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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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SC/14776

SECURITY COUNCIL
8954TH MEETING (AM)

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.

Briefings

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that, six months after the Taliban’s takeover, “Afghanistan is hanging by a thread.” Afghans are now in the grips of a brutal winter, many huddling in makeshift tents under plastic sheets. Ambulances and hospital power generators are running dry because of skyrocketing fuel prices, while civilians are suffering from COVID-19 alongside preventable diseases such as measles and polio. Education and social services are on the brink of collapse and millions of children — especially girls — are out of school. Over half of all Afghans also face extreme hunger as the country experiences its worst drought in two decades, pushing nine million people closer to famine.

“The Afghan economy is enduring a bitter winter of its own,” he continued, citing the danger that the currency could go into freefall and Afghanistan could lose 30 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) within the year. As the economy spirals downward, human rights are also losing ground, with women and girls once again shut out of offices and classrooms, and years of steady progress lost in the blink of an eye. Expressing deep concern about reports of arbitrary arrests and abductions of women activists, and strongly appealing for their release, he added that terrorism remains a constant threat.

Recalling his recently launched $4.4 billion humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan — the largest in the United Nations history for a single country — he said it aims to ramp up life‑saving support around health, shelter, nutrition, protection and emergency education, while also providing cash transfers to help families make ends meet. In 2021, the Organization and its partners reached 18 million people across Afghanistan, and in 2022, it is working at a scaled-up capacity to reach even more people and prevent food, health and education systems from collapsing. “At this moment, we need the global community — and this Council — to put their hands on the wheel of progress, provide resources and prevent Afghanistan from spiralling any further,” he said.

Against that backdrop, he called for a suspension of the rules and conditions that constrain not only Afghanistan’s economy, but the United Nations life‑saving operations. International funding must be allowed to pay the salaries of public-sector workers, from surgeons and nurses to teachers, sanitation workers and electricians. Welcoming the Council’s adoption in late 2021 of a humanitarian exemption to the United Nations sanctions regime, he called for the issuance of general licenses covering transactions necessary to all humanitarian activities. Member States should also support the “One UN” Transitional Engagement Framework for Afghanistan, being launched today, which aims to extend and accelerate humanitarian and development support, while strengthening essential services.

The global community also needs to jump-start Afghanistan’s economy through increased liquidity, he continued, notably by finding ways to free up frozen currency reserves and re-engage Afghanistan’s Central Bank. Recalling that the World Bank’s reconstruction trust fund for Afghanistan transferred $280 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in December 2021, he called for the remaining $1.2 billion to be urgently freed up to help Afghans survive the winter. “Without action, lives will be lost, and despair and extremism will grow,” he emphasized, warning that economic collapse could lead to a massive exodus of people fleeing the country.

“Now is also the time for the Taliban to expand opportunity and security for its people and demonstrate a real commitment to be a part of the global community,” he stressed, noting that the window for trust-building is open, but trust must be earned. Unfettered humanitarian access to all regions of the country is vital, as is promoting security and fighting terrorism, and an inclusive Government must be built in which all Afghans feel represented. He urged the Taliban leadership to recognize and protect the fundamental human rights that every person shares, in which all people can contribute to the country’s future. “This must include the rights of women and girls, who are once again being denied their rights to education, employment and equal justice,” he stressed.

DEBORAH LYONS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), provided a snapshot of recent developments, highlighting the primary focus of the United Nations work: to alleviate as much as possible the dire humanitarian situation through winter. By the end of 2021, almost 18 million people have been provided with life-saving assistance, compared with 11 million people assisted in 2020, and more than 2,000 primary and secondary health facilities were supported. This expansion of assistance was possible due to the improved security situation after 15 August 2021, when humanitarian actors were able access areas that had been inaccessible for years.

