adoption of resolution 2615 (2021) proves that the issue has been politicized, as some parties seek to use assistance as a bargaining chip, he said, adding that doing so is morally unacceptable and strategically dangerous.

The United States’ delegate, acknowledging calls for the release of frozen assets, cited efforts to ensure sanctions do not hamper aid deliveries. At the same time, international expectations of the Taliban are unwavering: They must ensure safe, free, unhindered humanitarian access, free movement for aid workers and the provision of assistance to all in need while also demonstrating their fidelity to counter-terrorism commitments and respect for human rights, particularly those of women and girls.

Ireland’s representative summed up a common thread heard throughout the discussion, saying: “There can be no dialogue, no solution, no path forward that does not include women and the realization of their rights; it is our obligation not to look away.”

Afghanistan’s representative, noting that he speaks for the Afghan people and not the former Government, nor any political group, said the Security Council has “all the tools it needs to save Afghanistan”. At this critical juncture, the role of the United Nations is more crucial than ever. He called on the Taliban to seek their national legitimacy by the Afghan people, ensuring a dignified life for all. “This is a time that the Taliban must act responsibly to save Afghanistan from the ongoing crisis,” he said. “They must prove their intention and commitment of leaving no one behind. Otherwise, inaction will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Also delivering statements were representatives of Kenya, Mexico, France, Ghana, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Brazil, India, Uzbekistan, Iran and Pakistan.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 1:06 p.m.

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