The situation in Afghanistan - Security Council, 9137th Meeting

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27-Sep-2022 04:22:36
Afghanistan’s future depends on Taliban’s engagement with world, but restrictions on women signal lack of international commitments, briefer warns Security Council.

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Country Representative Shares Message from Afghan Girls: “Do Not Let Our Country Become the Cemetery of Our Goals and Dreams”

Afghanistan’s future depends on mutual engagement between the Taliban and the international community, a senior United Nations official for the country told the Security Council today, as members diverged over both the merits of that assessment and the correct path towards economic recovery in the only country in the world that bans secondary education for girls.

Markus Potzel, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, reporting that the Taliban’s ongoing ban on secondary education for girls is unique in the world, said growing restrictions on women’s rights signal that the Taliban is indifferent to more than 50 per cent of the population and willing to risk international isolation. He also pointed out that, in light of continuing terrorist presence, unanswered questions about the Taliban’s counter-terrorism commitments have further deepened the trust gap between it and the international community.

He went on to observe that the international community has adopted a pragmatic approach to dealing with the Taliban, seeking to deepen trade ties and build stability to avoid the collapse of the country. However, if the Taliban does not respond to the needs of all elements of Afghan society and urgently engage with the international community, it is unclear what could come next. Detailing likely fragmentation, isolation, poverty and internal conflict — leading to mass migration, a domestic environment conducive to terrorism and greater misery for Afghans — he stressed: “That’s why we have to engage”.

Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), recalling that the Taliban banned the cultivation and production of all narcotics in April, said that the international community will see over the coming months how that ban and its consequences will unfold. She pointed out that, although illicit cultivation may seem the only alternative to starvation for many, terrorist and organized criminal groups can profit from illicit drugs. The international community, therefore, must respond to these trafficking challenges while extending as much help as possible to those affected by them.

Fawzia Koofi, former Deputy Speaker of the Afghan Parliament, then stressed that the people of Afghanistan feel betrayed because the world “is still not vocal about the current gender apartheid in Afghanistan under the Taliban”. Generations of Afghan women — 55 per cent of Afghan society — are excluded from public life and have become prisoners within the walls of their own homes. When they protest on the streets, they are silenced with violence, arrests and torture. She voiced their hope that the Council will act on their behalf, facilitating a stronger mechanism for political dialogue — the only solution to the problem.

In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s continued repression of women and girls. Many also called on the de facto authorities to address the illicit narcotics trade and live up to their counter-terrorism commitments. Others stressed the need to engage with the Taliban to avoid Afghanistan’s collapse, calling on the international community to prioritize alleviating the humanitarian crisis and stabilizing the economy, rather than politicizing these issues.

The representative of the Russian Federation underlined that the international community must maintain dialogue with the new authorities in Afghanistan “without using blackmail”. Emphasizing that Western donors are not interested in expanding assistance to the country beyond that required for basic needs and early-recovery programmes, she also spotlighted the continued freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the United States and its allies despite multiple appeals for this practice to cease. Further, Western States are trying to shift the blame for the failure of their 20-year war onto the new authorities.

Responding, the representative of the United States pointed out that no country serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan would advocate for giving the Taliban ready access to these funds. Rather, Council members should focus their attention on figuring out what they can do to address the country’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crises. For its part, he said, the United States has provided an additional $327 million in humanitarian assistance and has recently announced the establishment of an alliance to foster career-enhancing educational and entrepreneurial activities for Afghan women.

Kenya’s representative, while noting that all stakeholders must identify suitable mechanisms to disburse Afghanistan’s frozen assets and revive its economy, declared that the Taliban must allow girls their right to education and mainstream women into the economy. Spotlighting the lack of progress on the “repugnant restrictions” on these individuals, he called on the Taliban to take its obligations seriously if it wishes to receive international recognition.

Echoing that, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said that revitalizing Afghanistan’s economy will not be possible if half of the population is excluded from participation. The Council, therefore, must insist on an inclusive Government and the full participation of women, tackling in parallel that situation of women and girls, economic recovery and security. For its part, the United Arab Emirates will keep constructive lines of communication with the Taliban open, she said.

Several other countries in the region also presented their perspective, with the representatives of Iran and Kyrgyzstan urging the international community not to let other conflicts divert attention from the situation in Afghanistan. “We must avoid another civil war, rising terrorism, drug trafficking or new refugees, which none of Afghanistan’s neighbours are in a position to accommodate,” added Pakistan’s representative. Iran’s delegate also stressed that, as Afghanistan is a member of the international community, the de facto authorities must acknowledge this fact and fulfil their international obligations.

The representative of Afghanistan said that the people of his country and the international community have waited more than a year for the Taliban to fulfil its commitments. However, “the Taliban has disappointed all of us”, he observed, calling on the Council to act — united — to eliminate terrorist threats, protect Afghan women and girls, increase humanitarian support and help ensure an inclusive future for all Afghans. Quoting Somaya Faruqi, former captain of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, he urged: “Do not let our country become the cemetery of our goals and dreams”.

Also speaking today were representatives of Norway, Ghana, India, Ireland, China, United Kingdom, Mexico, Gabon, Brazil, Albania and France.

The representatives of the Russian Federation and the United States took the floor a second time.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:39 p.m.

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