Yet, humanitarian needs are urgent, she continued, with the $1 billion requested in 2021 now having to be supplemented by $4.4 billion in 2022. While advocating for a relaxing of sanctions that prevent delivery of essential services, she said the liquidity crisis and inability of banks to operate triggered an extraordinary situation where people have money in the bank, but do not have full access to it to feed their families. The Council’s adoption of the humanitarian exemption resolution and the issuing of new general licenses by the United States in December 2021 provided some welcome assurances that facilitated humanitarian activities. For its part, her office today launched its “One UN” Transitional Engagement Framework for Afghanistan, for which an additional $3.6 billion is being sought, bringing the total funding request to $8 billion for 2022 for such areas as health, education and infrastructure, with a special focus on women and girls. Still, donors remain unsatisfied with the political progress in Afghanistan and are watching closely for encouraging signals.

As such, she anticipated clear actions demonstrating the Taliban’s commitment to a pathway of future engagement with the international community. Pointing to some positive signs — from wider engagement with political, private‑sector and civil-society actors, to managing the late 2021 currency crisis — she said there must be an end to uncertainty, a stable policy environment, a reliable rule of law framework and an educated population for a private sector to truly thrive. Concerns remain, as there have been no visible results in terms of greater ethnic inclusion in governing structures. She cited a joint communiqué issued at a recent meeting with a high-level Afghan delegation in Norway, declaring that “understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions to all the problems of Afghanistan”. It is noteworthy that the Taliban delegation widely acknowledged this — and now they must act on it.

On the ground, however, there is compelling evidence of an environment of intimidation and a deterioration in respect for human rights, she said, amid allegations of killings, enforced disappearances and other violations that are not being addressed by the judiciary, such as detention of civilians, a contraction of media space and abductions. She expressed grave concern about the fate of several women activists who were abducted and have disappeared. UNAMA is engaging with the de facto authorities, urging them to investigate cases and hold perpetrators accountable, she said, adding that: “No Afghan should live in fear of a knock at their door in the night and no family should be left to wonder about whereabouts and fate of their loved ones.”

She offered three suggestions about how the Taliban can demonstrate a clearer commitment to the path of governance based on trust rather than on fear, if that is indeed the path they choose to take. First, they can initiate a long‑overdue wider dialogue on national reconciliation, a process the international community would support. Inclusion should be seen as a long‑standing and required source of domestic legitimacy, she said, emphasizing that: “For now the war has ended but peace has not yet been consolidated.” The current fragile peace and stability could unravel if measures are not taken to govern in a way that builds trust and accountability. In addition, the Taliban’s recent promises must be kept regarding girls’ education and containing terrorist groups. While a certain amount of realism is required regarding national capacities to contain terrorist groups, she said that if sufficient trust can be established, this could be an area for potential cooperation between the international community and the de facto authorities.

Turning to the cautious, constructive approach regional countries have adopted since August 2021, she said the Secretary-General’s latest report provides further details, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting, hosted by Pakistan in December 2021. She said the United Nations commitment in August 2021 to stay and deliver means “we are well-positioned now to continue supporting the Afghan people, acting as an enabler of others who are willing to provide additional support, and engaging with the de facto authorities on the way forward”. As the Secretary-General prepares to present recommendations on a future political mission in Afghanistan, she said the premise is based on a presumed consensus that it is in no one’s interest to see a collapse of the current state in Afghanistan, but also that engagement with the Taliban can lead to progress along a negotiated pathway that delivers for the people of Afghanistan, the region and the rest of the world. As such, she said: “Testing that hypothesis will be our task in the months ahead.”

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Committee created pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011), said the main goal of the sanctions regime is to facilitate conditions that promote dialogue and ultimately result in peace and stability. In that context, the Committee decided on 22 December 2021 to once again extend the three-month travel ban exemption for 14 listed Taliban members to continue attending talks, in the interest of promoting peace and stability. The exemption was accompanied on this occasion by a decision to grant a limited asset‑freeze exemption for the financing of exempted travel. The country hosting the peace and stability talks will be required to report to the Committee within 30 days from the date of travel.

While voicing support for those measures, he nevertheless reminded Member States that the travel‑ban exemption is “for this purpose and this purpose only”. With the need for discussions to promote peace and stability also comes the need for reporting on the activities of the Taliban, and those individuals and entities listed under the 1988 sanctions regime, in order to ensure compliance with the sanctions. To facilitate these activities, the Council also extended the mandate of the Monitoring Team relating to the Taliban for a further year, on 17 December 2021, adopting resolution 2611 (2021). That team will now be more reliant upon information provided to it from outside Afghanistan, he added, urging States to respect the terms of relevant resolutions and consult in confidence with the Monitoring Team where applicable.

Outlining other recent activities, he recalled that, in November 2021, the Committee met with representatives of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and WFP to explore the impact of the sanctions regime on Afghanistan’s latest humanitarian situation. Subsequently, on 22 December 2021, the Council adopted resolution 2615 (2021) concerning the need to facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies and those institutions involved in supporting the resourcing and financing of critical humanitarian relief efforts in Afghanistan. The text acknowledged the current humanitarian crisis, emphasized food insecurity and the disproportionate impact on women, children and minorities. It also provided clarity to ensure the continued provision of assistance.

Meanwhile, he said, in its latest report, the Monitoring Team noted that the ties between the Taliban — largely through the Haqqani Network — and Al-Qaida and foreign terrorist fighters remain close and are based on ideological alignment. The presence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Afghanistan remains a matter of concern, as terrorist attacks continue to be used to demonstrate power and influence, he stressed.

MAHBOUBA SERAJ, Afghan women human rights defender and Executive Director of Afghan Women Skills Development Center, shared her perspective as an Afghan American living in Afghanistan since 2003. The international community’s hasty exit in August 2021 undermined two decades of hard-won gains for equality, human rights, inclusive governance and peace and security. “The Taliban is once more in control and dismantling our rights daily,” she warned. Women “are literally being erased from public life, down to the blacking out of women's faces on advertisements and the beheading of female mannequins in shop windows”. After years of warnings to the Security Council and the international community of this possibility, she said: “We will not be silenced, and you have a tremendous responsibility for keeping the promises you have made to us, the women of Afghanistan, over the years.”

Highlighting the responsibility of the Council, the United Nations and the international community for keeping Afghan women’s rights front and centre throughout all deliberations on Afghanistan, she reminded members that it has taken fewer than six months to completely dismantle the rights of women and girls fought for over two decades. The Council must stand by women, including by calling on the Taliban to rescind restrictive policies and ensure freedom of movement. Women protesting against wearing the hijab have disappeared, she emphasized, stressing that: “You cannot be silent about them if you claim to support us in this Council.”

Raising other concerns, she said desperation has led families to sell their babies, hospitals lack equipment and staff, and humanitarian conditions have deteriorated. The Council, United Nations and the international community have a responsibility to correct the situation. All humanitarian workers, including women, must be able to conduct their critical work. Funding must go to legitimate aid groups and not routed through the Taliban. Collapsing banking systems, rising food prices and job losses have been exacerbated by a brain drain, particularly when the Taliban restrict females from working outside the home.

She said the people of Afghanistan, especially its women, see the dilemma facing the world about how to engage with the Taliban while addressing the present, urgent needs and the future hopes of all Afghans. Ordinary Afghans must not be punished for a crisis they had no part in creating — but, equally, the Taliban cannot use Afghan lives to hold the international community for ransom. Therefore, it is in the collective interest to ensure that there is a robust international presence, through UNAMA, which can be the international community’s “eyes and ears on the ground”, monitoring and reporting on developments and whether the Taliban are following through on their bilateral and international commitments. This is especially important at a time when civil society, the media and international non-governmental organizations are unable to do so. UNAMA should also play a key role in supporting dialogue with the Taliban — for the sake of the Afghan people — and ensure inclusive consultations with Afghans from all parts of the country and all walks of life.

At the same time, she said, the international community must not be afraid to use its important leverage over the Taliban. Human rights, women’s rights and accountability must be part of every conversation. Clear conditions must be placed on any economic or political support that is provided to the Taliban to ensure that they address the needs and protect the rights of the population, including its women, girls, minorities and other marginalized groups, she said, recalling that Council members affirmed the importance of upholding all human rights in resolution 2593 (2021). “Now you must act on it”.

Moreover, she said the international community must stop sending all-male delegations to meet with the Taliban, which “sends a dangerous signal that you do not value our rights or our views”. Sending foreign women is not enough. She called for launching a process of inclusive governance for and by Afghans. Diverse representation of Afghan women — especially civil society — must be part of all ongoing negotiations with the Taliban.

“I am not the first, nor will I be the last, Afghan woman to address this Council,” she said. “But, this time, I hope members of this esteemed body and the international community more broadly will start to take us seriously. While we cannot turn back the clock, we can choose to work differently moving forward; ensuring that Afghan women are meaningfully a part of our country’s future is a critical place to start.”

Statements

JONAS GAHR STØRE, Prime Minister of Norway and Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, recalling that a high-level delegation from the de facto Afghan authorities visited Oslo in recent days. The purpose of the trip was to offer a much-needed opportunity for non-Taliban women and men from Afghan civil society to engage the Taliban in a dialogue on the way forward for the country. The visit also offered a chance for Norway and a range of partners to engage Taliban representatives on how the needs of millions of Afghans will be met in the future. “Let me be clear: the Taliban heard the serious concerns shared by a variety of representative civil Afghans, as well as a united international community,” he said. The visit did not bestow international recognition on the de facto regime, but only provided an opportunity to exchange clear expectations on the way ahead.

Emphasizing that such dialogue is critical amid Afghanistan’s dire humanitarian crisis, he said the situation is exacerbated by climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the deterioration of the economy. He praised the adoption of resolution 2615 (2021) on humanitarian exemptions and said it must now be better used to provide urgent aid delivery. Multilateral cooperation is also vital. It is essential that the Council provide UNAMA with a comprehensive and robust mandate to engage with the Taliban; monitor and report on the human rights situation; and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and support. The protection of civilians, including children, must be a top priority, as should safeguarding the rights and equal participation of women. “This was clearly communicated from all delegations at the Oslo meeting,” he said, underscoring the Taliban’s responsibility to prevent terrorist groups from gaining a foothold or threatening international peace and stability.

PACÔME MOUBELET-BOUBEYA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the political process since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. The closed circle of leaders is not representative of the diversity of the Afghan people, and distances them from ethnic, political and social minorities. 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 exemption to the travel ban for travel related to the peace process. He voiced particular concern about continued relations between the Taliban and the Al-Qaida group — especially the Haqqani Network — and about the presence of foreign fighters, over which the Taliban have no control. Also noting with concern the impact of frozen donor assets and Central Bank funds, he went on to echo calls for improvements in the conditions facing Afghan women and girls who are seeing fresh violations of their liberties and denials of their fundamental human rights. The resurgence of terrorism and backsliding on women’s and girls’ rights are issues that impact the stability of the entire region, he stressed, calling on the Council to respond in a manner that rises to the level of danger.

MICHAEL KIBOINO (Kenya) condemned terrorist attacks against civilians that continue to undermine peace efforts in Afghanistan, including the recent deadly attack by Islamic State in Khorasan Provence in Herat. “This trend requires the international community to demand in a unified voice on the Taliban to commit to fighting terrorism and ensuring that Afghanistan is not a haven [for terrorist groups],” he stressed. He also voiced deep concern over the deteriorating economy and recent disappearance of two Afghan women activists, calling on the Taliban to investigate, locate and return the women and to guarantee the inalienable right of Afghan women to positively contribute to their country’s development. Authorities should also prioritize the elimination of all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and other gendered harms against Afghan women, girls and children, as well as reverse any actions intended to restrict women’s free movement.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) expressed deep concern about the colossal humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan, noting that over half of the population faces acute food insecurity. Noting that the Taliban are depriving Afghan secondary‑school-age girls of their education, she said that, for 131 days, girls have been stripped of their right to learn without a guaranteed path back to the classroom. This cruel prohibition on access to schooling is not solely about education, but, rather, about silencing an entire generation of young girls. She went on to emphasize that Afghan women are being targeted — and cruelly erased from society by the Taliban. As women across the country are speaking out in defiance of the Taliban, the response has been chilling: they are torn from their families, deprived of liberty. Disappeared. Questioning the whereabouts of Tamana Paryani and Parawana Ibrahimkhel, abducted from their homes last week, and former police officer Alia Azizi, missing since October 2021 — and countless other Afghan women forcibly disappeared — she also called on the Taliban to release all those unjustifiably detained and to recognize their human rights. “There can be no dialogue, no solution, no path forward that does not include women and the realization of their rights”, she assured. “It is our obligation not to look away.”

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that, as the humanitarian crisis worsens in Afghanistan, UNAMA’s work could not be more vital. The United States is committed to providing life-saving support, and announced on 11 January an initial contribution of $308 million in humanitarian assistance, which will support food, health‑care and winterization programmes, as well as ensure the provision of logistical support that enables aid workers to access to hard-to-reach areas. “Countless lives will be saved,” she said. The United States is working to ensure sanctions imposed do not impede such activities, she stated, pointing to the issuance of three general licenses by the United States Treasury, which facilitate the flow of vital assistance, as well as the adoption in December 2021 of resolution 2615 on a humanitarian exemption to sanctions on the Taliban, introduced by her country. While the United States is the single largest provider of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, the scale of the crisis demands a global response. Stressing that the liquidity crisis is worsening the humanitarian situation, she underscored the importance of an independent and technically competent Central Bank, and said her country recognizes calls to make available frozen Central Bank reserves, presently under litigation, to help Afghans. Finally, she said international expectations of the Taliban have not wavered. The Taliban must ensure safe, free, unhindered humanitarian access, free movement for aid workers and the provision of assistance to all vulnerable people, regardless of identity. Moreover, the Taliban must also demonstrate their fidelity to counter-terrorism commitments and respect for human rights, particularly those of women and girls, she added, echoing the Secretary-General’s remark that no country can thrive by denying rights to half its population.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), noting that 25 million Afghans require humanitarian assistance, amid colossal economic, political and social challenges facing the country, expressed hope that the humanitarian exemption to sanctions adopted by the Council in December 2021 will help foster the provision of vital assistance. Mexico recognizes Norway’s efforts to facilitate dialogue between the Taliban and providers of humanitarian assistance, as well as crucial civil society actors. He emphasized the need to hold talks with those in power in order to avoid a humanitarian tragedy, one for which the Council would be responsible. Further, respect for the human rights of all people, including women and girls, are “non-negotiable”, he said, pointing out that calls for an inclusive Government have not thus far been heeded. He went on to express concern about the resurgent threat of terrorism and called for it to be effectively countered. Finally, he pointed out that the uptick in criminal activity is associated with the precarious economic conditions and collapse of public services. Steps must be taken to address the situation, to avoid the radicalization of marginalized groups. He expressed support for the vital work of UNAMA and other agencies on the ground, which are working to build a peaceful and inclusive Afghanistan.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said aid must be able to reach those in need, in line with resolution 2615 (2021), which provides for a humanitarian exemption to current sanctions against Afghanistan. For its part, France contributed €150 million and 40 tons of supplies, with the European Union raising €1 billion to support the Afghan people. Further action is needed to address the threat of terrorist groups, especially since the Taliban have not severed ties with them and have instead invited them into their administration. Cautioning that the terrorist risk emerging from Afghanistan is transnational and cross-border, he urged the international community to call on the Taliban to cut ties with these groups. Women’s rights must also be upheld, he continued, calling on the Taliban to implement resolution 2593 (2021), or otherwise likely face isolation in the international community.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said Afghan authorities have taken steps since coming to power, and his delegation expected the Taliban would continue to do so when tackling illicit drugs and respecting human rights. Yet, in the absence of the necessary resources, the new authorities will be unable to address these problems, with success depending on comprehensive assistance provided by the international community. He expressed hope the implementation of resolution 2615 (2021) would step up aid deliveries. However, these efforts are insufficient, representing a “drop in the ocean” in the face of such challenges as a fragile banking system and frozen assets. Calling on Western States and donors to return frozen funds to the Government, he said these resources cannot be kept from the people of Afghanistan. If these funds are withheld, the nation will face greater instability, the influx of drug dealers under the guise of migrants and other grave challenges. Attempts to engage the Taliban through coercion are counter-productive, and lessons must be drawn for past mistakes, he said, pointing to examples of successful cooperation. He expressed hope that the Secretary-General will provide guidance on the forthcoming consideration of UNAMA’s mandate.

ZHANG JUN (China) said that, while this is the first war-free winter in Afghanistan in decades, the economy is in freefall and the population is facing an unfolding nightmare following the hasty withdrawal of foreign troops last summer. Regrettably, there has been no improvement in humanitarian aid delivery since the adoption of resolution 2615 (2021), proving that the issue is not one of obstructions, but of politicization, as some parties seek to use aid as a bargaining chip. “This is morally unacceptable and strategically short-sighted and dangerous,” he stressed. Noting that unilateral coercive measures have frozen more than $9 billion and severely hindered Afghanistan’s access to financing, he urged the international community to explore further options for injections of liquidity and called for the lifting of all unilateral sanctions. Engagement with the Taliban leadership should be enhanced in a rational and pragmatic manner, as exemplified in Norway’s recent dialogue initiative. Emphasizing that only terrorist groups will benefit from the humanitarian crisis, he advocated for a stronger sense of urgency and the abandonment of politicized approaches, while outlining China’s ongoing support to the Afghan people.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), underlining his country’s commitment to a stable, secure and peaceful Afghanistan, said it is possible for the country to return to the international stage as a bona fide member of the community of nations if it fully uses the resourcefulness of all its citizens to spur national development. Welcoming resolution 2615 (2021) as a commendable step, he said it is not enough given the sheer size and scale of humanitarian need. “That time is running out for the international community in avoiding an already dire humanitarian situation from spiralling out of control,” he said. Ghana supports the Secretary-General’s calls for Afghanistan’s assets to be unfrozen and channelled into funding emergency social and health services, he said, also urging the de facto leaders to open the country to humanitarian agencies. Expressing deep concern about alleged human rights violations, he stressed that Afghan women and minorities are legitimate stakeholders, and their participation must be protected. Meanwhile, the Taliban authorities have a responsibility to ensure the investigation of reports of extra-judicial killings, especially those of former members of the Afghan security forces, and to hold perpetrators to account.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said urgent action is needed to avert economic collapse in Afghanistan, where 20 million people — half the population — urgently needs assistance. Against this backdrop, UNAMA and United Nations leadership is crucial, he said, welcoming the launch today of the Transitional Engagement Framework, a whole-of-system approach to provision of life-saving assistance. He underscored the need for constructive engagement by the Taliban on delivery under humanitarian principles and welcomed a positive trajectory in the ability of female humanitarians to deliver assistance to the most vulnerable. The United Kingdom has doubled aid for Afghanistan this year to £286 million, £163 million of which has been disbursed. He underscored the need to address the liquidity crisis, and welcomed discussions between the World Bank and donors on repurposing a portion of the remaining $1.2 billion in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. He welcomed this week’s conference in Oslo, which provides an important opportunity for the United Kingdom, as well as donors and civil society to communicate expectations to the Taliban. He went on to express deep concern about a reported uptick in reprisals against former security forces and Government officials, attacks against minority groups and the detention of female activists, calling on the Taliban to respect the amnesty issued in August 2021 for all Afghans, and to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses. He underscored the need for inclusive governance and urged the Taliban to ensure that terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida, can never again organize, raise funds or plan attacks from Afghan territory.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said that ensuring and protecting the rights of women and girls, in all aspects of society, must remain a priority, including their right to equal educational access. “We should prevent the exploitation and distortion of religion to deprive women and girls in Afghanistan of their basic rights,” she stressed. Calling on the Taliban to continue to facilitate safe, unhindered humanitarian aid access to the areas and groups most in need, she highlighted the launch of an air bridge by the United Arab Emirates in August 2021 that, to date, has carried more than 485 tons of medical and food supplies to Afghanistan. Her country also has assisted in the evacuation of more than 40,000 individuals. Condemning recent terrorist attacks in the strongest terms, she called on the Taliban to take the necessary measures to combat terrorism, sever ties with all terrorist groups worldwide and prevent such groups from using Afghanistan to threaten or attack other countries. She expressed hope that the Taliban’s positive engagement with UNAMA will help ensure the Mission’s success in implementing its mandate.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania), noting that “every indicator is in red” in Afghanistan, said it is not easy to find a glimpse of hope due to a range of issues, from a dire humanitarian situation to bleak economic prospects and serious threats to rights of women and girls. Pointing out that calls for an all‑inclusive Government have not been responded to so far, he underlined that only an inclusive, negotiated, political settlement offers a sustainable future for all the Afghan people, and welcomed ongoing talks in Oslo to this end. He urged the Council to place clear priority on women’s involvement in the processes that shape their future. He urged the Taliban to facilitate full, safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations and all of their personnel, regardless of gender. Further, he underscored the need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of press in Afghanistan, adding: “Living in safety, security and dignity for all, including women and girls, youth, children and minorities, should not be a dream; rather a reality.” The Council must stand firmly in favour of the rights of women and girls, including to full and equal access to education and free movement. “These are not a gift — they are universal rights,” he stressed. The Taliban must unambiguously break ties with all international terrorist organizations. Finally, he expressed support for UNAMA’s vital role, despite financial shortfalls, logistical challenges and an increasingly complex geopolitical situation, advocating for a stronger role and strengthened mandate in the country.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) declared: “The international community cannot turn a blind eye to the Afghan people at this time of need.” As part of international efforts, Brazil has established a humanitarian visa policy with a focus on women and girls. However, emergency assistance will not be enough, he said, calling for long-term development. The Council must go beyond the steps laid out in resolution 2516 (2021) — which determined that humanitarian assistance does not constitute a violation of the sanctions regime — and urgently address the liquidity crisis, ensuring that Afghan financial institutions have access to assets currently subject to unilateral sanctions. “We appeal to the concerned countries to consider the issue, in light of Afghanistan’s critical humanitarian situation,” he stressed. He went on to call upon the de facto authorities to form an inclusive Government with the participation of women and ethnic and religious minorities; ensure respect for women’s right to work, and girls’ free access to education at all levels; adhere to the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and related agreements; and take credible action to prevent the use of Afghan territory by terrorist organizations.

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) said his country’s special relationship with the Afghan people and the guidance outlined in resolution 2593 (2021) will continue to steer its approach to Afghanistan. Underscoring India’s “steadfast” commitment to humanitarian assistance, he highlighted the provision of 50,000 metric tons of wheat and life‑saving medicines, and 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the country. Noting that aid should be based on the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, and disbursed in a non-discriminatory, fully accessible manner to all, reaching the most vulnerable groups first, he said that, as Afghanistan’s largest regional development partner, India is ready to coordinate with other stakeholders to enable expeditious aid provision. On the continued terrorist threat to Afghanistan and the region, he said resolution 2593 (2021) outlines the Taliban’s commitment to prevent the use of Afghan soil for terrorist purposes, including by terrorists and terrorist groups designated under resolution 1267 (1999). He called for progress in ensuring that proscribed terrorist entities do not receive any support — tacit or direct — from either Afghan soil or terrorist sanctuaries in the region. With that, he called for an inclusive dispensation in Afghanistan which represents all sections of society, stressing that a broad-based, inclusive and representative formation is necessary for internal legitimacy.

NASEER AHMED FAIQ (Afghanistan) said he is speaking on behalf of the Afghan people, including women and girls who are suffering from the deprivation of their fundamental rights. He clarified that he does not represent the interests of the former President or any political group. Recalling the ravages of war first-hand, he reflected on developments over the last five months and the disastrous take‑over by the Taliban. The de facto authorities have not been recognized by the international community by, among other things, forming a Government or respecting human rights. Drawing the Council’s attention to priority issues, he echoed the Secretary-General’s call for an injection of cash into the economy and continued aid deliveries, which should be transferred to reach the most vulnerable.

Thanking States for their contributions and for hosting Afghans, and the United Nations for its many efforts, he encouraged the provision of further resources to help Afghanistan strive towards its development goals. The human rights of all Afghan citizens must not be compromised or negotiated, he said, drawing attention to reports of widespread violations. Calling on the Taliban to bring an end to these violations, allow women to work and open schools to women and girls, he also asked them to provide information about missing women. International investment in recent years must not go to waste, he said, noting that more than 70 per cent of the Afghan people are young, and that persistent joblessness will leave them vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups.

Appreciating efforts by regional and global partners to facilitate dialogue, he requested that the Security Council convene an international meeting for talks that would involve all stakeholders to work on a political road map and pave the way for a Constitution and elections. Requesting the freeze and confiscation of assets transferred to former corrupt Government officials, he reminded the Council that people are starving and badly need assistance. 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 by 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.” For its part, the Council has “all the tools it needs to save Afghanistan”.

BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) said his country is linked to Afghanistan by centuries-old bonds of friendship, shared history, religion, customs and traditions. Underlining the need to maintain dialogue with the new authorities to encourage them to honour their promises, including to form an inclusive Government and ensure human rights, he highlighted Uzbekistan’s provision of food, clothes and coal to the country and proposal to establish under United Nations auspices a “multifunctional hub” in the border city of Termez, which is linked to Afghanistan by an airport, railway, highways and a large logistics terminal. He called for lifting unilateral sanctions and encouraged more active participation by international institutions in financing infrastructural projects, noting that Uzbekistan is ready to join Afghanistan in building the Surkhan–Pule-Khumri power line and Termez–Mazar-i-Sharif–Kabul–Peshawar railway. Stressing that Afghanistan should never again be used as a safe haven for terrorist groups, he said the new authorities in Kabul have given assurances to Uzbekistan that Afghanistan will never again pose a threat to its immediate neighbors or to any other third country.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran), echoing concerns over Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and its possible effects on the security and stability of the broader region, said Iran has supported Afghanistan for over four decades. Since August 2021, thousands of Afghans have entered Iran daily, even as his country continues to suffer the effects of the United States inhumane sanctions. “If the international community fails to provide sufficient assistance to the Afghan people living in Iran […] we will be unable, on our own, to continue our support to Afghan refugees, a huge number of whom are seeking to go to Europe,” he said, urging the global community to live up to its responsibilities. The release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets — which is essential to revive the economy and save lives — should also be unconditional and free of politicization. He also voiced support for the establishment of an inclusive, representative Government and for efforts to combat terrorism and protect the rights of women and girls.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said today’s debate would have been more interactive and productive if the Council had also listened to a representative of Afghanistan’s interim Government. Citing the impact of the country’s still-frozen assets, he said that without urgent humanitarian assistance, chaos and conflict could return alongside a massive outflux of refugees. Noting that resolution 2615 (2021) reaffirms that targeted sanctions should not be used to prevent economic or development assistance, he called for the release of WFP’s remaining funds, adding that there is no legal justification for depriving Afghans of their reserves. For its part, Pakistan has provided $30 million in food and other assistance, established land and air bridges, opened all its borders and currently supports nearly 4 million Afghan refugees. It also set up the OIC humanitarian trust fund and aims to revive the Afghan banking system. He called on the international community to engage with the Taliban in order to develop appropriate modalities for cooperative counter-terrorism action, adding that the new UNAMA mandate should enjoy support from the interim Government and respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

For information media. Not an official record.